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Critic’s Pick: Sabrina


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Technically, Humphrey Bogart is old enough to be Audrey Hepburn’s father. And realistically it requires much more than a ponytail and a shabby dress to make Hepburn look like a wallflower. However, the actors and plotline in this 1950’s Cinderella story are so charming and endearing that even modern-day viewers are likely to grant the movie a little slack.

The fairy tale begins in the mystical far-off land of Long Island. Ugly duckling Sabrina (Hepburn) spends her days assisting her chauffeur father in the maintenance of the wealthy Larrabee family’s extensive car collection and whiles away her evenings mooning over the playboy Prince Charming David Larrabee (William Holden). In an effort to clear Sabrina’s head of this David fascination, her father sends her to Paris for two years of cooking classes. With the help of a fairy godmother in the shape of an elderly baron, Sabrina returns to the Larrabee estate transformed into a beautiful swan, complete with a new hairdo and wardrobe to aid in capturing her handsome prince. David, in spite of his attractive new fiancĂ©, is ready and a little too willing to pursue this exciting quarry. Enter his stuffy businessman brother Linus, AKA The Big Bad Wolf (Humphrey Bogart), who is anxious to close a business merger contingent on David’s marriage, thus donning sheep’s clothing to lure Sabrina from David’s arms (and hopefully onto a ship back to Paris). In the process though, the lonely wolf begins to care for the swan and must decide whether he is going to rip her to shreds or run away with her.

While the movie is based on the Broadway play Sabrina Fair written by Samuel Taylor, director Billy Wilder of Some Like It Hot fame helped to compose the screenplay, and his humor shines in both the actions and dialogue. Clever quips like “All columnists should be beaten to a pulp and converted back into paper!” keep the plot humming. Hepburn’s Academy Award-winning costumes are a beauty to behold, delicious confections by the designer Hubert de Givenchy. One of the black cocktail dresses even spawned a neckline that would become known as “the Sabrina neckline.” As for the actors themselves, they are just so darn likeable: Hepburn as the starry-eyed hopeless romantic, Holden as the irresponsible yet charismatic younger brother, and Bogart as the moody practical older brother with an uncanny facial similarity to Droopy Dog. Does the film challenge your perceptions of the world order? No. Do the characters provide deep social commentary? Not really. But you will feel so good afterwards that you might not care.


Dir: Billy Wilder; writ: Ernest Lehman, Samuel Taylor, Billy Wilder; feat. Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden (NR) (1954, 113 min.)

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