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Case Number 20751: Small Claims Court

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Sunday In New York

Warner Bros. // 1963 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // February 21st, 2011

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All Rise...

Oh yes, Judge Clark Douglas has done that thing grown-ups do. Tee-hee!

The Charge

It's bold, blushing and slightly wicked!

The Case

"Slightly wicked," indeed. Sunday in New York is one of those sex comedies from the early 1960s that could just barely bring themselves to actually mention the word "sex." It was an era in which films were playing at being liberated, exploring "forbidden" territory with the giggly naiveté of 11-year-old kids in the schoolyard. That's not necessarily a criticism; obviously the movies were limited by the restrictions of the times and had to find creative ways to work around them. For better or worse, Sunday in New York is very much a product of its time.

Our story centers on a young woman named Eileen Tyler (Jane Fonda, On Golden Pond), who has decided to come to New York to spend some time with her brother Adam (Cliff Robertson, Spider-Man). Upon arriving, she asks him a rather blunt question: is it expected of a woman to go to bed with a man after a certain amount of time, even if she isn't married to him? It seems many of the boys Eileen have seen have broken up with her because they grew, "tired of going to the gymnasium and playing handball." Adam is startled by the query, and informs her that no decent woman should ever feel the need to go bed with a man before marriage. Alas, Adam's answer is a rather hypocritical one: he currently has a "friend with benefits" (Jo Morrow, Our Man in Havana) who he sees on a regular basis.

While out and about in town, Eileen shares a Meet Cute with Mike (Rod Taylor, The Time Machine). Her lapel gets stuck to his coat, forcing the two of them to introduce themselves. They go out to lunch, discover that they dislike each other, then unsuccessfully attempt to excuse themselves and leave each other notes. This is cute, too. They bump into each other again later, figure out what happened and decide to start over again. Mike tells Eileen he's a music critic. Hey, she's a music critic, too! Cute.

It must be noted the Mike and Eileen's shared profession is not used to promote an interesting discussion of popular music, but rather to pay amusingly self-serving tribute to the film's composer, Peter Nero. When Eileen arrives in New York, she gives her brother a new present: the latest Peter Nero album. Later on, Mike hears a Nero composition on the radio. "Boy, nobody plays the piano like that Peter Nero," he declares. And he would know; he's a music critic! In addition to composing the score, Nero supplies the film's title song (performed by Mel Torme as if he were making up the words as he went along). Eventually, Nero actually turns up in the film, playing himself at the appropriately-named Club Nero. *sigh*

At the time I suppose some may have regarded the film as a surprisingly frank examination of sexuality, in that it acknowledges that unmarried people occasionally have sex from time to time (gasp!). Today, it plays as a quaint look into the attitudes of the past. To some extent, the wink-wink nudge-nudge jokes are a charming change of pace in contrast to the more blatant crudity of the modern era, but at times they become laughable. In one scene, Eileen accidentally leaves her bra and nightgown hanging on a door. Mike happens to see the items, and Nero underscores the moment with a brassy blast intended to accompany audience hysteria. How brazen! Er, brassiere-en!

However, my primary problem with the film is not its dated attitude towards sex. Like far too many rom-coms of yesteryear and today, the movie relies on a series of increasingly difficult-to-swallow contrivances. This is not so problematic in the early moments when Adam is unsuccessfully attempting to set up a sexy liaison with his gal-pal, but the latter half of the film (in which arrival of Eileen's beau from out-of-town causes Adam and Mike to switch identities for reasons too complicated to explain) induces more headaches than laughs.

Fonda fares pretty well in one of her early leading roles, bringing an innocent charm that's so very far from the crusty matriarchs of Georgia Rule and Monster-in-Law. Rod Taylor spends too much of his screen time mugging for the camera, but Cliff Robertson turns in an impressively understated performance. Robert Culp goes absurdly over-the-top as the aforementioned out-of-town beau, successfully demonstrating that humor is not generated by force of will.

The DVD transfer is hit-and-miss, as some moments feature quite a few scratches and flecks while others look pretty clean. Flesh tones are a bit reddish at times. The audio is solid enough, with the jazzy score mostly sounding reasonably sharp. Dialogue is clean and clear. The only extra on the disc is a theatrical trailer.

Fonda fans or those with a bias towards this sort of lightweight fluff may enjoy the flick, but I wouldn't recommend Sunday in New York to the casual viewer. As usual, this release from the Warner Archive does little to seal the deal for those on the fence.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Classic
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer


• IMDb

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