Sabrina: Billy Wilder Classic Still Has It

Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden. Courtesy of Paramount.

Sabrina may not be in the top tier level of Billy Wilder’s filmography but the romantic comedy teams three of the biggest stars of the era.

Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn) is the daughter of Larrabee family chauffeur, Thomas Fairchild (John Williams).  Because of his job, the two of them live right above the mansion’s garage.  She has a crush on David Larrabee (William Holden), the playboy of the family.  Upset with this, the film becomes morbid with her writing a suicide note to her father.  She would have gone through with it had it not been for David’s older brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart).

With the suicide now thwarted, Sabrina heads to Paris where she enrolls in a culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu, for two years.  Upon returning to Long Island, her dad is delayed in picking her up.  As such, David picks her up and doesn’t even recognize her.  She has a different hairstyle by this point but surely he could at least recognize her voice.  In any event, he invites her to a party at the mansion.  It’s been a few years but David is engaged to Elizabeth Tyson (Martha Hyer).  Linus knows that any kind of a fling would ruin not just David’s looming marriage but a merger between the two family companies.

While taking David’s place when it comes to Sabrina, Linus and her start falling in love.  Playing into the genre trope, neither of them admit this.  Linus tells her that he’ll join her in the trip back to Paris but this is all a lie.  At one point, Linus decides that David should go instead.  Again, this would mean ruining both the engagement and merger.  It’s on David to search his feelings and do the right thing here.  In this case, it’s telling Linus to essentially get off his ass and go after Sabrina.  Which he does and the film soon comes to an end.

Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden are among some of the biggest stars of their day.  Hepburn was coming off of her Oscar-winning performance for Roman Holiday.  Bogart and Holden star as a pair of brothers but they are almost twenty years apart in age.  This isn’t one of those things that is hard to buy into because it does happen in real life.  No, the part that’s harder to buy into is Hepburn’s Sabrina ending up with Bogart’s Linus because of their age difference.  I won’t lie that I rooted for her to end up with Holden’s David.  When you look at their ages, it would certainly make more sense on that level.  In another universe, Cary Grant could have played Linus instead of Bogart.

Wilder has a keen since of direction when it comes to performances and camera placement.  The filmmaker was in between his two prominent writing partners at this point in his career.  It’s hard to imagine this film without Audrey Hepburn.  The film lives and dies with her performance.  There’s also a lot of other things here to admire about the film: cinematography, art direction, and costume design.

While a lesser film when put up against the big classics from Billy Wilder, Sabrina remains a charming romantic comedy.

DIRECTOR:  Billy Wilder
SCREENWRITERS:  Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor, and Ernest Lehman
CAST:  Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams, Martha Hyer, Joan Vohs

Paramount Pictures opened Sabrina in theaters on September 23, 1954. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.