Sabrina

  • Title:  Sabrina
  • Director:  Billy Wilder
  • Date:  1954
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  Romance, Drama
  • Cast:  Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden
  • Format:  Standard, Black and White
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Oh, I’m not telling you that you have to be a cook as she was, or that I want you to marry a  chauffeur like me, but you know how I feel about it.  Your mother and I had a good life together, we were respected by everyone.  That’s as much as anyone can want in this world.  Don’t reach for the moon, child.”  Fairchild, Sabrina’s father

“It’s all beginning to make sense — Mr. Tyson owns the sugar cane, you own the formula for the plastics and I’m supposed to be offered up as a human sacrifice on the alter of industrial progress — is that it?”  — David

“So strange to think of you being touched by a woman – I always thought you walked alone.”  — Sabrina
“No man walks alone by choice.”  — Linus

Sabrina, cannot in truth be called a “romantic comedy”, because the storyline is, in many ways, quite dark, though the second half of the film does turn into a typical romantic triangle.  Hepburn is Sabrina, the daughter of the chauffeur, living on the very large, Long Island estate belonging to the Larrabee family. She’s quite young, and quite taken with David (Holden), the younger of the two Larrabee brothers.  David, however, barely knows she exists.  When Sabrina sees David romantically involved with another woman, she gets so upset, she decides to commit suicide.  And even though she’s scheduled to go to France for cooking school the next day, she goes to the garage, starts all the cars, closed all the doors and tries to kill herself, after leaving a note for her father.  Sabrina is rescued by Linus (Bogart) the older Larrabee brother, and nothing more is said about what happened.

After the incident, she’s sent off  to France, and cooking school.  In France, at first, Sabrina can think of nothing but David, and even her classes don’t distract her.  And given that the classes start with “How to boil water” and “how to crack an egg” – you can’t really blame her for being bored.  But soon she’s taken under the wing of an old baron who teaches her about style, and grace, and she returns to New York two years later an outwardly changed women – full of  style and sophistication.  But, inwardly, she’s still obsessed with David.  Upon learning he’s engaged, she still plans to ensnare him.

Sabrina’s plans, however, are somewhat derailed by Linus, the older Larrabee (Humphrey Bogart), who’s arranged his brother’s marriage to a sugar cane heiress to cement a business deal to make bullet-proof plastic from sugar cane.  (Don’t ask, just like you don’t want to try and figure out how the daughter of the chauffeur can afford the prestigious Cordon Blue cooking school in France).  Linus arranges his brother’s match, but playboy David thinks that this is one girl he’s not interested in.  And when he sees Sabrina in all her finery at the train station, he’s hooked.  But, Linus, most to save his business deal, and partially because he’s also intrigued by this sophisticated woman in his midst, also starts to date Sabrina.

And thus, we have the triangle, who will end-up with Sabrina?  Like many movies from the 1950s, it’s the men in her life — her father, the two brothers, and the two brothers’ father, who seem determined to make Sabrina’s choice of a husband for her, rather than letting Sabrina choose.  Still, it is a good movie anyway, and the first time I watched it I was genuinely surprised who she ends up choosing after all.

Billy Wilder directed Sabrina, which accounts for it’s dark tone, and I’m not just talking about the black and white filming.  Wilder’s direction is incredible, especially his use of deep focus and shots of the characters completely isolated from each other, surprising in a romance (but not surprising coming from Wilder – an accomplished Film Noir director).  Even in what would normally be a very romantic scene, Linus and Sabrina boating, she’s on one end of the boat, he’s on the other.  The boat’s only about 15 feet and the two “lovers” are sitting as far apart as they could possibly get without one of them being in the ocean.  When Sabrina confront Linus in his office – the lighting is used to great effect and further isolates the characters.

Recommendation:  See it! (At least once)
Rating: 3.8 Stars Out of  5
Next Film:  Same Time, Next Year

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Roman Holiday

  • Title:  Roman Holiday
  • Director:  William Wyler
  • Date:  1953
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert
  • Format:  Standard, Black and White
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I could do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do.”  –Ann
“Like what?” –Joe
“Oh, you can’t imagine.  I’d like to do just whatever I like, the whole day long.”  –Ann
“Things like having your hair cut, eating gelato?” –Joe
“Yes, and I’d like to sit in a sidewalk cafe, and look in shop windows, walk in the rain!  Have fun – and maybe even some excitement.” –Ann

“The news can wait until tomorrow.” — Ann

“She’s fair game, Joe, it’s always open season on princesses.” — Irving

Roman Holiday is Audrey Hepburn’s first film.  It could have also been easily called, ‘The Princess’s Day Off’, because that is what the film is really about.  Hepburn is Princess Ann, on a whirlwind tour of European capital cities.  Her schedule is booked by the second, and everything is planned to the last detail – even the words she’ll say when accepting or refusing gifts, giving good will speeches and addressing the press.  And young Ann is quite, quite sick of it.

Upon her arrival in Rome, Ann falls into hysterics and is given a drug to calm her down.  But, instead of sleeping, she sneaks out to have some fun.  Ann collapses on a bench, completely limp and out of it. She’s discovered by Joe (Peck), a reporter, who doesn’t recognize her.  He sees her as a drunk young lady in trouble.  He tries to get her into a cab, but she’s so out of  it, she doesn’t remember her own address.

So he takes her home to his apartment.  He lends her pajamas, and offers his couch (she takes his bed). No impropriety occurs, and the next day, Joe goes off to his job at the American News Service.  There he discovers the big news is that the Princess Ann has taken ill, and cancelled all her appointments – and Joe recognizes the girl in the papers as the girl in his apartment.

He talks to his boss, and promises an exclusive and personal interview with Princess Ann.  His boss offers $1000.00 for the story.  When he adds that he can provide candid pictures as well, the price jumps to $5000.

Joe returns to his apartment and finds a recovering Ann.  He lets her have a bath and change again, gives her some money, and sees her off.  Then he calls his friend, Irving (Albert), a photographer, and promises him a cut of the deal.  Irving agrees to find out what the story is, and will meet Joe later. Meanwhile Joe, follows Ann, without letting her know.  He bumps into her, and promises her a holiday, then takes her to a sidewalk cafe, where Irving meets them.

Ann and Joe, with Irving in tow, tour the tourist spots of Rome, and Ann has the time of her life just being normal. He even takes her to a dance on a barge in the river. There, Ann, dances with the barber who cut her hair and invited her to the dance.  But her country has called in their secret service to look for Ann, and they find her on the barge.  A fight breaks out but Joe, Ann, and Irving all manage to escape.  Finally, Ann decides she must go back to her duties and after a couple of nice hugs with Joe, has him drop her off within walking distance of her hotel.

Joe decides he can’t impose on Ann’s privacy, or embarrass her, and tells his editor there’s no story.  He tells Irving he can sell the pictures if he wants, though he wishes him not to do so.

The next morning, Ann, again in the beautiful white gown of a princess, has her press conference.  She coldly gives her practiced answers.  Except once – when asked her favorite city on the tour, Ann replies, Rome.
She sees both Joe and Irving at the press conference.  During the receiving line, she shows nearly no emotion, using the same kind responds with them as with the rest of the ladies and gentlemen of the press.  Irving, hands her an envelope of the pictures, saying they are commemorative pictures of Rome.  Ann leaves the press conference.  All in attendance have left – and Joe is left, alone, walking out of the hotel.

Roman Holiday is a fun picture, though a bit slow.  Audrey Hepburn is really good, expressing both emotion and lack of emotion, as she alternately experiences every day things for the first time, or does her princess act for the press.  Peck is a man who’s caught – he feels something for Ann (though in my opinion he’s much too old for her) but knows they are from different worlds.  In a way, the film is about isolation, Ann’s behind the walls of a palace, and Joe’s in the middle of a bustling city.  Though Joe has a friend in Irving, and his poker buddies seen at the beginning of the film.  It’s enjoyable to watch.

Recommendation:  See it.
Rating:  3.5
Next film:  Royal Wedding

Charade (1963)

  • Title:  Charade
  • Director:  Stanley Donen
  • Date:  1963
  • Studio:  Universal
  • Genre:  Suspense, Romance, Mystery
  • Cast:  Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • Format:  R1, NTSC

“It is infuriating that your unhappiness does not turn to fat.”  — Sylvie to Regina

“Any morning now, you could wake-up dead, Mrs. Lambert.”  — Threat spoken to Regina

“Being murdered in cold blood is not nonsense!  Why don’t you try it sometime?”  — Regina to Peter

Audrey Hepburn is Regina Lambert, who returns to her flat in Paris, determined to ask her husband for a divorce, only to find the flat completely empty, the electricity shut off, and a police officer waiting to tell her that her husband has been murdered.  He was thrown off a train.  Shortly thereafter, a man claiming to be from the CIA (Walter Matthau) informs her that her husband was wanted for stealing $250,000 in gold during World War II along with four other men.  What follows is a complicated suspense movie of multiple identities, miscellaneous murders, revenge, and a search for the missing money.  Cary Grant alone, who keeps showing up around Audrey Hepburn, has at least four names.

This film is directed like a classic Hitchcock film, though the director is actually Stanley Donen – better known for his musicals.  There is some romantic tension between Hepburn and Grant as well, but not as much as is typical for a Cary Grant-led romantic comedy.

Overall, though a bit long, it’s still a fun film.  I picked up my copy at Suncoast on sale for $4.99 — back when there was a Suncoast Video, simply because with Grant and Hepburn as leads I figured I couldn’t go wrong and I was right.  The film is very enjoyable.  Cary Grant is excellent as the mystery man Hepburn isn’t sure she should trust or not.  And Audrey Hepburn is excellent and believable as the only one in the film who really has no idea what’s going on.  Also, there’s two surprises at the end:  where the money was hidden (a classic – I love it, tho’ the idea has been played with since in several formats) and who Cary Grant “really” is – another classic.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Charade (1953)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • Title:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Director:  Blake Edwards
  • Date:  1961
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  Drama, Romance
  • Cast:  Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

I bought Breakfast at Tiffany’s as part of a three-pack of Audrey Hepburn films, but even though it’s regarded as a classic, it’s actually my least favorite of the three (my favorite being Sabrina). The problem with the movie, for me, is it’s not really about anything. There really isn’t much of a plot. The film doesn’t even have much of the standard romantic comedy plot, though romance is an important thread that runs through the picture. Hepburn is Holly Golightly, a party girl, who gives the impression there isn’t a brain in her head. She’s looking for a rich husband, and going through New York society to do it.

George Peppard is Paul Varjak, a struggling writer, and “kept man” who runs into Holly when he moves into the apartment above hers. The two have an attraction, especially as they keep running into each other over and over again. But she wants a rich husband, not someone who loves her, she says. And she’s cruel about it. When Paul ends his relationship with the woman who’s supporting him (Patricia Neal), Holly throws him out as well, announcing her intention to marry a rich Brazilian she met at one of her fancy parties. At the end of the picture, she even abandons her cat, “Cat”, on the cold, rainy, New York streets in an attempt to convince Paul she doesn’t care about anything.

Paul, who’s a much more sympathetic character, loves Holly. Or he keeps saying he does. But somehow, it seems skin deep. This film doesn’t have the realistic built characters, like, say The Apartment does, where we are sympathetic to Bud and Fran. Neither is the plot of a man being exploited by a designing woman and trying to get away, fully realized as it is in Sunset Blvd (where the writer fails). Rather, Breakfast At Tiffany’s just sort of meanders along, never reaching a goal, even the end doesn’t feel satisfying and happy like your typical romantic comedy. I liked Paul a lot, and Hepburn looks stunning as usual, but overall, not my favorite Audrey Hepburn film.

Recommendation:  Skip It
Rating:  3 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Breakfast Club