Review: Sabrina (1954)


I don’t know how you can ignore Audrey Hepburn, impossible I say!

Screenplay By: Ernest Lehman, Samuel A. Taylor & Billy Wilder
Directed By: Billy Wilder

Every once in a while you need to watch a lighthearted movie with slight social commentary under its surface. Sabrina is one such movie, it is the lightest of takes on the Cenerentola story while also containing slight bits of social commentary. Audrey Hepburn is gorgeous, Humphrey Bogart is brittle yet just waiting to be cracked open, and William Holden is charming and full of himself. The dialogue is funny, sly, and witty. The direction is typical Billy Wilder, simple and to the point but also full of visual delights.

The social commentary in Sabrina isn’t touched on too much and a lot of people may miss it if they don’t want to look for it. Herr Wilder takes jabs at the tried and true social foundations of the wealthy versus the not as financially inclined, love as a concept, and most of all love versus achievement in the world. Or, whether or not success can make you happy to put it better. Mr. Bogart as Lionel is very successful, and he appears to be happy. But, the moment he begins to realize he is in love with Sabrina his success feels hollow and so does his life as a result. The old adage is that love conquers all, and in very non-Billy Wilder, read not cynical, fashion love conquers any dreams of financial or business success that Lionel may have still harbored. The other ideas, love as a concept and the wealthy versus the non-wealthy aren’t given as much time, but they are still briefly looked at and given a once over.

The only failings in Sabrina aren’t all that much of failings, it is a story that has been done numerous times throughout history and there is the Miss Hepburn factor. The Cenerentola model of the poor girl redone into a princess has been around for ages and for as great as it is Sabrina doesn’t tread any new ground with the battle tested mythos. I also have a bit of a hard time envisioning any scenario where pre-Paris Sabrina would not be looked upon as a beauty by David or Lionel. Even when they try to smudge her up and downplay her beauty, Audrey Hepburn is Audrey Hepburn, and is simply gorgeous. However, the acting is good throughout, and it’s a very whimsical tale. The film moves at a very swift pace, taking you along for a very enjoyable ride that overcomes by a wide margin any pitfalls it may house.

Sabrina is very light, it’s a breeze to watch, and it flies by fast mainly due to how light it is in tone, and in the way it takes on any of the above social issues. Watching Miss Hepburn in any good romantic comedy is always a treat, but pairing her with such stalwarts as Misters Holden and Bogart made Sabrina even more of a treat than her usual romantic comedy fare. I’ve heard the remake, Sabrina, is pretty good as well, but it doesn’t have Audrey Hepburn and that’s why if you need to see one version of Sabrina make this is the one you check out.



Bill Thompson

One response to “Review: Sabrina (1954)

  1. Pingback: Saturday Night Movies…The Late TV Kind | It Rains... You Get Wet

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