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
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
"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
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
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."
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
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' everytime 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
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.