Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sabrina (1954)

Noman has never seen the remake of Sabrina.  But, he has wondered why anybody would bother to tamper with perfection.

For starters, it doesn't get much better than William Holden, Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn.  Though the male leads were big stars, it is Hepburn's picture.  She can do more with her eyes and face than Michael Jordan could do with a basketball.

It is a magical story about the chauffeur's daughter who suffers a life-long, hopeless crush on the master's playboy son (Holden's David Larrabee), only to grow into an elegant beauty during a two-year stay in Paris.  This obviates the need for further suffering as she returns the conquering ingenue.  He's hooked.  

Unfortunately, Linus (Bogart), the family tycoon, needs David to marry an heiress--his 4th nuptial--in order to cement a merger.   One of the movie's memorable scenes occurs when David storms Linus's office to protest the plan:
David Larrabee: It's all beginning to make sense. Mr.Tyson owns the sugarcane. You own the formula for the plastics. And I'm supposed to be offered up as a human sacrifice on the altar of the industrial progress. Is that it? 
Linus Larrabee: You make it sound so vulgar, David, as if the son of hot dog dynasty were being offered in marriage to the daughter of the mustard king... 
David Larrabee: There's just one thing you overlooked.  I haven't proposed and she hasn't accepted.
Linus Larrabee: Oh don't worry.  I proposed and Mr. Tyson accepted. 
David Larrabee: (piqued) Did you kiss him?
Linus extends the dialogue with a paean to free enterprise: it leads to development, factories, jobs, commerce, money in previously empty pockets, education, food, shoes on the feet of the poor, healthier teeth and more.  It's a serious apologia delivered in a comical setting.

Linus needs to get Sabrina out of the way before David's impulsiveness disrupts his plans.  What better way than to romance her while David is recovering from a self-inflicted wound.

Linus is not your typical Bogie character.  He is not so far removed from the norm as Captain Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny," but more so than Charlie Allnut in "The African Queen," or Frank Dobbs in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Come to think of it, he had an impressive range, though he's most remembered for Philip Marlowe, Rick Blaine-type characters.   He pulls Linus off admirably.

William Holden fits like a glove in the role of David, the dashing ne'er-do-well, the spoiled scion of wealth and privilege.  He plays it likably, almost cartoonishly, with Gatsbyesque smiles and jaunty leaps into sports cars and over walls.  He is pure frivolity, a perfect counterweight to Linus's captain-of-industry gravitas.

Sabrina will eventually have to choose between them as they, too, will have to make their choices.

The movie plays lightly on social themes, modernity and romantically democratic notions.  Sabrina's father, Fairchild sums it up with a pair of resigned, yet wise observations.
Thomas Fairchild: I like to think of life as a limousine. Though we are all riding together we must remember our places. There is a front seat and a back seat and a window in between. 
Linus Larrabee: Fairchild, I never realized it before, but you're a terrible snob. 
Thomas Fairchild: Yes sir.
To his daughter Fairchild says: "Democracy can be a wickedly unfair thing Sabrina. Nobody poor was ever called democratic for marrying somebody rich. "

Audrey Hepburn is captivating, exuding her trademark ethereal quality.  With her slightly foreign accent, she seems more other-worldly than merely worldly.  It is completely believable when she corrects her father's admonition that she is still reaching for the moon. "No, father, the the moon is reaching for me."

Wistfulness and playfulness have rarely combined to more charming affect.  When matters spiral beyond her emotional control she confesses to her father that she thought she'd grown up when, really, she'd just gotten a new haircut.

Noman enjoys almost everything these actors are in.  But this movie, and "Roman Holiday," make for especially good viewing with No-family.  

The No-children don't always get Bogie.  And, they certainly didn't get "Sunset Boulevard."  But, they love Audrey Hepburn, almost instinctively.  

Noman enjoys their growing old enough to enjoy "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with him.  But, there is no hurry.  There are so many great movies to enjoy together when they are young.

Sabrina is certainly near the top of the list.

No comments:

Post a Comment