Last evening, I was very fortunate to attend a projection of Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954) at the Cinema Banque Scottia in Montreal. Of course, Sabrina stars one of our enchanting ladies, the one and only Audrey Hepburn. Along with Roman Holidays and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we can say it’s probably one of her most iconic roles. For today’s post, I’m not going to focus on the entire movie, but only on Audrey’s herself.
Plot: “Sabrina is the young daughter of the Larrabee family’s chauffeur who has been in love with David Larrabee for all her life. David is very spoiled and crazy for women, and has been totally ignoring Sabrina for years. When Sabrina goes to Paris for a few years, she returns a very attractive and sophisticated woman, and David is quickly drawn to her. David’s brother Linus sees this and fears that David’s imminent wedding with a very rich woman may be endangered. If the wedding is canceled, so will a great corporate deal with the bride’s family. So, Linus tries to keep Sabrina off his brother, and the best way to do so is by charming her himself.” (source : IMDB)
Many people feel Humphrey Bogart was miscast for this film (he’s not a bad actor at all, but, I agree, Cary Grant, who was the first choice, would have been more suitable). Unfortunately for him, he didn’t enjoy working with Audrey, nor with Billy Wilder and especially not with William Holden. We know the two couldn’t stand each other. As for Holden, we know he already was a Billy Wilder’s favourite. Sabrina was his third film he made under the direction of Billy Wilder. As we know, he and Audrey Hepburn fall in love with each other during the shot of this film, but, unfortunately, Audrey had to make an end to it when she learned Holden couldn’t have children (that was one of her richest wishes). William Holden said “She was the love of my life.” I wonder how it would have been if things will have turned out differently. We finally come to our Audrey. She made two films under the direction of Wilder. Sabrina was the first one, Love in the Afternoon, the second one. Sabrina also marks the beginning of Audrey’s famous”collaboration” with Hubert de Givenchy. However, Givenchy didn’t design all the gowns and wasn’t credited. Only Edith Head was and she won the Oscar for Best Costumes.
I personally think Audrey’s was the perfect choice for the role of Sabrina. She was perfectly able to be the young and childish Sabrina, and then the sophisticated, but still sensible Sabrina. The transformation between those two sides of the character is quite impressive. What is perfectly well made in the first part of the film are Audrey’s closeups where we see her beautiful eyes that are able to transmit so many emotions to us. In the introduction, we also heard a narration and we can immediately recognize Audrey’s voice: a clear, fluid and melodious one. If Audrey, wouldn’t have been an actress, she should have been a storyteller! In the second part of the film, after her years in Paris, Sabrina (Audrey) is presented to us on a new day. She has a new hairdo, classier clothes and acts more like a lady. Fortunately, she remains the Audrey Hepburn we love, sweet, kind and still innocent.
As much as the co-acting work was apparently not too good on this film, I think there’s a really interesting on-screen team work between Audrey and Humphrey Bogart. We believe in their motivations and in their character friendship and fondness to each other. That’s what makes a performance great. Without revealing it, I love the ending and it illustrates perfectly what I’ve just said. Of course, as for her on-screen love with William Holden, it’s quite difficult not to believe in it. 😉 The two looked so beautiful together!
In Sabrina, Audrey is able to move from one emotion to another: she’s sad, happy, melancholic, angry, etc. Even if she remains the same person during all the film, she isn’t an unemotional one.
If I had to choose a word to describe Audrey Hepburn’s performance in this film, I would qualify it of “beautiful”. How can we not be in admiration? That’s not surprising why Audrey became such a model. Not only for her look, but also for her off-screen and on-screen personality. For her brilliant acting in Sabrina, Audrey received her second Best Actress Oscar nomination. She had won the previous year for her performance in Roman Holiday. She didn’t win for Sabrina, but Grace Kelly did (for The Country Girl), so we’re not too disappointed. 😉