Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

My Christmas treat: My Sister Eileen

Thats the 1955 Columbia version, not the 1942 original with Roz Russell, who also played it on Broadway as the show WONDERFUL TOWN, with a score by Leonard Bernstein and book by Comden and Green. This 1955 film though has a different score by Jule Style (GYPSY, FUNNY GIRL) and Leo Robin, and has choreography by young Bob Fosse who also plays the guy working in the diner smitten with Janet Leigh (Eileen). That other great dancer Tommy Rall plays the other brasher guy, also with the hots for Eileen, while Betty Garrett is the older sister, Betty of course was Brunhilde Esterhazy in ON THE TOWN. The material is based on Ruth McKenney's "New Yorker" stories about her pretty sister Eileen.
This MY SISTER EILEEN is another great 'New York in the Fifties' movie, with that Cinemascope screen unfolding a vibrant city as the Sherwood sisters - Ruth and Eileen - arrive from Ohio and rent that basement from Kurt Kasznar, with Dick York as the other tenant who keeps an eye on them. Ruth is a writer and tries to sell her stories to publisher Jack Lemmon - good here in one of his early roles - while Janet has to fight off the guys as she looks for work.
Director Richard Quine is a dab hand at using the widescreen (as was Anthony Mann, Nicholas Ray) even in that tiny basement apartment. Quine was a rising star at Columbia, and had just done that studio-bound SO THIS IS PARIS that year, where Janet's husband Tony Curtis learns to sing and dance, and wasn't too bad - review at Curtis label). Quine went on to those Kim Novak films and various comedies like PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES and SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL before his suicide in 1989, aged 68, by gunshot).
Back to EILEEN - it is a treat from start to finish, Janet is adorable as usual, and Betty knows how to wring a laugh out of a line. Bob and Tommy (one of the SEVEN BROTHERS and ideal in KISS ME KATE, as was Fosse and Bobby Van, with Ann Miller) dance up a storm, Fosse was 28 at the time. The delirious climax includes a line of conga-dancing Portuguese sailors dressed in white. MY SISTER EILEEN often got overlooked among all those great '50s musicals, but thankfully is now restored on dvd to delight us all over again. 

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