Sabrina, 1954

Sabrina - released October 15, 1954.Directed by Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder's Sabrina starts off as a faery-tale princess story, with a narration (from Audrey Hepburn) detailing the fantasy kingdom of the super-wealthy Larrabee clan. Since you can't have a proper kingdom without servants, we first see Audrey as a "scrub girl" helping her father (John Williams), the chauffeur, as they wash and detail a Larrabee limousine.

But from that spot, the story begins converting into an American story with a democratic bent about the classes, and though Long Island seems a good enough place for a kingdom to me, it is Paris that is always sitting in the background of Wilder's movie, an empire where Yankees can run to for working out their problems.

And our two stars (Bogart and Hepburn) have serious problems, though neither can quite get a grip on them until they've met each other. Sabrina has been infatuated (and even suicidal) with an adolescent love for the womanizing, immature scamp of the Larrabee family (William Holden) since she was a child, and Linus Larrabee (Humphrey Bogart) is the overly responsible financial wizard of Broad Street that runs the family businesses - - meanwhile he has been nursing a stunted desire for family by building factories around the globe, dreaming of how foreign children can now get braces and have their teeth fixed.

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It comes to a head for these two when Linus self-appoints himself to run interference when Sabrina's return from a Parisian cooking school makes David Larrabee (Holden) get starry-eyed at his first glance of the older Sabrina standing at a local train station in an impeccable French fashion outfit. Once David realizes who this beautiful vision is ("Hi neighbor!" says Sabrina) he immediately begins sneaking around on his fiancee' (Joan Vohs). David's sudden pursuit of Sabrina (he barely noticed her all the previous years she was growing up on the Larrabbee estate) threatens to crack-up a business merger Linus has put together between the Larrabees and the family of the girl David was previously obsessed with (and who now has no clue about the change in David's zeal). With a lot of money and planning in jeopardy, Linus sets out to act as a substitute suitor and to figure out a way to get Sabrina shipped back to Paris, his brother married, and everything back on track for the precious merger.

First off, Linus gets David side-lined with a funny injury to the tucas ("I've written a poem," says David afterward. "What rhymes with glass?") Then Linus tries to keep Sabrina occupied, arranging dates and trips with the girl on the pretense that it's what David wants since he is temporarily immobile and convalescing. Intent upon deceit, Linus finds himself making up confessions to say to Sabrina about his situation as a lonely business man, only to discover after speaking his lies that he realizes he actually is a lonely businessman.

Generally speaking, Bogart plays the perfect American plutocrat, already awash with money and thinking of new ways to generate even more wealth, he attributes the whole drive to advancing everyones situation (whether they're in America or not) from management down to the town where a Larrabbee business sets up shop.

Audrey Hepburn is the star of the film, and the story is built around her character, and Wilder lets her carefully and slowly get her lines out as Sabrina, in a style that makes her seem as delicate as she is supposed to look glamorous and cosmopolitan (something which Wilder's script allows to be redefined in a small way as a disguise like Linus's overly-occupied businessman.)

Billy Wilder (with written work also from Ernst Lehman and Samuel Taylor) has a funny script with moments of satire, but Wilder does give us shades of darkness via his camera work, such as Hepburn's long walk in silence through the protective barricade of offices that guards an utterly still Linus Larrabbee who has just confessed his perfidy to the girl he never intended to care about. Originally we saw Linus' giant office as a seat of power, but with Sabrina walking away it looks like a cage with a man trapped inside. Thus Sabrina turns out to be a faery-tale where the Princess must also save the Prince.

A newer review of Sabrina 1954 is here

Original Page Jan 2015

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