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'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
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.
Sabrina would probably have gotten several stars higher on the list had
Billy Wilder gotten Cary Grant who he originally wanted to play the
part of Linus Larrabee.
Grant was originally supposed to play the role, but according to a recent biography of Wilder, dropped out at the last minute. Wilder went scrambling for a replacement and got Humphrey Bogart instead. He also would have preferred to work with Joseph Cotten who played the part on Broadway, but Paramount said he wasn't a big enough movie name for equal billing with Bill Holden and Audrey Hepburn.
In fact Cary Grant was asked and didn't do three Wilder films, this one, Five Graves to Cairo and Love in the Afternoon. Eventually though he did wind up working with Audrey in Charade.
Bogey was miscast and he knew it. He also knew that this was Hepburn's film and it was Holden's studio. For whatever reason he was reportedly surly and obnoxious on the set. He's got no spark whatsoever in his performance as Linus.
But Hepburn has the spark as does Holden. They were having an affair on set so Sabrina's crush on Holden rings true.
Very simply Audrey is the daughter of John Williams, the chauffeur on the Larrabee estate in Long Island. Walter Hampden's the head of the clan and he's got two sons. Sober and industrious Humphrey Bogart and playboy William Holden. Gawky teenager Audrey is crushing out on Holden. Williams decides to send her to Paris and cooking school where she matures.
So much so, she catches the eye of both Larrabee boys. Who will she end up with?
Fortunately for Bogart he got an Oscar nomination for The Caine Mutiny in the same year so Sabrina didn't do him any harm.
Audrey's fans will adore her in this part. Bogey's fans should skip this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think I finally turned the corner on this thing called "mass
entertainment." Any movie that doesn't aim higher than being M.E., just
is not going to cut it for me. 'Sabrina' is mass entertainment. If you
never find anything questionable while you watch movies, you'll like
'Sabrina' is a viewpoint-shifting mess. By the time it's over we've seen her situation from three different angles, to no discernible benefit; it doesn't feel intentional. The trio of leading characters are all wanting. In a fair number of remarks, Linus (Bogart), a stuffed shirt, obviously thinks Sabrina is pretty dumb. His remarks are the kind a snob makes. It doesn't matter that Sabrina doesn't notice. She's got problems too. She's convinced she wants the movies 'idiot' for most of show. In many, many scenes, Hepburn is just an irritating, girly princess. Hepburn was blessed with astonishing looks but that's not enough, and in about half her movies she's downright petulant and annoying. And the way directors play up her little girlishness is pretty creepy.
Bogart looks rather good for someone who's going to die in three years. He looks too old for Hepburn, but he doesn't really look old, per se.
What a shocking disappointment. After expecting something that would live up to Hepburn classics such as "Roman Holiday," this movie was a wet, cold slap in the face. The plot is outlandish and obvious, the humor is absurdly broad and Humphrey Bogart, as Linus Larabee, looks old and unhappy, as if he is appearing in the film at the point of a gun. William Holden, as David Larabee, is far too old for his role and he plays the playboy as such a transparent cad that it is hard to generate the slightest sympathy for him. What a free spirit such as Sabrina would see in either man is far from obvious. The development of the supporting characters is bafflingly erratic, particularly Walter Hampden as the Larabee patriarch. Oliver Larabee begins the film as a flinty business man and transforms, without the slightest explanation, into a comic lush by the end. The film is clearly an effort to create an American comedy of manners and class, but the translation into an American setting is a nearly complete failure. I cannot tell how it appeared to audiences at the time, but 50 years on it appears sloppy and dated. It is painful to consider how much more compelling it might have been had Cary Grant taken the role of Linus.
Audrey Hepburn, Billy Wilder, Hubert de Givenchy, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Charles Lang. With names like that attached to a project, do you even need a movie? Fortunately we got one. A great one! Sabrina is a charming and moonlit romantic comedy from two masters of the genre. Billy Wilder and Audrey Hepburn. It's essentially a retelling of the classic Cinderella story. The girl who is poor but falls in love with a prince and is made over beautifully to get his attention. There's no wicked step-sisters in Sabrina and no-magical faerie God-mother, but who cares. Hepburn is Sabrina the daughter of a chauffeur to a rich family named the Larrabee's. The Larrabee patriarch has two sons played by Bogart and Holden. Bogart is the older and more business savvy brother. He is realistic and practical and regards the family's name and fortune with the utmost care and regard. This is contrary to Holden who is more of a careless playboy seeking fun and women in life. He's been married three times, always falling in love or at least confusing lust with love. Hepburn at the start of the film is desperately in love with Holden and watches him at a ball from up in the tree under the moonlight. To help her get over her crush she is sent to refining school in Paris where see learns how to cook, speak, and dress. Basically she becomes a lady. What emerges is a swan from the ugly duckling and for the first time Holden sees her and falls in love. However time has passed and Sabrina doesn't exactly feel the same way anymore. Plus Bogart expresses his own interest in the elfin' and glamorous chauffeur's daughter. Watching all this play out in such a romantic and funny way is pure cinema. All the elements come together in this film. Hepburn looks magnificent in Hubert de Givenchy's gowns and dresses. The scenes on the racquetball court are whimsical and absolutely priceless. Frederick Hollander's musical score is breathtaking and haunting, sending the audience far away from their problems and allowing them to become completely involved in the characters and story. Really to tell the truth there isn't much plot, but the story is good because it's so simple. Sabrina isn't a complicated movie at all, nor is it very in depth in exploring what true love is. But at the heart it's a faerie tale. It doesn't need to be realistic or profound. If you're looking for answers about the true nature of love and self-sacrifice then you won't find any in Sabrina. However if you're looking to be swept off your feet and taken to a far away place where naive, blind, and moonstruck romantic love are the rule then this is the movie for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Tennis, anyone?" That trite statement actually comes from a play. It
was spoken by a young, struggling actor of some rugged handsome looks,
sometime in the 1920s. He said it with a now - famous trademark lisp.
Yes Humphrey Bogart said that line. You see, when he started out in
Broadway productions he was a juvenile actor. He played young social
butterfly types (hard to believe, isn't it?). But there was a rational
reason to think this, among the producers on Broadway - young man
Bogart came from a prominent upper middle class family in Manhattan.
His father was Dr. Bogart, a physician to wealthy people. His mother
was an magazine artist. So yes...one could easily see that young Mr.
Bogart would be used to saying things like "Tennis anyone" now and
then...and so could play the young friend of the hero or the caddish
social butterfly false lover or...well you can picture it! It is with
great respect to Humphrey Bogart's determination to be a real
actor...to play real people...that he broke out of this cul-de-sac of
juveniles and ended up in the roles he is loved for: Rick Blaine, Sam
Spade, Charlie Allnut, Fred C. Dobbs, Philip Marlowe, Captain Phillip
Francis Queeg, Duke Mantee, Baby Face Martin...characters we know are
real for better or worse. Not light hearted society types we will never
meet in a million years.
Yet Bogie did return to this arena once in his later career - after his only Oscar. In 1954 he played Linus Larribee, older of a pair of brothers (his younger brother is William Holden as David Larribee) who are the heirs to an industrial and shipping empire headed by their father Oliver Larribee (Walter Hampden). Into their upper class lives descends Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn), the daughter of the family chauffeur Fairchild (John Williams). She has long had a crush on David, a real playboy, and once even tried to commit suicide (to be saved by Linus, without his realizing it was a planned suicide). She goes to Paris to study cooking, and returns after two years a sophisticated, attractive woman. And she turns the world of the Larribees upside down.
There is a merger in the works between Larribee Industries and the largest sugar cane plantation owner in Puerto Rico (Francis X. Bushman), whose daughter (Martha Hyer) has always liked David. David is not crazy about this, and when he is reintroduced to the new Sabrina he is knocked off his feet. This jeopardizes the entire business plan (which involves using the sugar to manufacture a new type of all-purpose plastic that the Larribees have the patent rights to). Linus, who is the "ant" to David's "grasshopper", is determined to undue the effect of Sabrina on his brother, and (if necessary) romance her himself. He does...only to find that she is quite intoxicating, and that he is falling in love with her.
It has been suggested that Bogart was wrong in this film (like Gary Cooper was in Billy Wilder's other Hepburn comedy, LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON), because he was too old and his image didn't fit. Well, it is true that we have another May - September relationship here, and that Bogart's personae after his string of memorable performances was not as a financial type. Cary Grant, the original choice for the role, might have seemed better. But Grant is as much a misfire here as Bogart appears to be. The problem is Holden. One can see Bogart as a hard working type and Holden's older brother quite easily, but Grant (with his English accent)would have made Holden seem out-of-place. They would have had to change the Larribees into a transplanted English family in America to make Grant fit in perfectly. That might have worked - but it would have strained belief.
Bogart rarely played comic roles after 1940, but in his late 1950s films he did do comedy a bit more (here, in BEAT THE DEVIL, and in WE'RE NO ANGEL). He demonstrates a natural gift for delivering comic lines (after David has an accident with a pair of drinking glasses he sat on, he is recovering and wants to write a poem to Sabrina about the accident - when he asks Linus/Bogart for a rhyme with glass, with a slight pause Linus/Bogart suggests "alas"). His performance is enhanced with his film partners Holden, Hepburn, and Williams and (best of all) Hampden.
Williams is quite upset at the idea of his daughter marrying any of the Larribees. He is quite class conscious (and admits it), and in one of Bogart's best moments he tells Williams he is a snob! As for Hampden, one can only bless Wilder for casting him. Walter Hampden was one of Broadway's leading stars (especially in Shakespearean roles) between the teens and the 1930s. His production of HAMLET was considered one of the best ever on the American stage. But he arrived late in Hollywood, and although an impressive character actor rarely got any impressive role. His performance as Oliver Larribee, the last vestige of robber baron elitism in American society is wonderful. This includes his hiding his huge cigars from his wife (he is caught smoking in Linus' clothes closet at one point) to his sputtering about a young débutante with an Adlai Stevenson button. He and Bogart share some nice give and take scenes, courtesy of Wilder's directing, here - just in time for Hampden, who died a year after this film was produced.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paramount Pictures bought the rights for the Broadway play 'Sabrina
Fair' expressly for Audrey Hepburn, coming off of the phenomenal
success of her very first film and Oscar win for Best Actress the prior
year in "Roman Holiday". With a two million dollar budget and seven
weeks of shooting in October/November of 1953, "Sabrina" was filming
even before there was a finished script. Director Billy Wilder even
asked Hepburn to fake an illness on the day they were shooting a scene
still being rewritten!
The result however remains one of the all time great romantic comedies, casting Hepburn against a pair of mismatched brothers, David (William Holden) and Linus (Humphrey Bogart) Larrabee. Linus in fact is such a corporate stiff that he's seen dictating a letter to his brother about reporting to work on time, while David seems singularly obsessed with fast sports cars and hit and run marriages. I found it amusingly interesting that the Larrabees were getting into plastics well before Dustin Hoffman could get that advice in "The Graduate".
Two years at cooking school in Paris transforms the waif like Sabrina into a fashionable young woman who's learned how to live. Responding to her father's constant lament that she should stop reaching for the moon, Sabrina counters that now ... "the moon's reaching for me".
As a stand in for his brother, Bogey proclaims himself Joe College with a touch of arthritis as he begins to court Sabrina. But he does manage to pull off one of the smoothest moves of his movie career when he comments 'it's all in the family' just before kissing her for the first time.
One can just imagine how audiences of the 1950's might have been taken with the glamor and party life depicted in the film, unattainable as it was for the majority. Yet in the midst of it all, Audrey Hepburn exhibited a natural and quiet sophistication that endeared her to an entire decade of movie goers. Her self assurance in the role of Sabrina earned her a second Best Actress nomination in as many films.
Stay attentive, and you'll catch Bogart's character request his secretary for a pair of tickets to 'The Seven Year Itch". Ever the self promoters, Paramount was already getting audiences ready for their next big hit for the following year, also to be directed by Billy Wilder.
There are a lot of great reviews posted about this movie -- Don't trust
them. I am a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, and a fan of Bogart and Billy
Wilder.. Sabrina does none of them justice.
In Sabrina (played by Audrey Hepburn) the title character has the emotional maturity of a 13 year old girl. That's okay in a sense, because films are about growing as a person.. but her character only ever grows in superficial ways, entirely subject to the whims of circumstance.
No one in this film really knows what they want. The characters are all extremely weak. There are only about 3 or 4 lines where Bogart sounds like himself.
It's kind of slow and a little boring. Honestly I only finished watching this movie because I know that Billy Wilder can deliver, and I'm glad I finished it. The ending was good, but overall this movie was definitely below average.
There are many films out there I've found to be a lot more satisfying. Charade, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 7 year itch were all better.
Billy Wilder was the Master. No doubt about it. There were so many Billy Wilder touches in this movie. All comedy were played with a straight face which made it even funnier. Sabrina Fairchild will always be Audrey Hepburn. I really don't see why people complain Bogart was miscast in the role of Linus Larrabee. He was perfect in it. Is it because he wasn't the so-called "romantic" leading man type one usually has in mind or because of the negative behind the scene stories. If Cary Grant had been cast in the role then David Larrabee wouldn't be that important anymore. Special mention to Walter Hampden as Oliver Larrabee and Ellen Corby as Linus' secretary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On the surface, 'Sabrina' may not look like a comedy but that's because
the humour is very subtle. There's a party scene where everyone is
enjoying themselves, Sabrina and David are having a romantic moment
while Linus is in the next room testing the unbreakable plastic.
Sabrina's suicide attempt in the garage was hilarious.
Coming back to the film, 'Sabrina' is a classic romance. The chemistry between Hepburn and Bogart is very sweet. While it may look like a film about Sabrina's journey to be with her love, it turns out to be someone else's journey. There are some lovely moments between Bogart and Hepburn. The background score adds to the romance. On the surface Hepburn and Bogart may seem like an odd couple but as we see how Billy Wilder brings them on screen, the oddness vanishes. Both the actors are superb. Bogart downplays his part while Hepburn is charmingly vivacious. Holden does well.
My only complaint is the David-Alice angle. In the end, why does David decide to go through with marrying Alice since he clearly does not love her? Was that just to create a happy ending? There are some nice location shots of France and America. We don't see much of France but the little we see seems a little too romanticized. The cinematography is good.
Billy Wilder's 'Sabrina' is a classic and for me it has stood the test of time. I have seen both remakes earlier and they certainly let down. A great movie for classic romance lovers!
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