Friday, July 16, 2010


Cooking instructor: And now, mesdames et messieurs, soon we will see how you have learned the lesson of the soufflé. The soufflé, it must be…gay. Gay! Like two butterflies dancing the waltz in the summer breeze.

Baron Saint Fontenelle: A woman happily in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven.

Sabrina is a bit of a “Cinderella” story: working-class girl grows up in love with wealthy heir; girl is transformed into a “princess”; heir falls in love; all live happily ever after. In this case, the twist is that as she matures, the girl finds that her first love, the handsome playboy heir, fails to maintain her interest, and she falls for the older, respectable brother.

To help his daughter overcome her unreachable love for wealthy David Larrabee (Holden), chauffeur Fairchild (Williams) sends his daughter, Sabrina (Hepburn), to Paris for a two-year cooking degree. While cooking thus plays a pivotal role in the film, the movie has only a few scenes involving food. At the cooking school in Paris, Sabrina begins at the very beginning: she learns the “correct way” to boil water. The next day, she learns how to crack an egg; in the words of the instructor, “An egg is not a stone. It is not made of wood. It is a living thing. It has a heart. So when we crack it, we must not torment it. We must be merciful and execute it quickly, like with the guillotine.” Although she forgets to turn on the oven to bake her soufflé, she does finally put aside her unrequited love sufficiently to finish the course. As she explains to Linus Larrabee (Bogart) when preparing to make dinner out of the meager supplies in his office kitchen, “I’m a graduate cook, you know. I have a diploma.” Although she shows him the proper way to crack an egg, she never does cook for Linus.

Paris, of course, teaches Sabrina more than just how to cook; in her own words, “I have learned so many things, Father—not just how to make vichyssoise or calf’s head with sauce vinaigrette, but a much more important recipe. I have learned how to live, how to be in the world and of the world…and not just to stand aside and watch. And I will never, never again run away from life…or from love, either.” Engaged to be married for the fourth time, David nevertheless falls madly in love with Sabrina upon her return, though she is so changed that he doesn’t recognize her at first. And she pursues him with all the enthusiasm of having loved him since she was a child, despite her father’s admonitions. Older brother Linus, however, interferes to keep David’s engagement—and the planned business merger to result from the wedding—on track. In the end, Linus and Sabrina are surprised to find themselves falling in love; according to the standard Hollywood romance formula, they of course follow their heartstrings and, in the end, set sail together for Parisian adventures.

Released 1954
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor, and Ernest Lehman, from the play by Samuel Taylor

Starring Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild, Humphrey Bogart as Linus Larrabee, William Holden as David Larrabee, Walter Hampden as Oliver Larrabee, and John Williams as Thomas Fairchild

Awards: 1955 Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black and White; 1955 Golden Globe for Best Screenplay; 1954 National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor (Williams); 2002 National Film Registry; 1955 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy

No comments: