Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#1,164. Sabrina (1954)

Directed By: Billy Wilder

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden

Tag line: ". . . the chauffeur's daughter who learned her stuff in Paris!"

Trivia: During production of the film Hepburn and Holden entered into a brief, but passionate and much-publicized love affair

Director Billy Wilder and star William Holden made some amazing movies together. Their first collaboration was 1950’s Sunset Blvd., an excellent film noir set in Hollywood that co-starred Gloria Swanson. From there, the duo went on to make Stalag 17, a taut World War II comedy/thriller about life in a German P.O.W. camp. They would again join forces in 1954 for Sabrina, only this time Holden was a supporting player, giving his co-stars, Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, plenty of room to work their magic.

For years, Sabrina (Hepburn), a chauffeur’s daughter who lived her entire life at the luxurious Larrabee estate, had a crush on David Larrabee (Holden), the handsome younger brother of Linus (Bogart). Unfortunately for her, David Larrabee was something of a playboy, and didn’t even know she existed. Hoping to expand his daughter’s horizons, Sabrina’s father (John Williams) sends her to a cooking school in Paris, and when she returns two years later, she’s blossomed into a beautiful woman. Even David Larrabee suddenly takes notice of Sabrina, which would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact he was already engaged to Elizabeth Tyson (Martha Hyer), whose family was about to sign a million-dollar agreement with Larrabee Industries. Fearing an ill-timed romance between David and Sabrina would jeopardize the engagement, and with it the lucrative business deal, senior executive Linus wines and dines the young girl himself, hoping to woo Sabrina away from his brother. But then something unexpected happens: Linus actually falls in love with Sabrina!

Holden is fine as the philandering younger Larrabee brother, who’s already been married three times and is about to tie the knot again, but its Bogie and Hepburn who steal the show. As the title character, Hepburn is positively enchanting, bringing grace and refinement, as well as a bit of naiveté, to the role of Sabrina. For Bogart, Linus Larrabee was something of a stretch (to that point, he’d mostly played characters with an edge to them, from hard-nosed gangsters, a la High Sierra, to tough-as-nails detectives like in The Maltese Falcon). As Linus, Bogie is all business… literally; a man who’s willing to toy with the emotions of a fragile young girl to save his family’s corporation. And yet, even when he’s play-acting, the scenes where he and Sabrina are together have a certain charm to them, and we know that, regardless of how cold and calculated his intentions are, Linus will eventually give his heart to Sabrina.

Thanks to these two excellent actors, odds are you’ll also give your heart to Sabrina. As romantic comedies go, it’s an absolute gem!

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