User Reviews (28)

Add a Review

  • I first saw "My Sister Eileen" years ago as a kid. In the early 90's, I saw the film at a tribute to Betty Garrett at which she was present to answer questions. I found her to be a wonderful person full of humor and warm remembrances of her co-stars and experience in Hollywood. She talked candidly about the blacklist that kept her and husband Larry Parks out of films for several years until she made this film, but did not show any signs of bitterness over the experience. What a wonderful lady!

    Anyway, the film still holds up 46 years later as a fresh and entertaining remake of the Rosalind Russell film of the 40's which I have yet to see. Russell had done the Broadway musical version, "Wonderful Town", which was also done as a TV special some time during the 50's as well. Since Leonard Bernstein was not willing to let his music go without a huge price, Columbia instead hired Jule Styne to write the music. I have seen the TV version of "Wonderful Town" which is enjoyable, but this film brings the story to life in color and with beautiful location footage of New York's Greenwich Village. Shots of the surrounding area including the famous Washington Square make this a must for lovers of the Big Apple. Having visited Greenwich Village several times in the past couple years, I was amazed by how much it has NOT changed! This aspect alone makes "My Sister Eileen" seem as fresh today as it was during its initial release.

    As Eileen, Janet Leigh is perky and lovable, but it is Betty Garrett who steals the scene as Ruth with her wonderfully likable personality. The not-so-plain jane, Garrett is a struggling writer who comes to New York from Ohio with her pretty sister (Leigh) whom all the boys go gaga over, making Ruth feel unattractive. Before you know it, Eileen has the attentions of sweet Bob Fosse and scoundral Tommy Rall, while Ruth finds herself attracted to publisher Jack Lemmon. In only his third year in Hollywood films, Lemmon had proved himself to be a versitile actor. This was one of three musical remakes he did at Columbia during the mid 50's. The other two were "Three For the Show" (a remake of "Too Many Husbands") and "You Can't Run Away From It" (a remake of "It Happened One Night"). He sings one song ("It's Bigger Than You or Me"), and doesn't do too badly!

    Then, there are two other characters who fit into the storyline: shyster landlord Kurt Kasznar, and athlete neighbor Dick York (of "Bewitched" fame). Kasznar, Rall, and Fosse had all appeared together in MGM's "Kiss Me Kate". Rall and Fosse's rival dance shows the potential of the future Broadway legend Fosse who went onto create the dances in such memorable musicals as "Pippin" and "Chicago" (as well as direct several classic musical films). Fosse's creative touch is clearly visible here.

    The musical highlight is the "Give Me a Band" number with a tipsy Garrett leading Leigh, Rall, and Fosse in a dance number with invisible musical instruments. The other songs are hardly classics, but in this film, that just doesn't matter; the shear magic of New York's Greenwich Village and the wonderful stars make this an all-time classic.

    In comparing this to "Wonderful Town", I can say listening to the Original Broadway Cast and viewing the video of the TV special, I would like to have seen Bernstein's songs in the film as compared to Jule Styne's. The production number of "Christopher Street" (which is not even mentioned in this film) is ironic considering that 15 years after it was written, Christopher Street would become part of another legend: the Stonewall riots for Gay and Lesbian rights. Then, there are two other production numbers lead by Russell: "Swing" and "Conga", which is done in "My Sister Eileen" as a non-sung dance number. Eileen, as played by Edie Adams, comes off as unknowingly selfish, while Leigh's Eileen is a seemingly goody-goody miss perfect. Russell and Garrett are both perfect as Eileen, and I am glad that Garrett had the chance to play the part which Russell had already done on film the decade before.
  • altaf-217 May 1999
    This is one of the most entertaining musicals to ever come out of Hollywood. Light and witty, sweet and subtle, it's almost as if Lubitsch made it. The songs are a joy, the dancing a treat and the story deliciously simple. Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon shine, but the true star is the glorious Betty Garret, who should have been much bigger than she was. Please check this out, it's a charmer
  • There are so many accolades that can be linked to the musical version of MY SISTER EILEEN in its Columbia 50's version that one doesn't know where to start. First some facts -- WONDERFUL TOWN, the Bernstein-Comden-Green Broadway version was a smash, not a so-so attempt as has been stated elsewhere. Rosalind Russell received every honor imaginable for her return to the state, and Edie Adams, as Eileen, was also acclaimed, along with the score, the book, etc. Columbia could not arrange with Bernstein and Co. for their handiwork so it rolled out its own EILEEN, and the results are beyond charming. For the record, to dispute another silly comment, BETTY GARRETT, one of the genuine talents of stage and screen, was a musical comedy star on Bway and Hollywood, so her training was extensive, and her performance in the film, perhaps, is its greatest attribute -- but the Bob Fosse-Tommy Rall 'challenge' dance outside the burlesque theater is brilliant, as is the Bandstand song. Janet Leigh would have enchanted any and all males within sight, and her singing and dancing is quite expert. Jack Lemmon's work is fine, and his voice is good -- he was a cabaret pianist-singer whenever the chance opened for him. He also recorded several LP's. IF there is one weakness, it is the same as the Broadway production (which incidentally got a stellar revival and awards recently with Donna Murphy). The ending is too abrupt, and the Conga Line number could have ended stronger. BUT it is a small element. This is one of those musicals, at the tale end of the musical era in Hollywood, that deserves to be listed among the finest of them all!!!
  • gentoo22 October 2001
    "My Sister Eileen" has two great stars -- Bob Fosse and Betty Garrett -- stealing the show from two who turned out to be bigger stars -- Jack Lemmon and Janet Leigh. The story is pretty elementary and certainly predictable, but that doesn't matter. What makes this movie special is Garrett's incredible comic delivery (with and without the Brazilian navy!) and Fosse's fabulous choreography. When he and Tommy Rall challenge each other while waiting outside Eileen's "audition," you'll feel like you're in heaven.
  • "On the Town"'s Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh play two sisters looking for romance from their slightly seedy flat on the wrong part of town.

    Eileen (Leigh) is the pretty one who has all the attention, while her sister waits quietly for her talents and charms to be appreciated. In the cast are Jack Lemmon, Bob Fosse, and Tommy Rall (so some excellent dancing going on here).

    There are a number of OTT moments, not least the all-inclusive conga number near the end, but this musical version of a 40s classic manages to add something new and showcase the talents of its cast well.
  • Where has this film been all these years? What a completely charming piece of entertainment with a nice score by Jule Styne (Gypsy, Funny Girl, Bells Are Ringing). OK, so it's no Singin' In The Rain or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. But it's equally as good as a lot of the other lesser MGM musicals of the 1940s and 1950s such as Summer Stock and On The Town. Based on the 1940 play of the same name (Book by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov;) Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh are perfect as the Sherwood sisters. They both shine in their performances. And top it off, the film highlights some wonderful choreography by none other than legendary Bob Fosse. His work is, as it always was, stylish and pure class. The only glitch in the casting is that of Jack Lemon. He tries to be a slick, man-of-the-world New York publisher. But his performance just falls a bit short of his usual standards. And sadly there was very little chemistry between Garrett and Lemon, making the blossoming romance of their characters somewhat hard to believe. Still, even with this small weak link in the chain, overall the film really works.

    It does seem strange that just the year before this film was released, Broadway produced their own musical version of the original 1940 non-musical version of My Sister Eileen, called Wonderful Town (Music by Leonard Berstein; Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green). While Wonderful Town wasn't a huge Broadway smash, it did run 559 performances, which was respectable for 1954. With a musical stage version of the play already existing as a part of the world of musical theater, I tend to wonder why Columbia started from scratch with this film and didn't film the Bernstein, Comdon & Green musical. But still, it's nice to know that there are two different musical versions of this charming play to enjoy.
  • I had heard that this second musical version of "My Sister Eileen" (the first being the Broadway show "Wonderful Town") was very underrated. Well, it's not.

    Columbia Pictures owned the movie musical rights to "Eileen" and when Leonard Bernstein wanted too much money for "Wonderful Town", Columbia passed on adapting the Broadway hit, and created its own musical film adaptation. Unfortunately, this version isn't just inferior to "Wonderful Town" - the score and script are truly mediocre in their own right. The songs are all forgettable, which is surprising given that the composer is the great Jule Styne who went on to write "Gypsy" and other shows. Either he and lyricist Leo Robin had very little time to write the score or inspiration took a vacation.

    The two saving graces in this film are Betty Garrett, who plays the more tomboyish Ruth. Unlike Rosalind Russell who played Ruth both in the non-musical film and in "Wonderful Town," Garrett can really sing and she's less self-conscious about being the center of attraction - she's much more natural in the role.

    The other occasional grace is Bob Fosse's choreography. In some numbers, especially one dancing "duel" between him and the terrific Tommy Rall, the film comes alive. Unfortunately, some of the other dances - particularly the climactic "Conga" sequence, fall flat, perhaps due more to director Quine than Fosse.

    Janet Leigh plays Eileen and she's very charming, though not quite the kind of looker who would have men literally at her feet all the time. She sings fairly well, and dances rather better. And since she's top billed, the script gives her character more emphasis than the original play. Jack Lemmon plays a publisher on whom Ruth has a crush; Lemmon is good, though his one song is far from a highlight - he's no singer.

    It's a pity that Columbia and Bernstein didn't see eye to financial eye - it would have been great to see Garrett do "Wonderful Town," though Leigh and Lemmon would never be able to handle their parts in that score.
  • The first time Fosse was given the job of choreography for an entire movie, he came up with "The Competition Dance", a terrific number for himself and Tommy Rall. But the movie should have made a star out of Betty Garrett. Who knows, if MGM had made the film it probably would have. The score, by the way, is far better than that of "Wonderful Town", the stage version that Columbia wanted to film until the producers asked too much for it. Rent it, buy it, enjoy it. By the way, there is a soundtrack recording, but you'll have to spend weeks tracking it down. It may be worth it just to hear Jack Lemmon's take on "It's Bigger Than Both of Us".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Singin' in the Rain" seems to be everyone's favorite musical and I can understand why. It's undemanding, funny, has great songs, a fine book, and superlative dancing. But "My Sister Eileen" must be right up there in the second rank.

    Bob Fosse has never been better, and Tommy Ralls gets a lot of screen time. Fosse was a great dancer. The "airplane" number that Gene Kelly does in "An American in Paris" is done here by Fosse but at a furious rate, as if he were a jet compared to Kelly's propeller-drive C 47. Not to put Kelly down. He oozed charm and I love the guy, but his terpsichorean accomplishments were a shade below those of dancers like Fosse and Astaire.

    In this movie -- whose plot is out-dated, a couple of young girls come to the Village to be stars and run into odd characters -- Fosse has never been better on screen. He had a good number in "Kiss Me Kate," but there wasn't enough of him. Here he does a "competition ballet" with Tommy Ralls that boggles the mind. I won't even try to describe it. At the end, both do a back flip, something Fosse always had trouble with. And it's all done to music that has no tune. It's just an ongoing riff.

    That's one of the problems with the film itself. The numbers aren't that good. "Singin' in the Rain" had songs that had passed the threshold and become standards. Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. The songs in "My Sister Eileen" are tied closely to events in the plot but they aren't memorable. The story itself is dated. Greenwich Village is not what it was in 1954, when people left their windows open and you could sleep on the benches in Washington Square, as I know all too well.

    But, plot aside, back to Fosse's choreography. Nothing that Kelly or Astaire did -- with the very notable exception of Donald O'Connor's famous "Make 'em Laugh" -- is as hilarious as Fosse's choreography on the band stand. It would take too long to describe it so I'll not try to do it.

    Neither Janet Leigh nor Betty Garrett had much in the way of musical training but they hold up their end of the deal quite well. The dialog isn't as keen as it seems to think it is but it has its felicities. Betty Garret is trying to talk Fosse out of being so shy in his pursuit of Eileen. Garret: "Faint heart never won fair lady." Fosse: "You mean I should just take the bit in my teeth?" Garret: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Fosse (in a discouraged tone): "That's easier said than done."

    If you like musical comedies, and especially if you appreciate Bob Fosse, you will enjoy this. Poor Fosse. One of his girlfriends mentioned him in the same breath as Michael Baryshnikov, and Fosse looked down and blushed with humiliation. I don't know why.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I caught this film on one of those new retro TV channels that are popping up right and left, and was immediately drawn in by the look of the film. There's something about the film stock of the 1940s to 1960s that is just gorgeous. The film was pretty obviously shot on a lot for NYC, but that helps make the lighting perfect.

    The film is bit scattered about what it wants to be, although it is clearly a musical about two sisters, one gorgeous ingénue, another a much older spinster-to-be.

    It's Singing in the Rain meets Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, except without anywhere near the amount of greatness of those two films.

    The trajectory of the romances is oh-so-predictable, and about half the musical numbers are maudlin and unwanted. The conga-line number is fun towards the end, so yeah, if you are on the fence about musicals, I guarantee you will turn this one off.

    Janet Leigh is strong, but pedestrian as the hot sister. Betty Garrett is incessantly a downer, and it's a real stretch to think that Jack Lemmon would fall for her, especially when he's seen escorting assorted gorgeous Manhattan models around earlier.

    Yes, Jack Lemmon is in it, as is Dick York, as an uncharacteristic athletic protector, but he fits it well. Bob Fosse is even in here, unrecognizable as the super-straight love interest for Janet Leigh. Jack Lemmon perks interest, particularly looking young and sharp here, but his character isn't given much to do, which is a serious waste.

    I blame whoever produced and wrote this film for its failure to be a lasting classic, because it isn't. However, it's not a bad film, but for the high Hollywood standards of the time, the plot and interest level of this picture somehow slipped past, and it's pretty much phoned in.

    That said, its top-notch production values, occasionally impressive dance numbers (including Fosse) make it watchable (if you're kind of paying attention to something else.)
  • This is the 1955 musical remake of the 1942 film of the same name. I was not a huge fan of the original (it tried way too hard to be kooky) and I was curious if the remake would be any better.

    "My Sister Eileen" (1955) stars Janet Leigh (as the title character) and Betty Garrett as her sister. The pair come to make their fortune--Eileen as an actress and Ruth as a writer. Unfortunately, like in real life, success does not come quickly and they are forced to rent an ultra-crappy basement efficiency. Along the way, they both have some romances and flirts with success. Where will it all end? See the film.

    So is this film any better than the 1942 version. Not really. While I like that the pace of the remake isn't quite as frenetic (a big improvement), the songs are not particularly good. One in particular (the one where they pretend to be playing musical instruments) is downright best. Overall, it's a time-passer and that really is about it.
  • davidroz19 September 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    What a combination of amazing talent! Jule Styne (future composer of "Gypsy" and "Funny Girl") and Leo Robin (Styne's collaborator on "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes") wrote the songs, the early Fosse choreography is exceptional (LOVE the dance duel with him and Tommy Rall), Blake Edwards co-wrote the screenplay, and Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh are incredibly appealing. Lots of similarities to "On The Town" (possibly why they chose to start fresh and not do the Bernstein-Comden-Green version "Wonderful Town"?) Anyway, this is a delight for anyone who loves a good old fashioned 1950's Hollywood musical.
  • I'm not sure what the story was with Harry Cohn and this film. Back in the early Forties My Sister Eileen was a big comedy hit for Columbia Pictures starring Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair about the two sisters from Ohio moving to Greenwich Village. So Cohn in fact did own the screen rights.

    My Sister Eileen moved to Broadway in the early Fifties with Rosalind Russell repeating her role on stage in a musical adaption renamed Wonderful Town. Leonard Bernstein and Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote a fine musical score.

    So what does Harry Cohn do, he decides to remake My Sister Eileen, but does he shell out any money to Bernstein, Comden and Green for their songs. He does not and pays Jule Styne and Leo Robin to write yet another score. It was one of the weakest scores these two worthy song writers were ever associated. In fact it keeps this version of My Sister Eileen from being a great film.

    Still it's not a bad one with Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh stepping nicely into the roles created by Russell and Blair. As before and as on stage the film is about the Sherwood sisters from Ohio, sensible and witty older sister Garrett and pretty Janet Leigh with a nice pair of weapons of mass destruction. Men just fall over themselves trying to do for her, two of them in this film are dueling dancers Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse.

    Jack Lemmon has one of his early roles in My Sister Eileen as a publisher who is interested in both Betty Garrett who is an aspiring writer and the one story that he's interested in is the one she's written about her sister Eileen.

    Garrett retains all the witty bite of Rosalind Russell and Leigh is guaranteed to get the hormones racing of the male population. My Sister Eileen misses being a great film because of the mediocre songs, but fans of the players shouldn't miss it. Look also for a great performance by Kurt Kaszner as the Sherwood sisters Bohemian landlord.
  • This delightful and unpretentious musical version of the Rosalind Russell movie is NOT a movie adaptation of Russell's famous Broadway musical "Wonderful Town" but an original movie musical that in my opinion is better than "Wonderful Town." It features Bob Fosse in a supporting role and also --and more importantly--his first choreographic achievement, and an excellent one to boot. Another added plus is a terrific performance as actress, singer, and dancer from Janet Leigh. And it features great turns by Betty Garrett and (singing!) Jack Lemmon. Don't miss this one.
  • Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh star in "My Sister Eileen," a 1955 musical also starring Jack Lemmon, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall and Kurt Kasznar. This is not the musical "Wonderful Town" but it has delightful music by Jule Style. It's the story of the Sherwood Girls, Ruth and Eileen, who come to Greenwich Village from Ohio to "make it" -Eileen as a performer and Ruth as a writer. The two are conned by a landlord (Kasznar) into renting (for a whopping $65 a month) a basement apartment that shakes like crazy during subway construction. Not to mention, with their window placed the way it is, they may as well be living in the street.

    The Ruth character is based on the writer of the original story, Ruth McKenney. Eileen is the freshly beautiful blonde who always has men swarming around her; in comparison, the pretty, funny and stylish Ruth feels like a plain Jane. She sublimates by being dedicated to her career until she meets a publisher (Jack Lemmon) and falls for him. He's interested in her story, "My Sister Eileen," and she's so insecure, she tells him that she is the sought after Eileen - it's another aspect of her personality, she says.

    The Greenwich Village aspect makes the film as the movie captures its atmosphere perfectly and gives a real feel for the New York of the 1950s. Betty Garrett is great as Ruth. Her singing and acting are both wonderful. Surprisingly, though it's the title role, the part of Eileen really isn't much. (Sadly, the real Eileen died very young. She married writer Nathanael West and died with him 8 months later in a 1940 car accident.) Janet Leigh is pretty and sweet, putting over the necessary naiveté as Eileen, plus she gets to show off her singing and dancing. Fosse, who also choreographed, and Tommy Rall are suitors of Eileen and do some fabulous dancing. Dick York has a small but showy role as a young man in Ruth's and Eileen's building. Jack Lemmon, in an early role, is slightly miscast as the sophisticated publisher but is very likable.

    Well-directed by Richard Quine, it's a shame that "My Sister Eileen" hasn't gotten more attention. It's pretty to look at and to listen to with wonderful, vibrant performances. Check it out.
  • I recently saw this musical, and enjoyed it very much. There is only one thing that puzzles me though. First, a little history of "My Sister Eileen". It originated as a series of short stories by Ruth McKenney that eventually was published as a book in 1938. In 1940 the book was adapted as a non-musical play. In 1942, Columbia produced a film version of the play. In 1953, Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green wrote the music and lyrics for the hit Broadway musical adaptation retitled "Wonderful Town". Then two years later, in 1955, Columbia released this musical version. What puzzles me is that it seems that Columbia completely ignored the hit Broadway show of just two years prior, as if it never existed. It's interesting that they would have Jule Styne and Leo Robin write a completely new score for the film, when the superb Bernstein/Comden & Green score was already there. The Styne/Robin score is very good, but in no way does it compare to "Wonderful Town".
  • I love movie musicals, and My Sister Eileen is one of those films that I saw only recently, adored it and wondered afterwards why I hadn't seen it any sooner. My Sister Eileen is a charming and lovely film and very underrated.

    The film looks absolutely great, with beautiful photography and costumes and sets that don't look dated or on the cheap, while the music and songs are wonderful and one of those scores where there isn't one I don't like so much.

    My Sister Eileen is also beautifully directed, has vibrant choreography, witty writing, good characters and a charming story that warms your heart. Betty Garett, Jack Lemmon and Janet Leigh are all wonderful individually and are great together as well.

    Overall, very charming. 10/10 Bethany Cox
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is one of those properties which yield incredible mileage in a relatively short time-span. It started life as a series of short stories about two sisters from Ohio. The stories became a film which in turn became a Broadway musical and when Columbia ran into trouble securing the rights to the Broadway musical they simply made their own smaller scale musical and tapped Jule Styne for the music and Leo Robin for the lyrics, both more than able to stand comparison with Lennie Bernstein and Comden and Green, arguably the most overrated lyricists of the forties and fifties. Janet Leigh struggles to reach ho-hum as the (on paper) irrestible Eileen whilst Betty Garrett leaves Leigh dead in the water. It remains a pleasant enough movie for one viewing.
  • jhkp16 July 2016
    My Sister Eileen is about Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, sisters from Ohio who move to NYC to pursue careers in writing and performing, respectively. Eileen is the beautiful but naive younger sister, Ruth is the older, less gorgeous, more practical one. They rent a horror of a basement flat in Greenwich Village, and proceed to interact with the colorful characters they meet in the neighborhood and while job searching.

    Columbia originally intended the older-sister part for Judy Holliday, one of their biggest stars, but eventually, Betty Garrett was cast. Garrett (who had been blacklisted, and was making a film comeback), is good, but not as freshly energetic as she was in such earlier things as Neptune's Daughter and On The Town. She doesn't dominate the role as I think she could have. She's charming, lovely, wistful, amusing, but a bit subdued. It's not a flaw, just a choice. I prefer Rosalind Russell's more hearty approach in the earlier, non-musical film (Roz also starred in a hit Broadway musical version, called Wonderful Town). But, judge for yourself.

    Janet Leigh is in many ways perfect for the role of Eileen. She's a sexy girl with a pretty face and great body, along with a sweet (but not too sweet) personality. She pulls off the innocence without being coy.

    Jack Lemmon is the magazine editor aspiring writer Garrett hopes to impress (and who she falls for). He's charming, and even sings one song very well. But in this version of the story, the dancing men get more screen time.

    Fosse plays his patented "ardent young suitor" role, in his usual way. Tommy Rall is a brilliant dancer and does well as Chick Clark. Dick York is amusing and so are most of the other players, though Kasznar's landlord is relegated to the background much more than in the original.

    Garrett, Leigh, Fosse, Rall, Kasznar and Richard Quine (as an actor) were all, at one time or another, with MGM. This film may therefore remind you of one of that studio's musicals. But it also has a youthful freshness particular to the (then) Columbia Pictures writer-director team of Blake Edwards and Richard Quine.

    Fosse not only appears in the role of Frank Lippincott (played in the 1942 film by Quine) but choreographed, as well. I really enjoyed one or two numbers, especially the wonderful "competition dance" between Fosse and Tommy Rall. They're great dancers, in their prime. Garrett is great in the musical numbers too, and Janet Leigh does extremely well singing and dancing.

    You will probably enjoy this very pleasant musical.
  • Unlike the comedy-driven 1942 version, this one is a musical. Trouble is the songs are forgettable, while director Quine has difficulty blending zaniness with the musical score. The result is a patchwork that fades into a few memorable scenes. Then too, none of the characters have time to really register as the scenes constantly shift focus, and without needed close-ups that would emphasize personality.

    Nonetheless, two dance numbers remain real eye-catchers. Rall and Fosse face-off in an acrobatic duel that still has me dizzy, while the cute bandstand number shows that Leigh can shake a leg with the best of them. But these are the highlights, and I'm sorry to say Lemmon's comedic talents are almost totally wasted in a rather routine role. Then too, I agree with the reviewer who finds a rather dour Garrett unconvincing as Leigh's sister, maybe because she was just coming off the Hollywood blacklist. However, this movie does something few dare do-- grammarian Ruth reminds us not to end a sentence with a preposition. Now I know why I flunked English.

    Anyway, director Quine would soon prove a real strength with pure comedy. Among others, catch his neglected Operation Madball (1957), where Lemmon and Dick York carry the laughs superbly, (along with a mockingly villainous Ernie Kovacs). My Sister Eileen, however, remains a harmless time-passer, nicely photographed with expert rug-cutting and candy-box colors that keep the eye entertained, even when the narrative falters.
  • A musical remake of the original Broadway play, MY SISTER EILEEN is a little-known gem from Columbia in the mid-'50s, produced in lively Technicolor and starring JANET LEIGH as Eileen and BETTY GARRETT as her writer/sister, both newcomers to the Greenwich Village scene. And naturally, the story and the film are very dated when viewed today.

    But for light entertainment, it passes inspection beautifully. BOB FOSSE and TOMMY RALL are excellent ingredients as singer/dancers and both of them have more screen time than usual here. JACK LEMMON doesn't have much to do as the publisher in love with Garrett and gets to sing the film's most undistinguished song--unfortunately.

    The "Conga" number that comes near the end of the film is a treat, the Brazilian soldiers bursting into dance at the drop of the word "Conga," with some imaginative choreography by Bob Fosse. KURT KAZNER is the Greek landlord who actually joins in the number, as do most of their Greenwich Village neighbors.

    A bright, unpretentious and sunny film, it's long on charm but short on inspired musical numbers. It's a wonder Columbia decided not to use the Comden/Green Broadway score but hired Jule Styne and Leo Robin to write a new one. Watch for DICK YORK as "Wreck," the husky neighbors who looks out for the girls.

    Passes the time pleasantly, but is easily forgotten.

    Trivia note: Director Richard Quine was featured in the original MY SISTER EILEEN starring Rosalind Russell in the 1942 film version.
  • ptb-822 May 2006
    Other comments on this site seem to love this 1955 Columbia musical, but I just didn't. I have an LP of the celebrated stage musical Wonderful Town with Rosalind Russell which is the source material for this film. As with ON THE TOWN (also with Betty Garrett) the studio tossed out almost all the songs and wrote new ones. Unfortunately he new ones weren't better than those deleted... in both cases. Wonderful Town has memorable and lively and wistful songs. EILEEN is a wallflower instead... in every way. Whereas ON THE TOWN succeeds by virtue of stellar MGM cast and other dance talent, MY SISTER EILEEN has non musical talent in the leads (Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon) with superior talent relegated to the second ranks: Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall. As with Columbia's other 1955 musical travesty THREE FOR THE SHOW which slavishly turned every glorious snazzy Fox Marilyn Monroe musical number into a tubby spandex imitation version with Betty Grable (!) EILEEN clearly visually copies a lot of the set decor and costume design Garland enjoyed in A STAR IS BORN from 1954. Some of Garrett's outfits are copies seen in the famous surreal "Born In A Trunk" number. Finally, the apartment block set is right off the same plan as seen in REAR WINDOW... all as if Columbia clumped together ideas gleaned from those other successful films and like a ball of musical plasticine released their second big cinema scope musical called MY SISTER EILEEN. The male dance leads: Fosse and Rall have one truly sensational acrobatic number together, set in an alley... It is really the highlight of the film. ... On the real downside, Betty Garrett and Leigh are just not believable as sisters. Garrett, as wonderful as she is, just looks too old, like her Aunt instead, a generation ahead of perky Debbie-style Leigh. Beyond all that bewilderment, the characters of the girls are just plain dopey. I get naive, but these two are basically whiny and not very smart. MGM's B musicals ATHENA and I LOVE MELVIN and SMALL TOWN GIRL, all produced the year before are far better than this A grade Columbia attempt. And I love Betty Garrett and Jack Lemmon. A proper musical version of WONDERFUL TOWN awaits us all and if ever produced as written and scored will prove my comments to be hopefully more correct than wrong. I wanted to like this film a lot and was ready to, but the obvious plagiarism of production, the wrong casting and the fact I know the source musical to be excellent, makes Eileen fall over. I will avoid commenting on the goofy embarrassment of Dick York, the butch neighbour with the spunky fiancé, a spin on the horny newly weds across the courtyard in Rear Window.
  • atlasmb6 September 2018
    What began as a series of short stories in "The New Yorker" became a Broadway show, which became a film. Then they added music and the story was reborn as "Wonderful Town" on Broadway. Columbia wanted to bring the musical to the big screen, but was not willing to pay what Leonard Bernstein wanted for his music, so they had Jule Styne and Leo Robin write a new score, which is what we hear in this wonderful film.

    Two sisters from Ohio move to New York City, hoping for success in acting and writing. Janet Leigh plays Eileen, the fresh-faced optimist. Betty Garrett plays her sister, Ruth-the skeptical cynic who is used to living in the shadow of Eileen's beauty.

    The wonderful cast includes Dick York, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall, Kurt Kasznar, and Jack Lemmon. Everyone acquits himself well in this story of life in the big city. In short, the film is a joy, filled with comedy, singing, and dancing.

    The music is sometimes criticized for being inferior to Bernstein's, but I think it is great. In particular, the songs "I'm Great" and "There's Nothin' Like Love" are standouts. The singing is excellent. And the dancing (credited to Bob Fosse) is stylish and strong. The dancing duel between Fosse and Rall is the highlight of the film.

    New York City is featured enough to make one want to visit. Greenwich Village is where most of the action occurs. Cinemascope provides the colorful presentation.
  • Everybody seems to be dissing the Jule Styne-Leo Robin score to this friendly little 1955 widescreen musical, so let me put in a word for it. True, Columbia might have had an even better movie had it shelled out for the Bernstein-Comden-Green "Wonderful Town" Broadway score. But this one works just fine. It's tuneful, witty, and to the point, and it gives the great Betty Garrett (a replacement for Judy Holliday, whom Harry Cohn originally cast, but she was trying to be seen as less of a plain-Jane) several wonderful opportunities. Her comic timing's expert, she has a natural warmth, and it's easy to buy her as the overlooked sister of the well-cast Janet Leigh. Columbia, trying Jack Lemmon out in a number of guises at the time, perhaps shouldn't have cast him as a playboyish editor; it's not a very likable part, and he's not a singer, though he did do two other musicals for the studio around that time. But there's a splendid supporting cast, notably Bob Fosse (also choreographing) and a hideously underused, under-billed Tommy Rall. The Blake Edwards-Richard Quine screenplay preserves most of the best lines from previous versions and adds a few of its own, and the location footage is almost indistinguishable from the backlot work. Most raters have this one right--it's unpretentious, clever, happy, and picturesque. But it may send you out humming, too.
  • "My Sister Eileen" was a play, (taken from some short stories), and then a film with Rosalind Russell that became the Broadway musical "Wonderful Town" with a score by Leonard Bernstein together with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, which also starred Russell. The musical film of "My Sister Eileen", however, is not a screen version of "Wonderful Town" but an original screen musical with an entirely new score by Jule Styne and Leo Robin. Personally I could never see what was wrong with "Wonderful Town" and no film directed by Richard Quine had me rushing off to see it which may be another reason this film has passed me by until now. Surprisingly, it's really rather pleasant. The stars are Janet Leigh, Betty Garrett, Jack Lemmon and Bob Fosse. Garrett was, of course, a welcome addition to any musical while both Leigh and Lemmon were always welcome additions to any film. As for Fosse, it's great to see him in a proper role and in front of the camera for a change while his choreography is, as ever, a treat, (watching him dance is one of the pleasures of musical cinema particularly when his partner is the wonderful Tommy Rall). The script was co-written by Quine and Blake Edwards and it's good enough to make you wish that maybe Edwards should have directed, too. It's certainly not the greatest musical to have come out of the fifties, (or anywhere close), but it's entertaining in its own innocuous way.
An error has occured. Please try again.