Wednesday, October 5, 2016

SABRINA (1954)

(September 1954, U.S.)

When I saw the late Sidney Pollack's 1995 remake of SABRINA, I did not realize that it was a remake. Therefore, I was dazzled by the originality behind the love triangle story by the man who had impressed me to no end with previous work like TOOTSIE (1982) and THE FIRM (1993). Of course, once I found out what the real deal really was, I rushed to my local Blockbuster Video store (remember them?) to rent the original version with Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden. When it was over, Pollack's remake was suddenly a lackluster attempts at an older and finer piece of work. Though I have to admit that if anyone is going to remake Humphrey Bogart, then Harrison Ford is very likely as good as you're going to get.

SABRINA is one of those rare films where I get to hear Long Island (where I grew up and where I live) glorified in any way in the movies (DEATHTRAP being another that immediately comes to mind). Specifically, the story takes place in the town of Glen Cove (where my wife grew up). The Larrabee family is (disgustingly) rich, their many material possessions and toys joyfully narrated by Audrey Hepburn at the beginning of the film. Hepburn plays Sabrina Fairchild, daughter of the family's loyal chauffeur, and a foolish girl who's been in love with younger son, David Larrabee (Holden), the family's irresponsible and embarrassing playboy. His older brother, Linus Larrabbe, is the responsible Yale graduate who's in charge of the family business and riches. Unlike his younger brother, he has no zest for life, no spirit and no woman in his life. His office and the business he runs can best be described as his faithful mistress. After a failed suicide attempt, Sabrina is sent to cooking school in Paris, France to not only get a chef's education, but to forget all about David, as well. She not only forgets, but comes back to Long Island two years later a totally transformed woman of grace, style and elegance. Leave it, of course, to Audrey Hepburn to bring such perfect adjectives to life on the screen, particularly her fashion wears, as designed by Edith Head, to take her beyond the fame she'd already achieved with ROMAN HOLIDAY (normally I don't mention fashion when I blog my films, but somehow, it seems correct and appropriate for SABRINA).

Okay, so Sabrina's back in town and David may finally be falling for her, as well. Trouble is, his new infatuation with the chauffeur's daughter will ruin a big business venture with another rich family in which David is expected to marry the daughter of said family in order to smooth out the deal.

(you getting all this, people??)

So Linus charges himself to distract and deal with Sabrina so she won't fuck things up. Well, predictability and cliché suggest what shall happen next (come on, take a guess!) Yes, Linus finally comes out of his stiff inner shell and falls for Sabrina herself (because Hepburn is so easy to fall for!), as does she for him. The love triangle between brothers and two families manages to work itself out, the rich get richer and the new lovers (literally) sail away to Paris. That's just a great big, "Awwwwww!" for everybody!

If there's anything director Billy Wilder was, it was versatile. The man could do love like SABRINA, outrageous comedy like SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959), dark drama like SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) and dark film noir with DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944). He seems justifiably determined not to take himself or the contents of SABRINA too seriously. The three principal performers are lighthearted and take a good degree of fun with their roles, even Bogart who is surely cast against type in this one. Watch Hepburn closely in passenger's seat of David's car as he's driving her home from the Glen Cove train station; newly arrived home and clearly unrecognizable to David. When she laughs and tells David she's having too much fun with his confusion over her identity, she's clearly genuine. Hepburn, for all her beauty and grace, was a believable person in everything she did, even up to her final cameo performance in Steven Spielberg's ALWAYS (1989). She died in 1993 at the age of sixty-three. Too young!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Linus Larrabee (speaking into a dictaphone): "Interoffice memo, Linus Larrabee to David Larrabee. Dear David, this is to remind you that you are a junior partner of Larrabee Industries. Our building is located at 30 Broad Street, New York City. Your office is on the 22nd floor. Our normal week is Monday through Friday. Our working day is 9:00 to 5:00. Should you find this inconvenient, you are free to retire under the Larrabee pension plan. Having been with us one year, this will entitle you to sixty-five cents a month for the rest of your life."

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