Cast & Crew
One evening, during an annual party at Oliver Larrabee's Long Island estate, chauffeur's daughter Sabrina Fairchild sits in a tree, spying lovingly on David, Oliver's ne'er-do-well son. After observing the thrice-divorced David and a giggling debutante dancing and flirting in the indoor tennis court, Sabrina runs, crying, to the rooms she shares with her widowed English father Thomas. Thomas gently scolds Sabrina for "reaching for the moon" and reminds her that, the next day, she is going to cooking school in Paris, far away from David. Later, in her bedroom, Sabrina ponders her situation, then writes her father a suicide note, shuts herself in the garage and starts the engines of all eight cars.
As Sabrina begins to succumb to the fumes, Linus Larrabee, David's middle-aged, conservative brother, hears the rumbling of the engines and opens the garage to investigate. Unaware of her intentions, Linus saves Sabrina and carries her back to her room. Sometime later, in Paris, Sabrina, still lovesick over David, stumbles through her cooking classes. Deducing the cause of Sabrina's distracted behavior, an elderly baron who is enrolled in the school takes charge of her, transforming her into a sophisticated woman. On Long Island, meanwhile, David, who continues to aggravate Linus with his irresponsible attitudes toward the family business, storms into Linus' New York office, angry over a newspaper item announcing his engagement to socialite Elizabeth Tyson. Linus admits that he planted the item, as he wants David to marry Elizabeth, because her father owns sugar factories in Puerto Rico, and Larrabee Industries needs sugar to manufacture a new type of plastic. After Linus convinces David that the financial merger hinges on the marital "merger," David, who has been dating Elizabeth, agrees to the engagement.
Later, Sabrina, having completed her two-year cooking course, returns to America. With a new hairdo, sleek Paris clothes and fluffy dog named David, Sabrina waits for her father at the Long Island train depot and is pleasantly surprised when David drives up and offers her a ride. Not recognizing Sabrina, David flirts with her and drives her all the way home before realizing who she is. Though stunned, David asks her out that night, then remembers that his family is hosting a party to which Elizabeth has been invited. Sabrina, who is aware of David's engagement, insists on attending, confidently telling her father later that the moon is now "reaching for her." At the party, David slips away from an unsuspecting Elizabeth to dance with Sabrina, who is dressed in a dazzling Paris gown. David instructs Sabrina to wait for him in the tennis court, but before he can leave with his bottle of champagne and glasses, he is waylaid by Linus and Oliver. After the eccentric Oliver lectures David about dallying with the servants, Linus forces David, who has the champagne glasses tucked in his back pockets, to sit down. David's rear end is impaled with broken glass, and while he writhes in pain, Linus meets Sabrina at the tennis court. When Sabrina admits that she is in love with David, Linus claims to endorse the romance and dances with her.
The next day, after presenting David with a plastic hammock with a hole cut out for his rear end, Linus announces he is taking Sabrina sailing. David thanks Linus for "taking care of" Sabrina and remains oblivious to his scheming, even after Elizabeth shows up to nurse him. While pondering whether to go sailing in his Yale University beanie and sweater, Linus informs his father that he is wooing Sabrina in order to distract her from David and thereby protect the merger. On the boat, Linus talks about his two long-lost loves, claiming that he almost committed suicide over one, and Sabrina suggests that he go to Paris to forget his troubles.
The next day, while driving Linus to town, Thomas overhears Linus making arrangements for a date with Sabrina and asks him to be "gentle" with his daughter. Linus assures the class-conscious Thomas that he is sending Sabrina back to Paris, first-class, but when Sabrina arrives at his office, Linus tells her that he is sailing to Paris. At dinner, Sabrina speaks glowingly about Paris and advises Linus not to bring his umbrella, as it will make him look like a tourist. On the drive home, Sabrina sings the romantic French song "La vie en rose," and Linus hints that he is falling in love with her. Later, Sabrina, her feelings about the brothers now confused, tells David that she does not want to see Linus anymore, but the almost recuperated David insists that she be nice to Linus, their only "ally." The next day, at Linus' office, Elizabeth goes over her wedding plans with Linus, and Linus presents Mr. Tyson with his merger contract.
Afterward, Linus explains to Oliver that he is going to buy two boat tickets to Paris and will trick Sabrina into thinking he is on board until she is safely away from New York. Linus also reveals he is paying Sabrina's living expenses in Paris, as well as giving her father some Larrabee stock. Later, Sabrina, who has a dinner date with Linus, telephones him from the office lobby and tells him she cannot see him. Linus persuades Sabrina to come up to his office and asks her to cook an omelette.
Thoroughly confused, Sabrina starts to cry until she notices two boat tickets to Paris on Linus' desk and deduces that one is meant for her. Chagrined by Sabrina's joy, Linus confesses his deception, and heartbroken, Sabrina takes her ticket and leaves. The next morning, before a board meeting, David confronts Linus in his office, slugging him after revealing that Sabrina broke off with him. David then declares he is going to Paris, even though he knows that Linus is in love with Sabrina. During the board meeting, Linus announces that the merger is off as David is on his way to Paris with Sabrina, but before Elizabeth, her father and the board can register their shock, David storms in and goads Linus into hitting him and admitting that he loves Sabrina. After David tells him that a tugboat is waiting to take him to Sabrina's ocean liner, Linus races to the docks. Once on board the liner, Linus discards his umbrella and reunites with a surprised Sabrina.
Francis X. Bushman
C. C. Coleman Jr.
John P. Fulton
Hubert De Givenchy
Charles Lang Jr.
Best Costume Design
Best Art Direction
Best Writing, Screenplay
British ingenue Audrey Hepburn had become a worldwide sensation in her first American film, Roman Holiday (1953). Sabrina, based on Samuel Taylor's Broadway hit, Sabrina Fair, would be the follow-up, and Paramount assigned it to Billy Wilder, one of their top directors. Wilder wanted Cary Grant to play the stuffy older brother Linus, who woos Sabrina in order to distract her from the unsuitable romance with his irresponsible brother David. Grant was unavailable, and Humphrey Bogart, who had just signed a three-picture deal with Paramount, was chosen to play Linus. To play David, Wilder selected William Holden, who had won an Oscar for his performance in Wilder's Stalag 17 (1953). Location shooting would take place on the Long Island estate of Paramount chairman Barney Balaban.
Bogart and Wilder were both used to having their own way, and they clashed immediately. Bogart came into the film already resentful, because he knew he was second choice. He disliked Wilder's autocratic style of directing, and resented the director's closeness to the younger, handsomer Holden, and Wilder's obvious affection for the charming Hepburn. Bogart's resentment boiled over when the trio began having cocktails in Holden's trailer. Wilder later said that there was no slight intended; he just forgot to invite Bogart. On the set, Bogart mocked Wilder's Viennese accent, calling him a "Nazi son of a bitch," and a "kraut bastard." Wilder, a Jew, was deeply offended, and retaliated with some insults of his own. The atmosphere was acrimonious all during production. After Sabrina wrapped, Wilder and Bogart patched up their differences. When Bogart was dying of cancer a few years later, Wilder paid him a final visit, and Bogart apologized. Although he had called Bogart "evil, a bore, a coward," Wilder would later admit, "he was very good, better than he thought he was. He liked to play the hero, and in the end, he was."
Wilder had his own problems during the making of Sabrina. He was in pain from a back problem, and he and writer Ernest Lehman were barely keeping up with rewrites during production. On at least one occasion, when he didn't have enough new pages for that day's work, he asked Hepburn to feign illness so the rest of the day's shooting would be cancelled, giving him time to do more rewrites. Hepburn did as she was told, even though it made her appear difficult or unprofessional.
Meanwhile, Hepburn and Holden were also playing out a personal drama. The long-married Holden routinely had affairs with his co-stars, and he was immediately attracted to Hepburn, becoming protective of her when Bogart disparaged her. Soon, they embarked on a passionate romance, and Hepburn hoped to marry Holden and have children with him. However, Holden had had a vasectomy after his two sons were born, and he knew his wife would not give him a divorce. The affair ended as soon as shooting was completed.
Hepburn began another relationship during the making of Sabrina, however, that would last a lifetime. Paramount costume designer Edith Head, who had designed her costumes for Roman Holiday, would only provide Hepburn's everyday wardrobe in Sabrina. Wilder wanted Sabrina to return from France with an elegant wardrobe, and sent Hepburn to see the hottest young designer in Paris, Hubert de Givenchy. When Hepburn arrived, Givenchy's assistant told him "Miss Hepburn" was waiting to see him. The designer assumed it was Katharine Hepburn, whom he admired, and his disappointment was obvious. However, the disappointment didn't last long. He told Hepburn to choose what she wanted from his latest collection, and was impressed by her fashion sense. She asked him to modify one evening dress to hide her prominent collarbone, which he did. The style became so popular that it came to be known as the "Sabrina neckline." They became close friends, and Givenchy would provide Hepburn's personal wardrobe for the rest of her life as well as design clothes for most of her films.
None of the difficulties during production showed in the finished product, a film as frothy and delicate as the souffles Sabrina learns to make. The New York Times called Sabrina "the most delightful comedy-romance in years." The film was a worldwide hit, and retains its freshness, wit and elegance after more than 50 years. Hepburn, who won the Oscar® for Roman Holiday, would be nominated again for Sabrina, one of six nominations the film received. It won only one, for costume design. Although Edith Head won the Oscar® based on Givenchy's costumes, he was not credited, and she accepted the award without mentioning him. Hepburn was devastated, and called Givenchy to apologize. She promised the designer that it would never happen again. According to Givenchy, she kept that promise.
Producer/Director: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor, Ernest Lehman, based on the play Sabrina Fair by Samuel Taylor
Cinematography: Charles Lang, Jr.
Editor: Arthur Schmidt
Costume Design: Edith Head, Hubert de Givenchy (uncredited)
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Music: Frederick Hollander
Principal Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Linus Larrabee), Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina Fairchild), William Holden (David Larrabee), Walter Hampden (Oliver Larrabee), John Williams (Thomas Fairchild), Martha Hyer (Elizabeth Tyson), Marcel Dalio (Baron), Marcel Hillaire (the Professor), Nella Walker (Maude Larrabee).
BW-114m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri
Ernest Lehman (1915-2005)
Born on December 8, 1915 in New York City, Lehman graduated from New York's City College with a degree in English. After graduation he found work as a writer for many mediums: radio, theater, and popular magazines of the day like Collier's before landing his first story in Hollywood for the comedy, The Inside Story (1948). The success of that film didn't lead immediately to screenwriting some of Hollywood's biggest hits, but his persistancy to break into the silver screen paid off by the mid-'50s: the delicious Audrey Hepburn comedy Sabrina (1954, his first Oscar® nomination and first Golden Globe award); Paul Newman's first hit based on the life of Rocky Graziano Somebody Up There Likes Me; and his razor sharp expose of the publicity world based on his own experiences as an assistant for a theatre publicist The Sweet Smell of Success (1957).
Lehman's verasitily and gift for playful dialogue came to the fore for Alfred Hitchcock's memorable North by Northwes (1959, his second Oscar® nomination); and he showed a knack for moving potentially stiff Broadway fodder into swift cinematic fare with West Side Story (1961, a third Oscar® nomination); The Sound of Music (1965); Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); and Hello, Dolly! (1969, the last two being his final Oscar® nominations for screenwriting).
Lehman took his turn as a director when he adapted Philip Roth's comic novel Portnoy's Complaint (1972) for film, and despite some good reviews, it wasn't a commercial hit. He wrote just two more screenplays before retiring: an underrated comic mystery gem for Hitchcock Family Plot (1976); and the big budget Robert Shaw espionage drama Black Sunday (1977). Lehman served as president of the Writers Guild of America from 1983-85. After going zero for five with his Oscar® nominations, the Academy made it up to him in 2001, by presenting him with an honorary Academy Award for his "body of varied and enduring work." Lehman is survived by his wife Laurie and three children.
by Michael T. Toole
Ernest Lehman (1915-2005)
TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers.
Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft).
Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck.
Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory.
As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules.
By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy.
In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide.
Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed.
By Jeremy Geltzer
TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder
You're still reaching for the moon.- Thomas Fairchild
No, father. The moon's reaching for me!- Sabrina Fairchild
Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some 30 miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate. The estate was very large indeed and had many servants. There were gardeners to take care of the gardens, and a tree surgeon on a retainer. There was a boatman to take care of the boats: to put them in the water in the spring, and scrape their bottoms in the winter. There were specialists to take care of the grounds: the outdoor tennis court and the indoor tennis court, the outdoor swimming pool and the indoor swimming pool. And there was a man of no particular title who took care of a small pool in the garden for a goldfish named George. Also on the estate, there was a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild, who had been imported from England, years ago, together with a new Rolls Royce. Fairchild was a fine chauffeur of considerable polish, like the eight cars in his care, and he had a daughter by the name of Sabrina. It was the eve of the annual six meter yacht races, and as had been tradition on Long Island for the past 30 years, the Larrabees were giving a party. It never rained on the night of the Larrabee party, the Larrabees wouldn't have stood for it. There were four Larrabees in all: father, mother and two sons. Maude and Oliver Larrabee were married in nineteen hundred and six and among their many wedding presents was a townhouse in New York and this estate for weekends. The town house has since been converted into Saks Fifth Avenue. Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him the man Most Likely to Leave his Alma Mater Fifty Million Dollars. His brother, David, went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time, and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player, and is listed on Linus's tax return as a six hundred dollar deduction. Life was pleasant among the Larrabees, for this was as close to heaven as one could get on Long Island.- Sabrina Fairchild
A woman happily in love, she burns the souffle. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven.- Baron St. Fontanel
Bonjour, mesdames et monsiuers. Yesterday we have learned the correct way how to boil water. Today we will learn the correct way how to crack an egg. Voila! An egg. Now, 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.- The Professor
You don't live here!- David Larrabee
Yes, I do.- Sabrina
I live here!- David Larrabee
Hi, neighbor.- Sabrina
Humphrey Bogart was a last minute replacement for Cary Grant. Bogart and 'Holden, William' couldn't stand each other. Bogart disapproved of Audrey Hepburn (he wanted his wife Lauren Bacall in the role), while Holden fell in love with her. Bogart got $300000, Holden got $150000, and Hepburn only $15000. Asked how he liked working with Hepburn, Bogart replied: "It's ok, if you don't mind to make 20 takes."
The music features three main themes: - "Isn't love romantic?": Holden's theme (superficial love) - "La vie en rose?": Hepburn's theme (romantic "deep" love) - "Banana song": Bogart's theme (cynical, deceitful "love") - Hepburn's theme "wins."
Although Edith Head won an Oscar for costume design, most of Audrey's wardrobe was by Hubert de Givenchy. In fact, Audrey chose her own clothes to wear from Hubert's collection. This was her first time working with the French designer, and he would become her costumer of choice for most of her career.
This was the second film in a row where Audrey gets her hair cut as a symbol of maturity. The first was in Roman Holiday (1953). It is also the first of four films in a row where she'd play a character romantically linked with a man old enough to be her father.
Originally titled Sabrina Fair, the title was changed in the US so audiences wouldn't link it with highbrow stories like Vanity Fair.
The working title of this film was Sabrina Fair. The film opens with voice-over narration, spoken by Audrey Hepburn as her character, "Sabrina." According to a March 1953 Daily Variety news item, Paramount paid $75,000 for the rights to Samuel Taylor's play, prior to its first production. An August 1953 Variety item reported that Paramount had bought the rights with the proviso that the film would not be released until the play had run for one year. The film started production in late September 1953, and the play, which starred Joseph Cotten as "Linus" and Margaret Sullavan as Sabrina, opened in New York in mid-November 1953.
Some modern sources contend that Audrey Hepburn, whose previous film was Paramount's hit Roman Holiday (see entry above), had read Taylor's play before Paramount's involvement and convinced the studio to buy it for her. Other modern sources state that producer-director Billy Wilder found the play and suggested that the studio, to whom he was under contract, buy it as a vehicle for Hepburn. According to a November 1953 Variety item, Paramount considered changing the film's title to The Chauffeur's Daughter. Sabrina marked Humphrey Bogart's first film for Paramount, and the last Paramount picture for Wilder, who had made seventeen films at the studio over an eighteen-year period.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: Taylor, who is credited as a co-screenwriter, quit the film after Wilder substantially altered his play. Cary Grant was first offered the role of Linus, but after some consideration, turned it down. One modern source claims that Grant rejected the part because he did not want to carry an umbrella onscreen. Bogart negotiated for $200,000 in salary and script approval, but because of scheduling conflicts with the stars, production was moved up, and principal photography began before the shooting script was finished. Modern sources state that Lehman, whom Paramount borrowed from M-G-M, worked frantically to complete the script during filming and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown. One scene was written during a lunch break and shot that afternoon in seventy-two takes. The scene in which "David" forces Linus to reveal his love for Sabrina had to be shot before Wilder and Lehman had decided whether Linus would end up with Sabrina, because William Holden, who played David, had to leave for another role.
As noted in a 1995 Time article, Hepburn originally wanted famed couterier Cristóbal Balenciaga to design her costumes for Sabrina, but he turned her down. She then asked Hubert de Givenchy, Balenciaga's lesser known protegé. (One modern source claims that Wilder's wife Audrey discovered Givenchy during a Paris shopping spree and brought him to her husband's attention.) Because of the costumes' high price, modern sources report, Paramount insisted that Hepburn pay for them herself as part of her personal wardrobe. One of Givenchy's costumes, a black cocktail dress, became a fashion sensation after the film's release, and its high neckline became known as the "Sabrina neckline." Givenchy, who continued to design clothes for Hepburn during her entire life, did not receive any billing on the film, and although she was responsible only for Sabrina's pre-Paris costumes, Edith Head won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts, some scenes were shot in New York City. An August 1953 Variety news item noted that shooting also took place at Paramount president Barney Balaban's boat landing in Mamaroneck, Long Island, NY. Modern sources add that the yard and swimming pool of William Paley's Long Island estate were used for one scene, and that process shots were taken at Long Island's Glen Cove railway station. The process shots, however, were redone in Los Angeles, according to modern sources. A Hollywood Reporter news item adds Rand Harper to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
In addition to Head's Oscar, Sabrina was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography (b&w), Best Writing (Screenplay) and Best Director. Wilder, Taylor and Lehman won the 1954 Writers Guild award for "Best Written American Comedy." In 1965, Sabrina was reissued with Breakfast at Tiffany's (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). In 1995, Paramount released Sabrina, an updated version of the 1954 film, starring Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond and Greg Kinnear. Sydney Pollack directed the remake, and Wilder, Taylor and Lehman received screenwriting credit with Barbara Benedek and David Rayful.
Voted Best Supporting Actor (Williams--shared with his work in "Dial M For Murder") and One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1954 National Board of Review.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1954 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States Fall October 1954
Released in United States November 1972
Re-released in United States December 14, 1990
Re-released in United States on Video June 11, 1996
Remade in 1995, starring Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond and directed by Sydney Pollack.
Selected in 2002 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Filming began September 1953.
Filming completed November 1953.
Re-released in United States on Video June 11, 1996 (Collector's Edition)
Released in United States Fall October 1954
Released in United States November 1972 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Billy Wilder Marathon) November 9-19, 1972.)
Re-released in United States December 14, 1990 (Film Forum; New York City)