Sunday in New York is a pleasant example of what passed for a risqué romantic romp back in 1963. As Jane Fonda, playing a naïve young miss from Albany, says at one point while cuddling on a couch with a handsome young man she’s just met in the big city, “This is when they would fade to black” or words to that effect. Under the guise of a look at modern morality what you have here, is a sex farce without the sex. There is a lot of innuendo. There is some lingerie. There’s even some kissing. But sex? Sex is something to talk around with a wink here and a nod there, but sex is nothing to ever put on the silver screen, at least not back in the early sixties.
The plot is the typical romantic comedy of errors. Fonda arrives in Manhattan after a quarrel with her wealthy beau (Robert Culp) over her unwillingness to—blush, blush—sleep with him. She goes to the apartment of her big brother (Cliff Robertson), an airline pilot and something of a ladies’ man. She asks his advice, and he, of course, despite his own indiscretions, stands four square for virginity, at least as far as his sister is concerned. Later Fonda literally becomes attached (as she gets herself pinned to his jacket on a 5th Avenue bus) to a handsome stranger (Rod Taylor), and they spend the day together, get caught in a rain storm, and soaking wet go back to her brother’s apartment and get out of their wet clothes. And of course, we all know what is going to happen—not so fast, not in 1963. Taylor, it seems, is too much the gentleman to engage with someone he cutely calls “a beginner.” Complications ensue when wealthy beau arrives to propose marriage and mistakes Taylor for big brother, and then big brother himself shows up. With slight variations what you have here is the girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl—well you know how it ends.
This is a pleasant movie. The young Jane Fonda manages to light up the screen, and she does it without even bothering to parade around half naked. She does wide eyed innocence with conviction. Taylor is engaging as her new found friend, and is entirely believable as a gentleman too honorable to take advantage of a young lady. Robertson does a nice job as the fast talking big brother with a way with the ladies. He manages to be both equal parts protective and naughty. Robert Culp is a little smarmy as the rich boy friend who has everything, money, looks, and he’s an Olympic boxer. Jim Backus appears in a minor role as the chief pilot and Jo Morrow plays Robertson’s girlfriend.
Shot on location in some of New York’s more iconic settings, the city becomes an integral part of the film’s atmosphere. Fonda and Taylor watch the ice skaters in Rockefeller Plaza. They go rowing on the lake in Central Park. They get off the bus on 5th Avenue with St Patrick’s Cathedral in the background. Of course, they can’t get a cab in the rain. It’s New York, and it’s in beautiful color. It is not Sunday just anywhere, it is Sunday in New York.
The film features a lively jazz influenced musical score by pianist Peter Nero who also plays on screen with his trio in a night club scene. Moreover, as serendipity would have it, one of his albums is presented as a gift from Fonda to her brother, and then later becomes a topic of discussion between Fonda and Taylor as they are out on the lake—not so subtle an example of product placement. Mel Torme who sings the title song over the opening credits is not so lucky.
The DVD in a remastered edition from the Warner Archive Collection runs approximately 105 minutes. The only extra included is the film’s trailer, which is of some historical interest in the way it tries to play up the risqué elements of what is really a fairly conventional romantic comedy for advertising purposes.
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