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Sunday in New York (DVD Review)

14 Mar, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
$19.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Rod Taylor, Jane Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Robert Culp.

From my days of going to school and later working there on marathon business rips, I used to figure that weather-wise, there were maybe 15-20 days each year when New York was that 75-degree/low humidity New York “that Mel Torme sang about.” We get one of those days here, at least until a downpour effects the turning point of this easy-to-take froth that even landed Mel to sing the title tune. It’s a nostalgic standout in a too often obtrusive Peter Nero score and is, in fact, one of the vocalist’s signature songs of the ‘60s.

Speaking of the ‘60s, MGM opened this adaptation of playwright Norman Krasna’s once mildly risqué sex farce in New York just nine days before JFK’s assassination — though by the time it went wide the following January, pop culture had the Beatles and Dr. Strangelove further rocking the boat a lot more. The ad copy for this should-she-or-shouldn’t-she comedy claimed it was “dedicated to the proposition every girl gets … sooner or later” (a couple teachers I used to have possibly excepted). It’s very much a product of its time: Cliff Robertson’s pilot flies TWA out of pre-JFK Idlewild (which had already had its name changed in honor of the assassinated president before Sunday’s wide release). But the time is fairly interesting in terms of historical placement. Ten years earlier, The Moon Is Blue had dented the Hollywood Production Code and endured Catholic condemnation by using the words, “pregnant, virgin and seduce.” Nine years later, Last Tango in Paris (just out on a new Fox/MGM Blur-ray, by the way) was unleashed at the 1972 New York Film festival.

Sporting too much makeup in her sixth feature but otherwise a stunner for the ages, Jane Fonda gave her most appealing screen performance since her 1960 Tall Story debut as the Albany kid sis who pays a surprise visit to brother Robertson, who’s trying to shack up with his flashy girlfriend (Jo Morrow) between emergency flight assignments that seem to materialize about every five minutes or so. But Fonda doesn’t know this because her brother has given her a “scout’s honor” (uh, huh) that he doesn’t sleep out of wedlock with women — adding that men don’t respect women who jump the marital gun themselves. This is before she finds the negligee (etc.) in his locked apartment closet — and this being 1963 Hollywood, it probably isn’t because he’s a transvestite.

Fonda has a fiancé (Robert Culp), but this isn’t working out too well. So when she meets Philadelphian Rod Taylor on a midtown Manhattan bus (ripping off his suit’s breast pocket in the first place), one thing leads to another once they’ve chatted, separated, run into each other again and felt the rain starting to pour only a couple blocks from brother’s apartment. Peter Tewksbury (a not-bad director whose history embraced "Father Knows Best" and late big-screen Elvis) has to work a script that depends on coincidences, contrivances, entrances and exits … the usual farcical mix. Yet every performer here seems to be giving it extra oomph, with Taylor and Robertson as dynamic as they ever were on screen (though one can easily make the case that it’s Fonda’s picture).

Though Warner is billing this burn-on-demand release as a remastered title, there are a few scenes that look as if they’re on the verge of going red the way Metrocolor always did. Generally, though, some of the outdoor scenes are a visually entrancing blast from the ’63 past: skating at Rockefeller Center, strolls that are probably down Fifth or Sixth Avenues (though native New Yorkers would likely know with more assurance) and shots of vintage taxis lined up near the Plaza Hotel. There’s even an outing to go see Peter Nero perform with his group in what must have been a contractually mandated plug. His act is like watching one of his old RCA Victor LP covers come to life.

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