The sub-genre of sex comedy is one that has evolved quite a bit as cinema shook off the cobwebs of the Hays Code. Back in the morally chaste days of yore, language that might have been viewed as racy would probably fit right at home on the typical family sitcom these days. Such is the case of Peter Tewksbury’s 1963 romantic comedy Sunday In New York, which began its life two years earlier as a Broadway stage play of the same name by Norman Krasna. At one point or another, various talented individuals were circling the project before landing at MGM with an early-career Jane Fonda (9 to 5) and Rod Taylor (The Birds) landing the starring roles. The film itself is clearly a product of its time, but there are elements in the script in which you can see the initial sparks of some of the more incendiary language and situations feature films would tackle later. The sexual politics are more than a bit dated, but the film manages to maintain its entertainment value thanks to some strong performances from the winning ensemble.
Jane Fonda plays the exasperated Eileen Taylor, a 22-year-old writer from upstate New York who has traveled to the city to pay a surprise visit to her pilot brother, Adam (Cliff Robertson, Spider-Man), following what appears to be a breakup with her boyfriend, Russ Wilson (Robert Culp, I Spy). If there is anyone Eileen can shoot straight with, it is her big brother. The issue on Eileen’s mind is one of the eternal topics on minds around the world: sex. Russ wants it. Eileen does not – well, not without a ring on her finger. The question that plagues her is, with all of the radical changes that have happened in society, is there a place for a “virtuous” woman or has that dynamic of relationship etiquette went the way of the dodo? Adam, being a protective big brother, assures her that her “virtue” is, well, a virtue that men desire when looking for a partner. When she presses an unwed Adam to swear that he has not done any sleeping around with his girlfriends, he staunchly claims to not have done so – knowing full well that his girlfriend Mona Harris (Jo Morrow, Gidget) is on her way over for an afternoon rendezvous. When Adam and Mona have to slip out of the apartment to find somewhere a little more private to “cuddle”, the sitcom-y antics begin.
Eileen’s purpose for going out into the world to gain a new perspective comes in the form of needing to deliver a message to her brother that he has been called in to pilot a flight. As she traverses the city on a crowded bus, she becomes entangled with a visiting music critic, Mike Mitchell (Rod Taylor). As far as meet-cutes go, this one is executed with some decent chuckles. The sparks are not instantaneous, but the pair grow closer as they seem to be unable to extricate themselves from each other’s orbit. The chemistry between the two is believable enough, but that is honestly owed more to the inherent charm of Fonda more than anything. The actress has looked upon the role in retrospect and criticized the character for being a bore as she is given nothing to do. You cannot really argue with the assessment, but Fonda seemingly undercuts her own screen presence that she brings to the character that does allow for the audience to remain transfixed even with obvious script limitations. Taylor is a bit stiff as a partner at first, but he finds his groove along with the film as the story moves along.
As previously mentioned, the story goes to some sitcom-esque places when Russ pops back into the picture and identities have to be purposefully mistaken. There is never any doubt where the film will end up, but the journey is mostly amiable nonetheless. Perhaps where such broad comedy works better is with the dynamic of Adam and Mona, who engage in a recurring gag that somehow never ceases to elicit big laughs. The comedic timing of this storyline is something to admire. Less admirable is the way in which the movie pulls its punches when it comes to exploring the sexual politics of the time. You would think the central thesis of the film is that women should not be judged on what they do with their bodies – which admittedly the film does not do outright – but in the way it concludes to kowtow to traditional values feels like a slight to sexually liberated individuals. This may be more thought than an early sixties sex romp deserves, but it seemed like a misstep in an otherwise delightful film. Sunday In New York does not revolutionize the genre, but it has enough positives in its favor to be a solid investment of your time.
Sunday In New York comes to Blu-Ray with a brand new 1080p transfer courtesy of Warner Archive sourced from a new 2020 Master. While it appears the original camera negative was unavailable, you would be hard pressed to notice a difference with this stunning presentation. The luscious photography shines in high definition with natural grain intact. The contrast is well defined, and there is virtually no print damage to be found. Black levels are appropriately deep with no trace of black crush or compression artifacts. The vibrant colors throughout the film pop off the screen with a pleasing intensity. There is a wonderful amount of detail present with nice texture on the costumes and in the simple production design. Warner Archive keeps up their wonderful streak of lovingly preserving classic films.
The Blu-Ray comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that is likewise very enjoyable. Dialogue and background noises are represented perfectly along with the lovely score from Peter Nero. There is no discernible age related wear and tear to the track such as hissing or popping. No sounds ever overpower the dialogue that is being spoken here. While mostly dialogue driven throughout, the more kinetic moments, such as when Adam weaves his way through the airport, are handled with ease and give the track a bit of punch. There are also optional English (SDH) subtitles included for the feature film. Warner Archive has provided a disc that sounds fantastic in all respects.
- Trailer: A three-minute trailer is provided here which gives entirely too much of the plot away.
Sunday In New York is a light, enjoyable tale of love and longing for intimacy that works in large part thanks to the standout performance from a young Jane Fonda. The story is not entirely groundbreaking, but you can begin to see where films would start having more of an edge to them. Warner Archive has released a Blu-Ray that features a seemingly flawless A/V presentation and an original trailer thrown in for good measure. If want humorous but wholesome enough sex comedy to pass the time, you cannot argue with the merits of this one. Recommended
Sunday In New York can be purchased directly through the Warner Archive Amazon Store or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Archive has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.