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Sabrina: The Centennial Collection DVD Review

Sabrina: The Centennial Collection

December 2, 2008

Director: Billy Wilder,
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams, Martha Hyer,

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DVD Review

Based on Samuel Taylor’s play, Sabrina Fair, Sabrina (1954) was Audrey Hepburn’s follow-up to Roman Holiday (1953), her very successful Hollywood film debut. On this next one, she would be directed by Billy Wilder and starring alongside Humphrey Bogart and William Holden who already had a string of hit films between them. Taylor adapted his own play to the big screen but left the project after Wilder made his own changes to the storyline.

Linus (Bogart) and David (Holden) are siblings of the massively rich Larrabee family who live in a sprawling estate on Long Island, New York. Sabrina Fairchild (Hepburn) is the beautiful young daughter of the family chauffeur (Williams) and who has a crush on David from afar. Linus and David have taken little notice of Sabrina over the years, but after a two-year stint at a fancy cooking school in Paris, France, she returns a much more proactive participant of life.

Linus is the practical, older brother – the serious one – while David is the carefree playboy type who spends his time racing around in his sports car and marrying (and then divorcing) a string of women. They are quite impressed and also taken with Sabrina’s sophisticated makeover. A love triangle between the three develops, much to the chagrin of both the Fairchild and the Larrabee fathers. They don’t want their children getting involved with each other because it’s a dangerous mix of business and pleasure. While the parents disapprove, the rest of the house staff are delighted by the developing romance and encourage Sabrina from the sidelines. Sabrina is faced with a dilemma: which brother should she choose to be with – the fun, romantic David, or the dependable Linus?

The film features Wilder’s trademark cynicism and knack for dark comedy as we are introduced to Sabrina as she tries to kill herself via carbon monoxide poisoning only to be inadvertently rescued by Linus. Sabrina is a top notch romantic comedy between the lower class, as represented by Sabrina, and the upper class, as represented by Linus and David.

Audrey Hepburn looks impossibly beautiful and glamorous and it’s hard not to see why both Bogart and Holden’s characters are attracted to her. She portrays Sabrina as a charming, wistful dreamer who yearns for a better life and it’s hard not to get caught up in her dreams. In 1995, Paramount foolishly remade Sabrina with Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford, and Greg Kinnear as Sabrina, Linus, and David respectively. While the film is competent enough, it doesn’t hold a candle to Wilder’s classic.

Special Features:

“Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon” features fashion designers like Isaac Mizrahi and Cynthia Rowley talking about how Hepburn ushered in a new style in Hollywood that was a reaction to the curvy, busty look of the 1950s as represented by Marilyn Monroe.

Sabrina’s World” takes a look at the posh Gold Coast area of Long Island depicted in the film. It was the home of the high society and populated by large mansions inhabited by the very rich.

“Supporting Sabrina” examines the colourful character actors that populate the supporting cast of the film and gives each of them a brief biographical sketch including career highlights.

“William Holden: The Paramount Years” takes a look at this legendary actor and his years at the studio. Fellow actors and friends speak admiringly of the man and his impressive body of work.

“Audrey Hepburn: In Her Own Words” examines the origins of the film and how Hepburn got involved with the project.

“Behind the Gates: Camera: takes a look at the cameras used at Paramount Studios, from the early ones on up through the years.

“Paramount in the 50’s” features a collection of highlights from the studio’s impressive roster of films from this decade.

Finally, there are galleries containing production photographs, movie stills, publications shots, and photos from the premiere.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 92%

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