The prologue, with its storybook-like, slightly arch voiceover narration finely read by Audrey Hepburn, suggests a charming fairy tale with a satiric subtext.
And, indeed, Sabrina, Billy Wilder’s delightful romantic comedy starring Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden, is a sort of Cinderella story, with a chauffeur’s daughter who is transformed into the belle of the ball and dances with the prince — except that the "prince" is, if not a beast, at least a shallow cad, while the real love interest is almost more a frog than a prince.
The romantic complications are feather-light, but there’s surprising bite both in the intensity of Sabrina’s girlish crush on oft-married playboy David Larrabee (Holden) and in the ambiguous motives of David’s hard-nosed older brother Linus (Bogart). For years Sabrina, whose father is the Larabees’ chauffeur, has wistfully spied on handsome David’s ways with women at the family’s glamorous parties, and in a despairing moment is even willing to throw her life away over him. When she blossoms, though, David discovers her charms, and she blithely enjoys his attentions despite despite her awareness of David’s fickleness.
As for Linus, he’s ruthless enough to prod David to make another marriage that will help the family corporation, and as he gently takes Sabrina off his brother’s hands it’s quite awhile before his intentions become fully clear, perhaps even to himself.
The film was Hepburn’s second starring role, after her breakthrough role in the equally charming Roman Holiday. That film was a kind of Cinderella-in-reverse story, about a princess who becomes a commoner for a day, finding momentary happiness and love but without the happily ever after. In Sabrina, Hepburn gets to play the fairy tale the traditional way, and, despite its complications, the story ends the way fairy tales are meant to.
Along with Roman Holiday, Sabrina has been newly restored and remastered in high definition for Paramount’s Centennial Collection series, and is offered in a two-disc edition with a variety of special features. Disc 2 extras include a documentary on the film and other behind-the-scenes pieces, featurettes on Hepburn as a fashion icon and Holden’s Paramount years, and a restrospective on 1950s Paramount.
Audrey Hepburn is utterly beguiling in her star-making role opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, a delightful romantic comedy about a poised young princess of an unspecified European country who spends a magical day with an American reporter (Gregory Peck) in the Eternal City, playing hooky from her official duties.
Often described as "the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made," Charade stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in a sparkling thriller with overtones of screwball romantic comedy — or is it the other way around?
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.