Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Now Playing - October 1942

“My Sister Eileen” has had many incarnations. It started as a series of short stories published in The New Yorker magazine by Ruth McKenney, then published as a book. The book includes chapters, not dealt with in the film, about several hysterical childhood episodes in the lives of Ruth and Eileen and the McKenney family. I don’t suppose they will ever be made into a film, but these early chapters are really funny. Especially the first chapter, “No Tears, No Good” where she illustrates their movie-going experience as small children in 1918.

The popularity of the book was such that it was adapted as a stage play, and deals mostly with the sisters’ move from Ohio to New York City. Romance, Ruth’s budding journalistic career, their run-down apartment, crazy landlord and neighbors, and the Brazilian Navy are all featured.

The play became this film, with Rosalind Russell as Ruth, and with an enormous ad from October 1942 that seems to tell the whole story in picture vignettes. This was not the end, however, as the film went back to Broadway to become a musical, called “Wonderful Town,” with Rosalind Russell again showing her versatility by singing the role of Ruth. The "My Sister Eileen" film was remade in 1955, and became a short-lived television show in 1960.

“Wonderful Town” was revived on Broadway in 2003, and currently tours the US, showing that Ruth McKenney’s still got legs, even without the wonderful Roz.

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