Sabrina is a fairytale love story set around themes of rivalry and class. Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn) is a chauffer’s daughter, living on a large Long Island Estate. For some time she’s been in love with the rich and careless David Larrabee (William Holden) who barely notices her. After two years studying in Paris, the grownup Sabrina returns a beautiful and sophisticated woman and David falls in love. The couple’s relationship threatens to derail a big merger for the family company so David’s brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart) decides to woo the girl himself before packing her back off to Paris.
This film is one of several in my girlfriend’s DVD collection that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. Hepburn is her favourite actress but it was Sabrina I chose over other films because of the male stars. I’ll happily watch anything Bogart and Holden are in but have to say that I was a little disappointed with this film. The stars failed to gel on screen and a little reading tells me that Bogart was unhappy for the duration of the shoot with both director Billy Wilder and his co-star Hepburn who he believed needed too many takes to get her dialogue right. There was better chemistry between Holden and Hepburn which isn’t surprising as the two began a brief affair while shooting the movie.
Another problem I had with the movie is that I didn’t really like the characters so was never rooting for them. Holden’s David was spoilt and a little obnoxious and only recognised Sabrina’s beauty when she was all dolled up in tight dresses and bright red lipstick. He is the sort of playboy who gets everything for free and does little to deserve it. Sabrina is a girl who is madly in love with a doofus who is far too old for her and then falls for the brother who is older still. The dynamic never felt right as the age differences were too great. It’s mentioned in the script a couple of times but Bogart was thirty years older than Hepburn. It didn’t really work. Bogart’s Linus was the only character I had any affection for but this waned as the film progressed.
As a romance the film has its sweet moments and there’s some romantic dancing which I enjoyed but because I wasn’t on the character’s sides, I didn’t really care if they got together or not. For a working class girl made good, Sabrina isn’t particularly sympathetic. Even her long suffering father, caught in the middle of the various romances, comes across as a snob. There are some nice shifts in the dynamic of the relationships and several realisations of feelings but they’re always expected. The film doesn’t provide as many unexpected turns or funny lines as I’ve become accustomed to seeing in a Billy Wilder script. Something I did enjoy was a little bit of self promotion. In one scene, two of the characters step out to see a play. The title is mentioned a couple of times and just happens to be Wilder’s next picture, The Seven Year Itch. It’s a cheeky bit of marketing but was a clever idea.
The film, like a lot of Hepburn’s, is noticeable for its costumes. Hepburn looks statuesque and stunning in the various dresses which earned costume designer Edith Head an Oscar. It’s long been rumoured that it was in fact Givenchy that designed the dresses though this is still disputed. The cars also look great and the final boardroom scene is well designed with a window overlooking an important view. In the end Sabrina is a little unremarkable which is surprising given its remarkable cast and director. It’s sweet in places but the casting doesn’t really work and the script stagnates slightly while remaining always obvious.
- As well as its one win, the film was nominated for a further five Oscars including Best Actress, Director and Screenplay.
- The stars salaries differed drastically. Bogart got $300,000, Holden got $150,000, and Hepburn only $15,000.
- Carey Grant was wanted for the role of Linus but turned it down. Bogart never liked being the second choice.