1954, Movie, NR, 112 mins


Three recent Oscar winners and the sure guidance of Wilder helped make this familiar Cinderella story into something more than it might have been under other auspices. Holden was 36 at the time, a bit old for a dissolute playboy. Further, he is eclipsed by Bogart's performance as his older brother, an unaccustomed comedy role that showed Bogie could play for laughs as well as sneers. Wilder had already won an Oscar, and co-author Lehman was to be the recipient of the coveted statuette later, so this was a formidable team. The story isn't much, but it's the treatment and the witty dialogue that set it apart from the ordinary.

Holden and Bogart are the wealthy sons of Hampden and Walker. Holden lives for fast cars and faster women; Bogart is a hard-headed businessman. Also living on the estate are Williams, the chauffeur, and his impressionable daughter, Hepburn. She's mad about Holden, and attempts suicide when she realizes he's only toying with her. Williams sends her to France, where she is transformed into a sophisticated lady of fashion. In the US, Bogart seeks to enhance the family's wealth by marrying Holden off to heiress Hyer. Hepburn returns to Long Island, and once Holden gets a look at this new version, he falls for her. Hepburn is determined to win Holden, but Bogart and Hampden are determined to prevent the match. To take her mind off Holden, bachelor Bogart pretends to be courting her. The expected romantic complications follow.

A charming, if often-seen, tale, paced with alacrity by Wilder from the adaptation of Taylor's hit play which had starred Margaret Sullavan, SABRINA was a resounding hit at the box office and with the critics and proved that silk purses were still possible from less than perfect sources. Bogart had been making movies for more than two decades, but this was his first effort for Paramount. He and Wilder did not get along and had differing views of what was funny. Whoever won those battles will never be known, but the results were satisfying, as Bogart played drawing-room comedy with aplomb. leave a comment

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