Written and Directed By: Billy Wilder
Staring: Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Walter Hampton, John Williams, Martha Hyer, and Nella Walker
“No, father. The moon is reaching for me.” Sabrina Fairchild
A playboy becomes interested in the daughter of his family’s chauffeur. But it’s his more serious brother who would be the better man for her.
I find great relief in the fact that I saw Sabrina with Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, and Greg Kinnear before I’d seen this original masterpiece. As much as I adore the recent remake, it doesn’t do even remote justice to this 1954 version written and directed by Billy Wilder and staring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. The remake follows the exact blueprint of the original, down to some very specific details, onlyoccasionally updating references in technology and life styles, but still shelling out the same story the same way, though not as well. The problem is, the 1954 Sabrina really doesn’t need to be updated. The story holds up intoday’s society, and the dynamics of the relationships and the humor is just as relevant.
The story begins with a youthful Sabrina gazing adoringly at the rich and handsome David Larrabee seducing yet another beautiful woman. Since she was a young girl Sabrina had adored David, but being the daughter of his families chauffeur hardly made her marriage material for David. In their two different stations, in their two different worlds, Sabrina left for Paris to learn to cook. After two years of finding herself, growing into a vivacious young woman full of life and confidence she returns home to her adoring father with the flabbergasted David, who is already committed to another woman, but unaware Sabrina is Sabrina he is swept away by her charm and beauty. David’s “to be” happens to be the daughter of a business partner that David’s more serious brother Linus is attempting to close a multi-million dollar deal with. In concern for the deal breaking due to his younger brotherscommitment issues, Linus attempts to sweep Sabrina off her feet and away from David.
From the moment David injures himself with champagne glass in his behind this movie is a pure and simple joy. There are times the feel of almost stage acting from Linus and Sabrina is exuded which not only heightens the emotions in each scene, but give it a kind of almost magical excitement and enthusiasm. Most of the scenes with Bogart and Hepburn are overwhelmingly cute and funny. The comedy between the two of them comes together naturally, and thechemistry they have is enigmatic. When Linus begins his seduction of Sabrina to distract her from David, the attraction and authentic feelings that pass between Hepburn and Holden is palpable, and some of the highlights of the entire movie. It’s what couples in movies on aspire to have in today’s affected romantic comedies.
The story has it’s stretches, but it plays it low key allowing the fairytale to seem somehow plausible, and the accidental attraction to Sabrina, the mistaken identity, the attempted manipulations ofLinus all work on many levels but Audrey Hepburn truly sells it with her own inner and outer beauty. The true sweetheart of her time, her genuine goodness shines through, and never once comes off as pretentious or an actress. She seems tangible enough to run into at your local grocery store. She is and was something truly special.
Sabrina is a truly wonderful film. I used to enjoy repeat viewings of the recent edition but I now vow to get a copy of this version because I enjoyed it so much more. There was a lightness and excitement that today’s lacked, and something real that you can grasp onto. This is a classic that any audience could enjoy. This will bring joy time and time again.