Sabrina - 1954
Billy Wilder’s Sabrina brings a modern take on the classic fairy tale story of a servant falling in love with the prince. Sabrina is the story of the chauffeur daughter, falling in love with David, the youngest son of her father’s employers and the uphill quest she embarks to gain his love (since his family is against them). A love triangle is formed when the oldest son, Linus, tries to come between Sabrina and David.
Sabrina benefits from an incredibly funny script, that plays to the strengths of his actors. The cast of the servants can be described as an improv group playing off each other. As Sabrina’s father is reading her letters out loud, each member of the group has funny one-liners and quips that land as exclamation points between each sentence. There isn’t a wasted second whenever this group appears on screen together and it shows that Wilder trusted his actors to carry the scene, since the camera is completely still showcasing the group and their dialogue.
Another highlight from this cast is the cooking professor in Paris. The cooking classes where one of the funniest scenes in the entire movie. My favorite being when the class is being taught to crack eggs correctly “you see it’s all in the wrist”. As the professor walks down the room he critiques his students in his class regarding their technics. As he reaches Sabrina he notices she failed and tries to teach her the correct method only for him to also fail. The professor yells “New egg!”, and he quietly hides his mistake (broken egg in his hand), with his face driving home the hilarious nature of the scene.
Wilder was famous for casting against type and Sabrina is no exemption, with the casting of Humphrey Bogart as Linus (the lovable older brother). Bogart made his name in Hollywood playing the though-guy characters and Linus is everything but a though guy. Bogart showcased his ability to carry a lite and comedic tone throughout the entire film, something that even Bogart doubted he could do at the time. My favorite scenes of Bogart character is when he is showcasing the quality of the plastic material he wants to distribute (especially during the party scene).
Now I can’t talk about Sabrina, without mentioning the stunningly talented Audrey Hepburn playing the titular role. Sabrina is her follow up to her break-out role in “Roman Holiday”. Here she was put to task, going toe-to-toe with legends such as Bogart and she managed to shine among them. In the beginning of the movie Hepburn convincedly portrays a naive girl, in-love with the idea of what David could be for her. This nave nature is mostly portrayed through Hepburn famous big dreamy eyes and innocent smile. As the film progresses Hepburn performance slowly changes, since Sabrina is gaining confidence in herself as the years progress. There are many subtle mannerisms Hepburn’s adds to her character to convince the audience of her new view of the world, this helps push the plot forward and sells why David and Linus fall in love with Sabrina.
When we think about Wilder, we mostly focus on his biggest hits (Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment and Double Indemnity) and rightfully so, but Sabrina deserves to have its name up there. Wilder has always had a great eye for what his actor’s limitations are and how to accentuate their strengths. In Sabrina we have (in theory) a boring story, but it is lifted by Wilders ability to bring out the best from his actors. This movie is funny and timeless and is still a far superior product to its 1995 remake. After watching the movie, I did some research (I usually do it for all my reviews) regarding the production of this film and I was amazed that Bogart hated the entire process. He thought Hepburn was unqualified and thought he wasn’t fit for the part. This only highlights the brilliant director Wilder was, that he was able to bring out a great performance from Bogart despite his personal feelings towards the role.
Sabrina is an extremely funny and visually beautiful movie (thanks in part to Hepburn’s dress choices) that hold up to this day. Comedies from the 40s and 50s have a unique feel to them and they are a complete departure from what Hollywood now classifies as comedies. I came into this movie expecting one thing (since it had Bogart on the cover) and received a light-hearted comedy, that had me laughing throughout the entire movie and that’s why I love movies.
Sabrina is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, watch it if you can.
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