Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sabrina (1954)

Director: Billy Wilder
USA 1954
113 min

YouTube link

"Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island some 30 miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate."
That is the opening line of the film. The small girl is Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn), the daughter of the chauffeur of the family living on the large estate, the Larrabees. She has lived all her life in an apartment over the garage, and has for all years been secretely in love with the youngest son of the Larrabee family - the playboy David Larrabee (William Holden). When the Larrabees throws parties, Sabrina use to climb up in a tree near the villa and watch David dance with pretty girls.

Her father Thomas Fairchild (played by one of my favourite supporting actors John Williams II) and the other servants are troubled by Sabrina being unhappily in love, and send her away to Paris for a cooking school.
When she returns to the estate two years later she has grown up a fashionable woman. David is taken aback when he sees her, not being able to recognize her at first. Now he wants Sabrina, just as she always wanted. But David's older business man-brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart, in a role quite different from his archetype), who keeps a watching eye on his playboy younger brother.
After an incident with two champagne glasses in his back pockets, David needs to have is bottom sown up and healed. During the recovery Linus entertains Sabrina with boat trips and restaurant dinners. Soon there are feelings between them too, and Sabrina is confused. She has been in love with David for all of her life, and only known Linus for a couple of days. Which one of them does she really want?

This is a wonderful drama/comedy and the film that secured Hepburn's position as a moviestar and fashion icon. The drama and the comedy is perfectly mixed in every scene, witty lines are served to and fro and the supporting characters are wonderful. Walter Hampden (as the family father Oliver Larrabee) steals every scene he's in, whether it is his trouble with smoking on the sly and hiding it from his wife, or he tries to get ahold of that last olive in the jar for his dry martini. His arguments with his sons are too wonderful to mention. (Hampden is, by the way, "the aged actor" in All About Eve, 1950).

Cary Grant had initially signed up for the role of Linus Larrabee, but he backed out only one week before the shooting was supposed to have started. Luckily enough they got ahold of Humphrey Bogart, who was excited about doing the part. And how great he did it!
Audrey Hepburn confessed later that she faked illness while filming, to get Billy Wilder some more time to write on the still unfinished script. That's co-operation!

Scene: Sabrina and Linus have dinner together, and Sabrina starts to be troubled by her feelings. A lovely clip from the film, and a good example of the smooth and witty dialogue. Don't miss Sabrina singing "La Vie en Rose" to Linus in the car.


Thomas Fairchild: [reading a letter from Sabrina] ... I decided to be sensible the other day and tore up David's picture. Could you please airmail me some Scotch tape?

Linus Larrabee: After all, this is the 20th century, Father.
Oliver Larrabee: Twentieth century? Why, I could pick a century out of a hat, blindfolded, and come up with a better one.

Thomas Fairchild: He's still David Larrabee, and you're still the chauffeur's daughter. And you're still reaching for the moon.
Sabrina Fairchild: No, father. The moon is reaching for me.

[about to go on a date with Sabrina, putting on youthful sports clothes]
Linus Larrabee: Look at me. Joe College, with a touch of arthritis.

Thomas Fairchild: Democracy can be a wickedly unfair thing Sabrina. Nobody poor was ever called democratic for marrying somebody rich.

Linus Larrabee: I wish I were dead with my back broken.

Oliver Larrabee: All columnists should be beaten to a pulp and converted back into paper!

Linus Larrabee: [slow dancing with Sabrina] How do you say in French my sister has a yellow pencil?
Sabrina Fairchild: Ma soeur a un crayon jaune.
Linus Larrabee: How do you say my brother has a lovely girl?
Sabrina Fairchild: Mon frere a une gentille petite amie.
Linus Larrabee: And how do you say I wish I were my brother?

The Professor: [inspecting the students' soufflés] Too low. Too pale. Too heavy. Too low. Too *high*, you are exaggerating. Fair. So-so. Sloppy.
[he gets to the Baron]
The Professor: Mm. Superb. Mon Dieu, Baron, you have not lost your touch...
[he looks at Sabrina's]
The Professor: Much too low.
Sabrina Fairchild: [looking at her soufflé] I don't know what happened.
Baron St. Fontanel: I will tell you what happened: you forgot to turn on the oven.
Sabrina Fairchild: Oh!

Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn on the set of Sabrina.


didysis getsbis said...

pretty Audrey looks so damn good in all these pictures! especially in the last one (girl had sexy legs, may i say). i got to see this movie. thanks for another great review!

Christopher said...

I haven't seen this one in awhile.I keep forgetting its a Billy Wilder film and I'm trying to gather up all of his that I can.Its about as perfect a set-up for a romance story as you can for the line that Bogart says "I wish I were dead with my back broken"..I think its Wilder's great comedy,One Two Three,where James Cagney says almost the same thing..something like .."I wish I were in Hell with a broken back!",as more and more frustration is heaped upon him!

Elizabeth said...

Great post! I don't know if I've seen the movie all the way through myself, though.

Lolita said...

Great Gatsby:
Thanks for your kind words! Just follow the YouTube link in the beginning of the post to see the film ;) And the legs, yes... Aaah, want them!

Yes, it is quite different from Sunset Boulevard, but the quality is the same! Haha, love when directors make references to themselves. As when Bogart in this film buys tickets to "The Seven Year Itch", his M Monroe comedy from 1955.

Thank you! If you doubt whether you've seen the film or not - see it immediately! It's so charming.

Sarah said...

Sabrina is one of my favorite movies, I absolutely love it. Everybody thinks that Bogie was was too old to be going after a young'un like Audrey, but I actually think it works. The whole movie is flawless, and perfectly directed by Wilder.

Lolita said...

I agree with you - I never had the thought that he would be TOO old. Yes, he is older than Audrey, but wasn't that the purpose? That the character Linus would be that older business man who dedicated all his life on his work? It's silly to criticize Bogart's age, he was perfect :)

Christopher said...

Seven Year Itch is another one I keep forgetting is a Billy Wilder film(he is so versitile!)..I recently picked up a copy after seeing it so many times..I cant't listen to Rachmoninoff without thinking of that movie..or watch The Creature from the Black Lagoon!!! =:oO

Robby Cress said...

Love Sabrina. The casting turned out great. It's interesting that Cary Grant was originally going to play Bogart's part. From what I hear Bogart didn't much like Hepburn, mainly because he wanted Bacall to play her part.

Lolita said...

Haha, it is quite funny that you think about Marilyn Monroe when Rachmaninov is mentioned!

Robby Cress:
I haven't heard anything about Bogart not liking Hepburn, but I know that he always got a little pissed when Bacall didn't get the female leading role opposite him. Like in "In a Lonely Place".

Christopher said...

Cary Grant would have been great,on the other hand,it would have been harder to accept Grant as the older, sader character which seemed to suit Bogart a little better..Grant would have been stronger competition against Holden...Bogart was closing in on his career at this time and would die shortly..Grant was just getting his second wind!

Lolita said...

You're quite right! For me it would not have been a hard choice between typical Cary Grant and a playboy Holden!