My Sister Eileen (1955)

Synopsis: A “Big Time or Bust” Success Story!

The Sherwood sisters get of the train in Manhattan looking for fame and fortune. Eileen (Janet Leigh, Academy Award nominee 1960, Best Supporting Actress, Psycho), a beautiful aspiring actress and Ruth (Betty Garrett, TV’s “Laverne & Shirley”), a loveless would-be writer, move to New York to realize their dreams.

After suave magazine editor Robert Baker (Jack Lemmon, 1973 Academy Award winner, Best Actor, Save The Tiger, It Happened To Jane) insultingly rejects Ruth’s corny romantic tragedies, Ruth takes his advice to write about something she really knows – her belle-of-the-ball sister’s power over men. Ruth secret jealousy of Eileen leads to a web of lies that only an international incident with the Brazilian Navy and a jail-bound conga line can untangle.

The optimistic humor of Blake Edwards’ screenplay and the lively fun of Robert Fosse’s choreography makes for full-scale enjoyment in this charming “big time or bust” success story.

My Sister Eileen (1955) 6.5

Well, as most people who know me know all too well, musicals are really not my thing. I hate that characters stop everything to sing and dance about doing the dishes (ARGH!). If it works contextually, then I don’t mind it so much (ex: ‘Star!’ or “Victor / Victoria’). Otherwise, you might as well torture me with hours of bagpipe music and/or chalkboard scratching.

So, with this in mind, you can imagine the trepidation with which I approached this film… a musical… featuring Jack Lemmon. Until now, I had no sense that Lemmon could sing OR dance, so it didn’t bode well at all. Then again, he was somewhat versatile, and has won an Academy Award for his acting skill, so who knows, right?

The first hour was surprisingly enjoyable. Then came the first truly ridiculous musical number of the film (up til then, they were subdued and/or suitable enough), and it was downhill from there. The sole musical number featuring Jack Lemmon was horrible: it was so clear that the vocals were dubbed by someone else, and, despite his efforts, Lemmon didn’t quite have the grace to pull it off.

Otherwise he was good, as was the the rest of cast – even though the two sisters were FAR too old for their roles. While their characters’ ages aren’t made clear, I got the sense that the Leigh and Garrett were 12-15 years older than they should have been. Having said this, they were good in the roles, even if they didn’t look the part.

In the end, we got an okay story that wasn’t fully developped (which is surprising as it’s a remake), along with musical numbers that were frequently incomplete; it felt like they tried to do both but only ended up watering down their efforts in the process. It might have been better to focus on one or the other, in this case.


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