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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Sabrina

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn
Director: Billy Wilder
Rated: NR
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: January 1954
Genres: Classic, Drama, Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams, Martha Hyer, Francis X. Bushman, Nancy Kulp

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

Audrey Hepburn was the daughter of a Dutch baroness, and had youth, beauty, charm and an exquisite accent. Since she could play the vulnerable innocent as well, she was perfectly suited for Cinderella-type roles.

Hepburn had a star-making role in 1953's "Roman Holiday", in which she played a princess who pretended to be a commoner. In her next film, "Sabrina", she plays a chauffeur's daughter who blossomes into a lady. The theme of changing her social class would be used once again in her most successful film, "My Fair Lady".

While Hepburn was well-cast for "Sabrina", she was given two unlikely love interests. William Holden, at 36, was only a little too old for his role, as was the case for an earlier film also directed by Billy Wilder, "Sunset Boulevard". But Humphrey Bogart was 55, a full thirty years older than Hepburn. Also, "Sabrina" was something of a comedy, and Holden and Bogart were not known as comedic actors.

Nonetheless, "Sabrina" was a great critical and commercial success, cementing the reputations of Wilder, Hepburn, and Bogart. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Hepburn), Best Director (Wilder), Best Screenplay (Wilder, Samuel Taylor, and Ernest Lehman), and Best B & W Cinematography (Charles Lang Jr).

Bogart and Holden play brothers who have vastly different personalities. Linus (Bogart) has never married and lives for work, controlling the business empire that was founded by his father, Oliver (Walter Hampden). David (Holden) is a playboy who cares nothing for work and has gone through several marriages.

Sabrina (Hepburn) is the daughter of a chauffeur (John Williams) employed by the wealthy family. Sabrina pines for David, who initially shows no interest in her. Sabrina is exiled to France, where she adopts the dress and manner of a lady. Meanwhile, David has become engaged to the daughter of an industrial magnate. Linus is depending upon the marriage, as it is a precondition of a favorable business merger.

Sabrina returns home, and catches David's eye. To prevent the merger from falling through, Linus begins courting Sabrina, trying to win her from David.

Many comic touches don't quite work. David sits on champagne glasses. Linus puches David, sending him rolling across a table (and somehow coming up smiling). It isn't explained why Sabrina would fall for Linus, unless money truly can buy love. Holden is transfixed by Sabrina, but then is happy to pawn her off on Linus. There is some confusion about Oliver's character, who sneaks drinks and smokes like a schoolboy, yet can give a stern lecture to David. The problems with the characters are mitigated, however, by the graceful performances of Hepburn and Bogart.

"Sabrina" was remade in 1995, with Harrison Ford taking Bogart's role.

Copyright 1997 Brian Koller

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