Director Billy Wilder salutes his idol, Ernst Lubitsch, with this comedy about a middle-aged playboy fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client.
In Paris, detective Claude Chavasse is hired to follow a wife suspected of infidelity with the notorious American libertine Frank Flannagan. When the husband learns that his suspicions are accurate, he tells Claude of his plan to kill Flannagan. Claude's daughter Ariane overhears the threat and warns Frank of the coming trouble. She then plays the part of a worldly socialite with a list of conquests as long as Flannagan's. The bemused ladies' man returns to America the next day and Ariane, completely in love, follows his romantic escapades in the news. She sees him again in Paris the following year, and resumes her worldly guise, telling tales of former lovers when they meet at his hotel in the afternoon. Frank, amazed by the mystery girl and surprised to find himself jealous of her past, hires Claude to uncover more information about her. When the detective realizes what has happened, he asks Frank not to break his daughter's heart. Written by
Gary Cooper was very pleased with his performance and was very disappointed that the majority of critics thought him miscast due to his age. Indeed, the film's box office failure was largely attributed to him being considered too old to play Audrey Hepburn's lover. In April 1958 he had a full facelift, but the procedure was largely unsuccessful. See more »
Ariane washes her hair and is rubbing it with a towel just after Frank Flannagan leaves her apartment. Moments later, her hair is completely dry and perfectly styled. See more »
This is the city - Paris, France. It is just like any other big city - London, New York, Tokyo - except for two little things. In Paris, people eat better. And in Paris, people make love - well, perhaps not better, but certainly more often. They do it any time, any place. On the left bank, on the right bank, and in between! They do it by day, and they do it by night. The butcher, the baker, and the friendly undertaker. They do it in motion, they do it sitting absolutely ...
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An Unusual Combination Held Together By Hepburn & Wilder
This odd combination of story, characters, and cast could easily have fallen apart irretrievably in the first few minutes. That it holds together is due primarily to Audrey Hepburn's unsurpassed charm and Billy Wilder's resourceful story-telling technique. It ends up being enjoyable most of the time, sometimes very much so, in spite of itself.
The story is rather strange - for it to "work" you have to buy into a number of unlikely possibilities, and even then, you have to accept the main characters as sympathetic even when they don't deserve it. It's the kind of hollow concept that you see much more often in present-day movies, which are made for audiences who don't care about plausibility, and who are easily persuaded that a shallow, pseudo-romantic attraction between two characters automatically makes them sympathetic.
None of that is to imply anything against the stars. Audrey Hepburn is so engaging as Ariane that it makes you want her to be happy, even though much of her behavior is fatuous. Maurice Chevalier is enjoyable and is obviously well-cast, and John McGiver also adds some good moments. Gary Cooper's character doesn't work very well, but that should not be blamed at all on Cooper. The character just is not as appealing as the scriptwriters presume him to be, and Cooper should actually be commended for making him as likable (or as un-unlikable) as possible.
Wilder's skill made some strange stories work pretty well in his time, and he also deserves much of the credit for keeping this one afloat. There are also some very good sequences in the screenplay, for all that it was uneven in general. The odd thing about "Love in the Afternoon" is that if you can tolerate the poor setup and get past the obvious flaws, you can really enjoy most of the movie, because it does have several positive things to offer.
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