My Sister Eileen (1955)

“Oh, they were interested — but not in my acting.”

Synopsis:
A writer (Betty Garrett) and her aspiring-actress sister Eileen (Janet Leigh) move to New York City and are convinced by a Greek landlord (Kurt Kaszner) to rent a basement apartment next to an out-of-work wrestler (Dick York) and his girlfriend (Lucy Marlow). Busty Eileen draws attention everywhere she goes — specifically from a soda fountain manager (Bob Fosse) and his acquaintance (Tommy Rall); meanwhile, Ruth (Garrett) tries to sell some of her stories about life with her attractive sister to a publisher (Jack Lemmon) who believes Garrett is “Eileen”.

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Review:
Bob Fosse choreographed and co-starred in this enjoyable Cinemascope musical — based on a 1940 play by Jerome Chodorov and Joseph Fields — which was itself inspired by Ruth McKenney’s autobiographical stories. The storyline, focusing on two young hopefuls navigating The Big City, remains as timeless as ever, and while it’s challenging to watch Eileen literally harassed wherever she goes, we can contextualize the scenario as “of the era” and be grateful we’ve moved on at least somewhat (or have we?). Garrett is pitch-perfect in the leading role, and Leigh is appropriately guileless as her lovable sister; there’s no way one could dislike Eileen as portrayed here. The musical sequences are a delight, and it’s fun to see Fosse himself on-screen. I also happen to enjoy the subplot about “Wreck” (York) hanging around the apartment making himself useful, his “unique”, oh-so-New-York relationship with Marlow unthreatened by Leigh’s presence.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Betty Garrett as Ruth
  • Janet Leigh as Eileen
  • Fun musical sequences (choreographed by Bob Fosse)

  • Fine Cinemascope cinematography
  • An enjoyably witty script

Must See?
Yes, as an enjoyable musical. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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