Sabrina (1954)

Directed by Billy Wilder

Plot

Hepburn and Holden

Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn) is the young daughter of the Larrabee family’s chauffeur, Thomas (John Williams), and she has been in love with David Larrabee (William Holden) all her life. David is an oft-married, idle playboy, crazy for women, who has never noticed Sabrina, much to her and the household staff’s dismay. Distraught, she leaves her father a suicide note and tries to kill herself by carbon monoxide poisoning. She fails when David’s workaholic older brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart) intervenes.

Sabrina then attends culinary school in Paris, and after 2 years she returns home as an attractive and sophisticated woman. David, after initially not recognizing her, is quickly drawn to her.

Linus sees this and fears that David’s imminent marriage to Elizabeth Tyson (Martha Hyer) may be endangered. If the engagement is broken, it would ruin a profitable opportunity on a great corporate merger between Larrabee Industries and Elizabeth’s very wealthy father’s business. Linus confronts David about his irresponsibility to the family, the business, and Elizabeth, but David is unrepentant.

Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina (1954) starring Humphrey Bogart and William Holden

Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina (1954) starring Humphrey Bogart and William Holden

Linus then tries to distract Sabrina from David by drawing her affections to himself. He succeeds, but in the process falls in love with her, though he cannot admit this even to himself.

Linus reveals his maneuver to Sabrina, leaving her disillusioned about him and David. Sabrina agrees to leave and never come back, and Linus arranges for her to return to Paris by ship the next day.

The next morning, Linus has second thoughts and decides to send David to Paris with Sabrina. This means calling off David’s wedding with Elizabeth and the big Tyson deal, and he schedules a meeting of the Larrabee board to announce this. However, David shows up at the meeting and declares that he’s decided to marry Elizabeth after all. As a result, Linus finally recognizes his own feelings for Sabrina. He rushes off to join her on the ship, and they sail away together to Paris.

Production

Initially, Cary Grant was considered for the role of Linus, but he declined,  and the role was taken by Bogart, playing against type.

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During production of the film, Hepburn and Holden entered into a brief, but passionate and much-publicized love affair. Bogart had originally wanted his wife Lauren Bacall to be cast as Sabrina, and complained that Hepburn required too many takes to get her dialogue right and pointed out her inexperience   His behavior towards Hepburn, however, was better than his behavior towards other members of the cast and crew.

Bogart was very unhappy during the filming, convinced that he was totally wrong for this kind of film, mad at not being Wilder’s first choice, and not liking Holden or Wilder. But Wilder’s offbeat casting produced a performance that critics generally considered successful. Bogart later apologized to Wilder for his behavior on-set, citing problems in his personal life.

Wilder began shooting before the script was finished, and Lehman was writing all day to complete it. Eventually, he would finish a scene in the morning, deliver it during lunch, and filming of it would begin in the afternoon

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another Cinderella story

6 June 2004 | by didi-5 (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

‘Sabrina’ looks at first glance to be one of those rags to riches tales, as Audrey Hepburn’s chauffeur’s daughter takes herself to Paris and comes back a sophisticated young lady. However, she isn’t the one who undergoes the most striking transformation in this charming romantic comedy.

William Holden plays the playboy son of the house (and he could probably have done this kind of role in his sleep) while Humphrey Bogart of all people plays his crusty business-focused older brother. Bogart is surprisingly good in this in a rare foray into comedy. Hepburn of course is just luminous. John Williams, as Hepburn’s deadpan snobby chauffeur father is good fun, as is Ellen Corby (grandma from ‘The Waltons’) as Bogart’s secretary. And how nice to see 1910s movie idol Francis X Bushman in one of his later character roles (as the father of Holden’s intended).

This Billy Wilder movie compares well with his more cited titles such as ‘The Seven-Year Itch’, ‘Some Like It Hot’, ‘Sunset Blvd.’, and ‘The Lost Weekend’. It is also much better than the remake with Harrison Ford which limped out in recent years.

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Ellen Corby

Audrey in Long Island dressed by Givenchy

8/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
7 July 2005

Billy Wilder, a genius when it came to adapting films from another medium, teamed up with Samuel Taylor, who wrote the play, “Sabrina’s Fair”, and Ernest Lehman, to create a a delightful comedy that will remain an old favorite because of the great charm the creative men imbued this movie with.

Some comments on this forum remark about the disparity of age between Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. They all seem to forget that Ms. Hepburn played opposite with men much older than her, namely, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck, just to name a few. The actress was always effective and showed she had an enormous charisma no matter who was her leading man.

“Sabrina” looks as good today, as when it was first released thanks to the timeless black and white photography of Charles Lang. The big asset of the film was the unusual pairing between Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. Both actors were wonderful together, as we witness in the film. William Holden, as the younger Larrabee, is excellent as well.

The film is a delightful comedy that, in comparison to Sidney Pollack’s misguided and undistinguished attempt to bring it to the screen can’t even compare with the witty and elegant film Mr. Wilder gave us.

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