The beautiful and immensely talented Audrey Hepburn had a career that spanned nearly 40 years, containing performances in many popular films including “My Fair Lady,” “The Nun’s Story,” Wait Until Dark,” and “Charade.” Her work saw her garner five Oscar nominations for Best Actress, including a win for her performance in “Roman Holiday.” To celebrate her incredible career, Paramount and Warner Bros. have put together a set of three of her romantic comedies, “Sabrina,” “Funny Face,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” two of which earned her another pair of Oscar nominations. Without further delay, let’s get right to it, starting with one of the best films in her filmography.
Billy Wilder’s romantic comedy classic “Sabrina” has Hepburn playing the titular character, the daughter of a chauffeur for the Larrabees, a rich family in the plastics business. Sabrina has her eye on David Larrabee (William Holden), but can only watch from afar as the family throws lavish parties on a regular basis, parties at which the already thrice-married David always seems to be womanizing. Sabrina’s father decides that it would be best to send her to cooking school in Paris, after which she returns home having learned a lot more than just cooking. In fact, she is so classed up upon her return that David doesn’t even recognize her, sparking the beginning of a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, David’s brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart), concocts other plans for him. He arranges it so that David will marry the daughter of a wealthy family with links to material they need for their plastics. Regardless of this, the relationship between Sabrina and David continues. However, when the latter has a slight accident, it is Linus who steps in to take care of her, but is he truly falling in love with her, or does he perhaps have an ulterior motive?
“Sabrina” is one of those rare romantic-comedies that’s an absolute charmer from beginning to end. The film is bolstered by an excellent screenplay by Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, and Samuel Taylor, whose play was the basis for the film. Not only does it keep the story moving at a fine pace, but it’s filled with memorable dialogue and contains an intriguing plot that just might keep some guessing as to the outcome right up until the last minute. Of course, the outstanding ensemble must also be taken into account. The Oscar-winning leads, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden, all give performances that feature them at the top of their game. They command the screen as the story unfolds, pulling you into this peculiar love triangle and never letting go. It came as no surprise that the film wound up with six Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay, as well as a win for its gorgeous costumes. Simply put, this is a classic that still holds great delight even 60 years later.
“Funny Face” concerns a fashion magazine, “Quality,” whose editor, Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), is looking for a new model to represent their latest line. While on a photo-shoot at a local bookshop, they come across Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), an intelligent young girl who works there. She strongly objects to them using her store for the shoot and tries to get them to leave, but is unsuccessful. After they’re finished, she thinks she’s seen the last of them, but once the search for a new model begins, the magazine’s photographer, Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), immediately thinks of her. It takes a little convincing for Maggie and for Jo, but pretty soon, they’re off to Paris to have one of the top designers in the world create new clothes for Jo to model. As Jo and Dick spend more and more time together during their work, they start to find themselves attracted to one another, but certain complications just might put an end to it before it even begins.
Of the three films in this set, this was the one that I was unfamiliar with, but it’s not particularly hard to see why. It’s a sweet, well-intentioned film, but it doesn’t really have anything that stands out about it, especially coming from a period that saw the release of multitudes of romantic-comedy-musicals. The biggest issue it has is its rather generic story that doesn’t do much to draw you in, nor are the characters ones that you particularly care about. The smattering of songs it contains is decent enough, but it certainly doesn’t help that the film goes on pause on several occasions for completely unnecessary dance sequences (including one entirely awkward and bizarre example from Hepburn in a Parisian café). Whereas “Sabrina” had at least tried to keep audiences guessing as to how things would resolve, there’s never a doubt how “Funny Face” is going to conclude, which only serves to make it feel even more drawn-out. The leads (Hepburn, Astaire, and Thompson) all do marvelous jobs with what they have, but sadly there just isn’t much to this material, making this a rather forgettable musical outing that remains not much more than a footnote in Hepburn’s incredible career.
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is the rather strange tale of the relationship between a young New York socialite, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), and a new tenant in her building, a writer by the name of Paul Varjak (George Peppard). After their first abrupt meeting upon his arrival, they soon find themselves spending a lot of time together. We learn that she gets paid for weekly visits to a criminal in Sing Sing, while Paul gets paid for certain services to an older woman whom he calls “2E” (Patricia Neal), having not written anything in years. Things become complicated when Holly’s ex-husband shows up to take her back home to reunite with her brother who’s returning from the Army in a few months, but she decides that she can’t leave New York, deciding instead to pursue a marriage to one of the wealthiest men in America. This puts Paul in an odd spot as he finds that he’s developed deep feelings for her, but with Holly having riches in mind, it’s a relationship that just might never come to be.
This is indeed a strange film, one that the great Audrey Hepburn is most known for next to “My Fair Lady” and “Roman Holiday.” However, what makes it odd is the fact that it seems like a rather frenetic movie with Hepburn’s many scenes of rapid-fire dialogue with Peppard, except that it actually takes about half of the film before the plot begins to move forward (the introduction of her ex-husband), meaning that a lot is said, but much of it is inconsequential, especially in the drawn-out party scene in Holly’s apartment. Even after the plot does begin to move forward with the news of her brother coming home, this section of the film is wrapped up in about 15 minutes, leaving the film to drift once again in search of something to develop the story. The second half of the film does begin to finds its way, but even so, Holly remains a rather unlikeable character, one that fails to elicit much sympathy due to her shallow pursuit of riches when she clearly has someone with deep feelings for her right in front of her. Like with the other two films in this set, the performances are outstanding (aside from a rather embarrassing turn by Mickey Rooney as a Japanese tenant in Holly’s building), earning Hepburn her fourth Oscar nomination, but the screenplay by George Axelrod (ironically Oscar-nominated as well), based on the novel by Truman Capote, comes across as being filled with more empty space than substance. Overall, it’s not a bad film, there just isn’t enough here to recommend spending two hours with it.
All three films in the set arrive on Blu-ray in pristine 1.85: 1, 1080p High Definition transfers. The picture for each film looks so incredibly sharp and perfectly clear that you’d hardly guess that they’re 50-60 years old. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio tracks on all three films are flawless, giving you all sound elements at exceptional levels. Overall, the studios have done an amazing job breathing new life into these classic Hepburn projects, ensuring that generations to come will be able to see them the way they were meant to be seen.
- Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon
- Sabrina’s World
- Supporting Sabrina
- William Holden: The Paramount Years
- Sabrina Documentary
- Behind the Scenes: Camera
Funny Face (1956)
- Kay Thompson: Think Pink!
- This is VistaVision
- Fashion Photographers Exposed
- The Fashion Designer and His Muse
- Parisian Dreams
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
- Commentary by Producer Richard Shepherd
- A Golightly Gathering
- Henry Mancini: More Than Music
- Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective
- The Making of a Classic
- It’s So Audrey: A Style Icon
- Behind the Gates: The Tour
- Brilliance in a Blue Box
- Audrey’s Letter to Tiffany
Each film offers up an intriguing set of extras that includes featurettes on Hepburn and her fellow stars, as well as some “Making ofs.” A lot of these are little throwaway featurettes that aren’t really worth watching (such as the ones that concentrate mainly on fashion), but there’s more than enough here to make fans of the films happy, especially with those included on “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which contains the only commentary in the set. Overall, the star bios and “Making ofs” are definitely worth the time to watch.
Unfortunately, with only one great film and two that aren’t so much, I can’t quite recommend picking up the set. However, there’s no doubt that “Funny Face” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” have their fans, so if you’re one of those who enjoys all three of these films, then undoubtedly you would find a lot to admire about this three-disc set. If not, all three are readily available separately on Blu-ray, making my final recommendation simply to pick up “Sabrina” and enjoy one of the best films that Audrey Hepburn ever made.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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