Cast & Crew
Sisters Ruth and Eileen Sherwood from Columbus, Ohio arrive in New York City's Greenwich Village, where pragmatic Ruth hopes to find success writing and beautiful Eileen acting. The girls are quickly spotted as innocents by crafty but kind "Papa" Appopolous, who talks them into renting a shabby basement studio apartment, where the front doorknob continually falls off and the walls shudder violently during blasts from nearby subway construction. Later, the girls meet their neighbor, Ted "Wreck" Loomis, a part-time athlete who shares a studio with his fiancée Helen, whom he rarely sees as the two work opposite schedules. The following day, Wreck and Papa give the Sherwoods a pep talk before they leave in search of jobs. Ruth has a letter of introduction to Bob Baker, the editor of Mad Hatter magazine, but upon arriving at his office, discovers Bob is just leaving for vacation. While departing, Bob advises Ruth to write what she knows, rather than the phony sounding stories she submitted to him. Meanwhile, Eileen is invited into a theatrical producer's office only to find that he is more interested in her looks than her acting. Disappointed, Eileen lunches at Walgreen's Drug Store, where the soda fountain manager, Frank Lippencott, is sympathetic and offers to give her daily free lunches and tips, noting that many theater people eat at the store. Over the following two weeks, Ruth's stories are all rejected and Eileen has no luck securing auditions. One day at Walgreen's, reporter Chick Clark overhears Frank advising Eileen about an audition and, claiming to know the show's producer, promises to get her an immediate audition. Frank jealously insists on accompanying Chick and Eileen to the audition, which turns out to be for a strip show, much to Eileen's dismay and the men's embarrassment. Bob summons Ruth back to the Mad Hatter to tell her that he likes the most honest of her stories, those about her sister and her romantic escapades. When Ruth impulsively declares that she has no sister and that the stories are her own experiences, Bob is impressed and asks her for a date, but Ruth declines. At home, Ruth lies to Eileen about her interest in Bob, claiming that he is unattractive and boring or dull. Later, Wreck and Helen ask the girls if Wreck can stay with them a few days while Helen's mother visits and Eileen agrees despite Ruth's hesitation. Eileen admits that she has invited both Chick and Frank to dinner, but when a visiting plumber ruins the spaghetti sauce, the couples end up at El Morocco at Chick's invitation. There Chick monopolizes Eileen by promising her he will refer Ruth to his editor. Frank looks glumly at the couple, while Ruth tries to avoid Bob, whom she sees with a beautiful brunette. On the way home, an uncharacteristically tipsy Ruth insists the group stop at an empty bandstand, where she regales them about life in Ohio. The following day, Bob's elderly, female secretary reads Ruth's story and suggests she is lying about it being autobiographical, but Bob is flattered that Ruth would lie to him. He calls Ruth and asks her to meet him for dinner to discuss the publication of her story. That evening, Bob's suspicions are confirmed when Ruth runs out after he kisses her. At home, Eileen confesses to Frank that unless Ruth gets her story published, they will have to leave the next day as they have no more money. Later, Eileen overhears Frank singing about her in the garden and realizes that he is in love with her. When Frank sees Wreck in the girls's apartment, however, he accuses Eileen of being too bohemian for him and departs. Ruth arrives home to find Eileen in tears over Frank's accusation and she reveals Bob's unpleasant behavior. The next morning, Ruth receives a phone call from the newspaper editor who asks her to cover the arrival of the Brazilian Navy and, thrilled, dashes away. Chick, who has made the phony call in order to be alone with Eileen, comes to the apartment, but when he makes advances, Eileen screams for Wreck, who throws Chick out. Wreck comforts the distraught Eileen, only to be seen by Helen, who misunderstands. At the pier, Ruth is surrounded by the boisterous Brazilian naval cadets, who chase her back to the apartment when they misunderstand her questions. Bob telephones, and Eileen tells him off, after confirming that she is Ruth's sister. Hoping to calm the excited cadets, Ruth and Eileen ask them about the conga, only to start a wild dance party that soon engulfs the entire block and brings the police and several arrests. The Brazilian Consul frees the girls and the cadets, and the girls return home to pack while Wreck and Helen make up. Bob arrives and to Ruth's surprised delight, confesses that he is in love with her and also wants to publish her stories. Frank returns with an apology and a box of chocolates for Eileen. The Brazilian Consul presents the girls with a national appreciation and another party breaks out as the girls decide to remain in New York.
Horace M. Mahon
My Sister Eileen (1955)
As in the other versions, My Sister Eileen (1955) follows two sisters, Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, who move from Ohio to an apartment in the Village where they encounter some "colorful" and eccentric characters. Ruth (Betty Garrett) is a struggling writer who tries to get a job with publisher Bob Baker (Jack Lemmon). Eileen (Janet Leigh) is also having trouble finding employment, but she has no trouble finding suitors. One of the men she meets is Frank Lippencott, played by Bob Fosse, who also choreographed the film. Blake Edwards and Richard Quine wrote the screenplay for this screen version and the latter had the advantage of performing in the Broadway comedy a decade earlier as well as the 1942 film.
Since the new musical version couldn't bear any resemblance to Wonderful Town, a studio attorney stayed on the set to look for similarities between the two. According to Martin Gottfried in All His Jazz: The Life and Death of Bob Fosse, "Since the only musical number in the original play was Ruth doing a conga with a group of Brazilian sailors, it was the only song in the movie that resembled anything in the show. The attorney wouldn't even allow musical numbers to be used in the same spots as in Wonderful Town."
Bob Fosse was already established as a talented actor and dancer when he took on the added role of choreographer in the mid-fifties. He received a Tony Award in 1954 for The Pajama Game, the first Broadway musical he choreographed. My Sister Eileen was the first time Fosse both performed in and choreographed a film. According to Kevin Boyd Grubb in Razzle Dazzle: The Life and Work of Bob Fosse, "Fosse's choreography bolstered even the weaker songs" in My Sister Eileen. Biographer Gottfried stated that Fosse rehearsed Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh "until they were ready to drop, having them endlessly repeat a wriggly, knock-kneed, slithering dance that they did in a gazebo. He kept telling the women, 'You have to do this very tight,' and he said it so frequently that Betty began to call all the thigh-rubbing choreography 'shaving your hairs.'"
My Sister Eileen was Janet Leigh's first musical and since she didn't have any previous experience in the genre, she met with Fosse several weeks before filming began to work on her singing and dancing. Even though they were both married at the time, Leigh admits there was a spark between them: "Both Bobby and I knew, even without talking about it, that an affair would have happened if we let it. There was that much electricity between us." In her autobiography, Leigh summed up her experience working on My Sister Eileen: "We were a young, spirited, talented, ambitious conglomeration of energies. It was a six-month labour of love. No one wanted it to end, and it was a sobbing group who gathered for the farewell party."
Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Blake Edwards & Richard Quine. Play by Joseph Fields & Jerome Chodorov. Based on a story by Ruth McKenney.
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Art Direction: Walter Holscher
Music: George Duning, Jule Styne, Leo Robin
Cast: Janet Leigh (Eileen Sherwood), Jack Lemmon (Bob Baker), Betty Garrett (Ruth Sherwood), Bob Fosse (Frank Lippencott), Kurt Kasznar (Appopolous), Dick York ("Wreck" Loomis), Tommy Rall (Chick Clark), Lucy Marlow (Helen).
by Deborah Looney
My Sister Eileen (1955)
The working title of this film was The Gay Girls. According to a January 1954 Los Angeles Times news item, Judy Holliday was under consideration to star in the picture, which was baased on the same source as My Sister Eileen, a 1942 Columbia release, also titled My Sister Eileen (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). The film was the first onscreen choreography credit for Bob Fosse, and is the only time he is listed as "Robert Fosse."
Ruth McKenney's stories, on which Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov based their play, were originally published in The New Yorker magazine. According to news items in both Daily Variety and Los Angeles Times, in October 1955 Columbia was sued by playwrights Fields and Chodorov for six million dollars, alleging that Columbia violated the 1941 contract under which the studio purchased the films rights, which stipulated that the studio "shall not have the right to produce any 'sequels.'" The playwrights argued that because the 1955 film was a musical, with altered characters, and new situations, it was not a legitimate remake, but a sequel. A May 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that the suit was settled out of court just prior to the trial. In December 1955 author McKenney also filed suit against Columbia, claiming sole and exclusive ownership of the book and magazine articles upon which My Sister Eileen was based and demanding an accounting of the film's profits as well as a restraint on further release of the films. The final outcome of this suit is not known.
Richard Quine, who directed the 1955 film, portrayed "Frank Lippencott" in the 1942 Columbia production of the play, which co-starred Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair, and was directed by Alexander Hall. A Broadway musical, Wonderful Town (New York, 25 February 1953), which also starred Russell, was also based on the Fields and Chodorov play as was the December 2, 1958 CBS television production Wonderful Town, which again starred Russell, with Jacqueline McKeever and was directed by Mel Ferber. From October 5, 1960 to April 12, 1961, CBS broadcast a half-hour television series titled My Sister Eileen, starring Elaine Stritch and Shirley Bonne and directed by Oscar Rudolph.
Released in United States Fall October 1955
This is a remake of the 1942 version of the same title, starring Rosalind Russell.
Released in United States Fall October 1955