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Comedy Movies - My Sister Eileen

BUY My Sister Eileen (dvd cover)
Janet Leigh, Betty Garrett, Jack Lemmon,
Dick York, Bob Fosse
Directed by Richard Quine
Columbia 1955
Sony Home Entertainment 2005
107 minutes

A healthy dose of willing suspension of disbelief is needed for a modern audience watching any comedy from the fifties. If you can accept the idea that characters in their twenties are played by actors in their thirties and that people break out in song or dance (great numbers choreographed and sometimes featuring Bob Fosse) at the drop of a hat you will enjoy this fun movie. Not that there are not doses of reality here and there such as a running joke about the apartment rocking and rolling because they are blasting for the subway underneath it and the sister always eating spaghetti and meatballs because they are on a very tight budget. Many other sight gags make My Sister Eileen a fun movie.

Also available in Icons of Screwball Comedy Volume 1

My Sister Eileen stars Janet Leigh as Eileen, a charming and very pretty young lady who moves to New York City with her older and spinsterish sister Ruth (played by Betty Garret of Laverne and Shirley fame and who also played Irene Lorenzo on All in the Family). The sisters rent a basement apartment by a charming somewhat slumlord painter, meet the neighbors, including Dick York of Bewitched fame, and try to get their lives started with only a month to do so.

Ruth is a writer and receives from publisher Robert Baker (played by the always great Jack Lemmon) the standard advice of write what you know. She does and writes about the popularity of her sister Eileen for whom life seems so easy compared to hers. A funny sight gag involving Eileen dropping a paper and having five men rush to help her right before Ruth drops her portfolio and has to pick up the papers herself emphasizes that. Baker falls in love with Ruth, a local soda jerk (Bob Fosse of All That Jazz fame) falls in love with Eileen. Things start looking up just when the sisters are packing their things at the end of their month. Blake Edwards' hand in the script shows right here when things suddenly take a turn for the worse just when you think you've figured out this comedy.

A few more misunderstandings, running jokes, and sight gags later -including a very funny one involving Ruth being chased across New York City by a posse of Brazilian sailors and the sisters going to jail for having all of Greenwich Village doing a conga line in their minuscule basement apartment-- and all is well that ends well in a conga line.

My Sister Eileen is a fun little movie. Those who love fifties comedies will definitely appreciate it, those who are not familiar with the genre will have a nice time watching it.

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