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Sunday in New York (1963)

In this charming romantic comedy, Rod Taylor plays Mike Mitchell, a sportswriter from Philadelphia with an appreciation for music and the appeals of New York City.

A 1963 review in Variety magazine singled Rod out for praise among an ensemble that includes Jane Fonda, Cliff Roberston and Robert Culp:

Best of the [cast] is Taylor, who delivers a warm, flexible and appealing performance.

Jane Fonda plays Eileen, an innocent young woman who arrives in New York City on a Sunday to visit her brother, Adam (Cliff Robertson), an airline pilot. Eileen's stewing over her sweetheart back in Albany, Russ (Robert Culp). He has been pressuring her to have sex, and she's worried about being the only 22-year-old virgin left in the world.

Adam encourages his sister to resist and assures her that sex is not what all men look for. Of course, that's exactly what Adam is looking for, and he's trying to find a place to spend some time alone with Mona, his girlfriend (played by Jo Morrow).

Rod enters the scene when Eileen ventures out into the city and -- literally -- snags him on the Fifth Avenue bus, catching her corsage on his coat. After a false start or two, the pair wind up sharing a rowboat in Central Park, get caught in the rain and wind up in bathrobes back at Adam's apartment.

Hilarity ensues when Russ barges in, proposes to Eileen and assumes Mike is Adam. Then Adam arrives and has to pretend he's Mike.

Of course, it's all sorted out in the end, and getting there is great fun.

Although the premise of the movie is a bit quaint these days, solid entertainment like this never goes out of style.

Rod Taylor, Jane Fonda, Jo Morrow, Cliff Robertson

THE PRODUCTION

"Sunday in New York" began life as a stage play by Norman Krasna, and he also wrote the screenplay for the movie. The play debuted on Broadway in 1961 and ran 188 performances. Robert Redford played Mike, the role that would go to Rod Taylor in the film version.

The movie marked the film debut of its director, Peter Tewksbury. The Emmy winner was best known as director of TV's "Father Knows Best" and the creator of "My Three Sons." It was also the film debut for piano prodigy Peter Nero, who composed the musical score, two original songs and also appeared in a scene.

The producer was Everett Freeman, who told Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons at the end of the shoot that he was writing "Perils of Paula," a new movie to star Rod and Jane. "He thinks they would be perfect for another sophisticated comedy," Parsons wrote. Alas, it did not come to be.

In preparing to film "Sunday in New York," reports indicate that the lead roles were offered to Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, but they turned them down. (The budget probably didn't allow, either.) Jane Fonda was signed for Eileen and, according to columnist Walter Winchell, George Peppard was considered for Mike. But, Winchell wrote, "Jane Fonda and George Peppard are not crazy about each other," so the role went to Rod Taylor.

"Sunday in New York" was scheduled to film for about a week in Manhattan and then seven weeks at MGM in Los Angeles. The eight-day location shoot began April 21, 1963, and after the first day of shooting, a big press party was held at the Rockefeller Center skating rink to introduce the press to the stars.

Columnist Earl Wilson noted in an April 25 column that "Henry Fonda didn't show at Rockefeller Rink festivities launching Jane Fonda-Rod Taylor shooting. Was it because he doesn't like Jane's chap, Andreas Voutsinas, who was there?"

At the time of the filming, there was great strain among the Fonda family because Henry was not supportive of the lifestyles being led by his son and daughter, Peter and Jane.

In several accounts, Rod said he encouraged Jane to make peace with her famous father. One instance is during an interview for Michael Freedland's 1988 biography about Jane Fonda. Rod said, "I know from our talks that she was very concerned about Henry. I told her, 'Come on, don't be so fucking silly. You know you're madly in love with him, go and cuddle him.' "

In a pressbook item for "Sunday in New York," Jane was asked about working with her father. "Some day, when I'm more experienced, I would like that," she said. Some day came in 1981, as father and daughter starred in "On Golden Pond."

It wasn't Golden Pond but the lake in Central Park where Jane found herself in 1963.

"The first love scene we did last week was in a [rowboat] on Central Park lake," Rod told syndicated columnist Harold Heffernan. "We were about to go into a clinch when the boat tipped and Jane fell overboard."

Previous funny "accidents" had been used in filming, but this time "Tewksbury couldn't put that one in the film because the cameras weren't turning," Rod said.

Press materials show that Rod had a watery time of it too.  Thanks to a simulated rain storm at the beginning of the movie, mishaps on Central Park lake toward the middle, and a soaking by a passing vehicle at the end, Rod said, "I seem to have spent most of this picture underwater.... I've been eating lunches in my dressing room bundled up in a warm bathrobe."

ROMANTIC INTERLUDE

Rod's wedding to fashion model Mary Hilem got squeezed by an over-run in shooting. Rod and Mary had scheduled the wedding and a honeymoon to take place when "Sunday in New York" wrapped filming. However, a little more work was needed, so Rod had to head back to the studio after the wedding.

Jane Fonda, at the wedding reception of Rod Taylor and
Mary Hilem, who got married during the filming
of "Sunday in New York."

ROD AND JANE

Rod was consistently exuberant about working with Jane Fonda, even if he was apprehensive at first.

"They told me this Jane girl was a real kook," he said to syndicated columnist Sheilah Graham (Aug. 2, 1963). "But man, she's a barrel of laughs, and we had an awful lot of fun with this film."

The fun continued in an interview for Michael Freedland's 1988 biography of Jane Fonda biography, "It was a fun thing," Rod said. "We got on like a couple of lovely kids. ... I honestly believe she falls in love with the parts she plays. Therefore, a lot of that love reaches out to the people around her. ... 'Sunday in New York' was just a frothy, wonderful time."

It was more of the same in a 1990s interview for TCM in Australia, "I love to play high comedy, and this was strictly high comedy," Rod said. "Jane and I got on so beautifully. She was wonderful, just adorable. We never stopped laughing. On screen, off screen, just laughing all the time."

In that interview, Rod brought up kissing. "It was the first time for me shooting in the streets of New York and that was fantastic. Stopping traffic and cops coming over for autographs and everybody going 'ooh-aah' every'time I kissed Jane..."

And kiss her, he did. Reporter Mike Connelly described Rod's displays of affection in a July 1965 Modern Screen article: "He would go up to Jane Fonda after each of their scenes together, right in front of the crew and anyone else on the set," Connelly wrote and quoted Rod as saying, "If I had been doing something wrong, I would be sneaky about it. But I wasn't doing anything wrong; I was just showing my affection for somebody I like very much, so I did it out in the open. And that goes for the parties I go to without my wife."



Later, in an interview conducted in 2012 for the documentary "Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches," Rod said: "Jane was a delight. I didn't know what to expect really. She was still kind of estranged from her daddy and felt it. She was very kind of New York and knew what she was doing. She was a delight and we hit it off like crazy. No romanticism, just genuine liking for each other. And it was good give and take, you know. We sparred very well. ... I really loved it. There was nothing very heavy about it. It was funny, it was still charming, but it was pretty goddamn sexy. It was nice!"

Jane must have found it nice too. In a book titled "The Hell-Raisers," by Jim Fagan and Jim Oram, Jane said: "After making a movie with Taylor, you can keep most of the other so-called Hollywood he-men."

TCM SCREENING, 2014

"Sunday in New York" was screened April 13, 2014, during TCM Classic Film Festival.

While introducing the film, Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne joked that he was stunned to see such a full house at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning.

One of the audience members at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood that morning described the experience in her blog. She also notes that the film screened at the TCM festival was from Britain, and it differs at the end from the U.S. version. The primary difference is that the U.S. version tacks on a narration that makes it clear that Rod and Jane's characters get married.

 

 

 

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LINKS

IMDb // Wikipedia

Pressbook highlights (PDF)

Turner Classic Movies

Photo blog of stills

Photo blog of boat scene

Blog with screen captures

Cinema Retro review


TCM Film Festival 2014

Laura's Misc. Musings

Crimson Kimono

 

VIEWER'S GUIDE

DVD on Amazon.com

Tribute video at YouTube

Bus scene on YouTube

Romance scene on YouTube

Shoe scene on YouTube

Plane scene on YouTube

 

         
   

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