Play It Again – Sabrina

Play It Again – Sabrina. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

“Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate.” So begins Billy Wilder’s 1954 romantic comedy, Sabrina, the second Hollywood feature for the original pixie girl, Audrey Hepburn.

Wilder is a true Hollywood legend; someone who excelled at not only writing screenplays but at directing and producing (three credits he held on Sabrina). He adapted the story to the screen from Samuel A. Taylor’s play, Sabrina Fair, and shared writing credits with Taylor and Ernest Lehman.

The picture begins with the wide-eyed, naïve daughter of a chauffeur, Sabrina Fairchild, lusting over David Larrabee (William Holden), the youngest son of her father’s wealthy employers. David is a playboy, with no responsibilities or interest in the family business; he’s already been married three times and doesn’t entertain Sabrina’s affections. His older brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart) is the complete opposite, and for him love takes a backseat to business.

After Sabrina returns from a two year sabbatical in Paris – to attend culinary school – she is a changed young woman; poised, finely dressed and well spoken. She finally catches the eye of David; it’s a pity that he’s engaged to be married. Or is it? A love triangle between Sabrina, David and Linus begins, and she must choose between the boy she’s always loved and the man she finds herself falling for.

While Sabrina isn’t as consistently witty as some of Wilder’s other films, it is one of his most romantic, and the strange pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn surprisingly works. That said, if I could wave a magic wand and see an alternate version of this film – one where Cary Grant didn’t decline the role of Linus – I’d be quite intrigued to see how that pairing would have played out.

Sabrina went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actress, winning only one, for Best Costume Design. A sumptuous mix of heart and laughs, Sabrina is a delightful classic that deserves revisiting.

Discuss: Sabrina!

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