What do you get when you place Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden in a romantic triangle under the masterful direction of Billy Wilder? The answer is “Sabrina,” an enchanting soufflé as light and delicious as anything our title heroine might have whipped together at her Parisian cooking school. This 1954 adaptation, much altered by Wilder, of Samuel A. Taylor’s Broadway hit, is currently available for home viewing through Roanoke Cox Cable’s Epix On DEMAND.
The only thing larger than the Larrabee’s vast estate is their skyscraper office building in New York City. In spite of the estate’s indoor and outdoor tennis courts and swimming pools and other luxuries, workaholic Linus Larrabee (Bogart) spends most of his time at the office with no room for a woman in his life. Younger playboy brother David (Holden) spends far too much time with far too many ladies and has to be reminded of his office’s location and work hours. The young and lovely chauffer’s daughter, Sabrina (Hepburn), lives above the estate’s garage as a polite acquaintance of both.
Unbeknownst to him, Sabrina has loved David from afar all her life. She returns from some lightly comic escapades at a Paris culinary school a new, fashionable and very grown woman. David, now very aware of her, is instantly smitten and determines to marry her. However, Linus sees calamity for the family’s business plans and places himself between Sabrina and her possible girlhood dream come true. Unexpectedly, his gambit to save the family business turns into something much more personal.
While romantic comedy was something new for Bogey, who was in his fifties at the time, he’s wonderfully lighthearted and charming under his tough veneer. There’s also a hint of pain in his performance that pulls us further into his corner and keeps us wondering how things will turn out. A highly energetic Holden jumps in and out of his sports car, leaps over stair railings and slyly arranges assignations till his plans sideline him with a buttocks full of stitches. An Oscar nominated Hepburn is all sweet longing, bewilderment and sadness and looks great in Edith Head’s Oscar winning costumes.
Wilder delivers moments of masterful storytelling with no need for words. A highlight sees David’s champagne cork hitting the tennis court window right where Sabrina lovingly watches him pitch woo. David then knocks down the net that separates him from his pigeon. Sabrina silently turns to leave past the very much still intact outdoor net and her face tells us everything. Priceless.