Appellate Judge James A. Stewart doesn't know what day it is.
"I've been to all your parties—standing right up there in that tree."
Audrey Hepburn followed up her Oscar-winning star turn in Roman Holiday with Sabrina, based on the Broadway play Sabrina Fair by Samuel Taylor. This time around, Humphrey Bogart plays the scheming older man who ends up falling for Hepburn. He's got a rival in William Holden in the comedy directed and co-written by Billy Wilder.
Sabrina: Centennial Collection adds a disc of extras to the classic romantic comedy.
Facts of the Case
"It's you, Sabrina."
"I thought I heard somebody."
"No, it's nobody."
Chauffeur's daughter Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn) sobs as she watches wealthy, handsome David Larrabee romancing a beautiful woman. She ends up trying to asphyxiate herself by starting the engines on all the cars in the closed garage, but is stopped by David's brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca).
Sabrina goes away to cooking school in Paris, and when she returns, the shy girl is a stunner. When David spies her at the train station, he offers her a lift home, but he doesn't recognize her. When he realizes that this is the girl who used to live over the garage, he's smitten, inviting her to a Larrabee party.
"The moon is reaching for me!" Sabrina says when her father tells her not to reach for the moon.
Trouble is, David's otherwise engaged—and his bride's father is involved in a big deal with the Larrabees. Linus gets the idea of romancing Sabrina to cure her of her crush on David. But is he falling for her himself?
Yeah, Bogie's falling for Sabrina, even if he wants to keep the audience guessing. When Linus finally tells Sabrina his feelings and confesses to the dirty trick, he makes it clear he's been in love with her himself for a while. Until that moment, though, you might still be expecting a nasty turn from the all-business Linus. There's also a distinct chance that he could be rejected by Sabrina, since he looks like Dagwood Bumstead with his bow tie and business suit. He's aware of this, mocking himself as he talks about his romancing with his father. "Look at me. Joe College with a touch of arthritis," he says. Even as a nagging something tells you this couldn't possibly work, Humphrey Bogart makes you root for the staid Linus.
Audrey Hepburn's innocence serves her character well, because Sabrina could easily look like a golddigger or a confused fool. As in Roman Holiday, she alternates between European sophistication and indecisive immaturity charmingly. She sells her feelings for both Larrabee men, and makes their feelings for her believable. Perhaps Hepburn found a way to put those real-life insecurities I've heard so much about to good use.
William Holden's David seems slow, believing his brother's evenings with Sabrina help his own chances of winning his father's approval for marriage. He also seems flighty, since he's already been married a couple of times, doesn't even know what day of the week it is, and romances a new flame even as his wedding day nears. However, David shows by the end of the movie that he's figured out both Linus' scheming and his change of heart during a dynamic final scene.
The picture looks good, with the few setbound Paris scenes taking on a dreamlike quality. The clever score even uses "Yes, We Have No Bananas" to punctuate Bogie's romantic change of heart.
Among the features on the bonus disc is "Supporting Sabrina," a guide to supporting actors, "the secret ingredient that made an entire film come together." People like John Williams (Dial M for Murder) as Sabrina's dad, Nancy Kulp (The Beverly Hillbillies) as a maid, Ellen Corby (The Waltons) as Linus' secretary, and Francis X. Bushman (Ben Hur, 1925) as the father of David's would-be bride. It doesn't cover everyone in depth, but it does a lot to introduce viewers to some actors who might otherwise be overlooked. It's one of the best bonuses I've seen in a while.
Another good bonus is "William Holden: The Paramount Years," which looks at the actor's life and a career that got a boost from Sunset Boulevard. His career shares the focus with his conservation activities in Africa and his love of travel.
"Sabrina's World," a look at the estates that once lined Long Island's Gold Coast, "Behind the Gates: Cameras," a look at the cameras used at Paramount, and four galleries were interesting. "Audrey Hepburn: In Her Own Words" wasn't bad, but it was more about the movie in general than about Hepburn; it looks like it gets its name because Hepburn's opening narration introduces the segment. "Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon" talks about Hubert de Givenchy's wardrobe for Hepburn in Sabrina, but spends too much time on contemporary designers gushing about the actress. A booklet full of facts rounds out the package.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While Sabrina's a great movie, it suffers slightly from viewing together with the excellent Roman Holiday, as I did recently. Both are worth owning, but if you can only buy one, I'd go with Audrey Hepburn's debut in Roman Holiday.
Also, the scene with Sabrina's attempted suicide is an out-of-place downer in the otherwise light souffle of a comedy.
Start with the talents of Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Billy Wilder, Francis X. Bushman—the original Ben-Hur, to boot—and stir in more than 90 minutes of mostly solid extras. You don't have to go to cooking school in Paris to know the recipe for a good movie and a good DVD package. There's also a made-in-Hollywood happy ending, at least for those of us who look more like Dagwood Bumstead than leading men.
Not guilty, even if there's insufficient evidence to convince the court that Audrey Hepburn ever was an ugly duckling.
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Scales of Justice
• "Supporting Sabrina"
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