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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Classic Film Review: Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina is one of those films that most people rave about so I was left wondering whether I'd be underwhelmed by it. However, far from being disappointed, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Audrey Hepburn plays Sabrina Fairchild, the daughter of the Larrabee family's chauffeur. She has been in love with younger brother, David (William Holden), for as long as she can remember. David has been through three wives already and hasn't done a day's work in his life, much to the exasperation of older brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart). Sabrina is sent to a cookery school in Paris and comes back a much more refined and elegant woman. David doesn't recognise her at first but soon falls head over heels in love with her. Again, this infuriates Linus - he's arranged another marriage for David which will actually benefit the company this time. He takes it upon himself to make Sabrina fall in love with him, planning to ship her back off to Paris. Unfortunately, his master-plan didn't include his own feelings towards Sabrina changing.

My niggle out of the way first: I wasn't keen on Hepburn's voice-over at the beginning of the film explaining who everybody was. However, perhaps it was necessary to get the film moving swiftly. After that I really have no niggles at all. Despite disliking William Holden in Picnic (1955), I've come to the conclusion that he was miscast in that role because he was wonderful as David Larrabee - just the right side of sleazy with an excellent comic aspect to his personality. Bogart, although he was a late choice for the role, really made it his own. It's very difficult to imagine anyone else playing Linus with the seriousness required whilst still being able to demonstrate a change under the surface of the character. Hepburn demonstrated the various facets of Sabrina's personality - from mournful youth to self-assured lady - with aplomb and the early suicide attempt where a puzzled Linus rescues her from the garage is probably my favourite scene of the film. That said, I enjoyed the musical themes running throughout: 'Isn't It Romantic?' for David and 'La Vie En Rose' for Linus. Sabrina's brief singing of the latter while she drives with Linus is another favourite moment for me, and leaves me wondering yet again why her singing voice was dubbed in My Fair Lady (1964).

Alongside the leads, there were also some amusing performances from secondary characters. Walter Hampden as the Larrabee patriarch offered some light entertainment, hiding his cigars and trying in vain to get olives out of jars. Special mention should also go to Ellen Corby as Miss McCardle, Linus's secretary. Although it was a tiny role she made a very favourite impression on me.

All in all, a brilliant film that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. I'm amazed it took me this long to get to it myself.

1 comment:

danyulengelke said...

Great review!

We're linking to your article for Academy Monday at

Keep up the good work!