1950s · 1954 · blogathon · classic film · Uncategorized

The moon’s very own Sabrina Fairchild.

There is no one dreamier than Audrey Hepburn, and nowhere is this more evident than in Billy Wilder’s 1954 romantic comedy, Sabrina. Based on the Samuel Taylor play Sabrina Fair (which I’ve finally borrowed from the library), the film is a Cinderella tale. A chauffeur’s daughter transforms from an awkward duckling into a graceful swan.

tumblr_mpoe00vUMY1s5wuldo1_500
Theater marquee advertising the film’s Oscar winning stars.

Sabrina Fairchild has had an all consuming, unrequited crush on David Larrabee (William Holden) for years. He’s the youngest son of the wealthy Larrabee family on a Long Island estate. Sabrina’s father Thomas (John Williams) has been the family chauffeur ever since she was a little girl. He disapproves of her crush for two reasons: 1) class differences 2) David is an incorrigible playboy who’s already been married and divorced multiple times.

At one of the Larrabee parties, Sabrina keeps watch from her perch in a tree. David, all suave and sneaky, disappears from the party with a young woman named Gretchen. Sabrina of course, desperately wishes she was in Gretchen’s place. As David is passing below beneath her tree, she jumps down from it.

“Oh, Sabrina. I thought I heard somebody.”

“No. It’s nobody.”

sabrina1sabrina2

I read a particularly vicious criticism of Audrey recently. While not everyone is obligated to fall under her spell, I do think she’s too often dismissed as an actress. Because of her own modesty and the fact that she trained as a dancer and was never actively pursuing a film career, she would be the first to say she was never much of an actress. But her performance as Sabrina is so earnest. She’s wonderfully emotive. The eyes. Heartbreak lives in those eyes. Heartbreak, longing. Poor Sabrina. If this was a different film and she wasn’t spending so much time, energy, and loveworn fantasies on David, Sabrina would be the girl with hopeless crushes on dead movie stars. (Ahem).

So this is our girl. Not an ugly duckling, but an unnoticeable one. As much as I’d love this film to be a comfort to all awkward, lonely, unnoticeable teenage girls, it’s just a bit too Hollywood. Sabrina is luckier than most because she goes on a trip to Paris. Her father is hoping that she’ll forget David while she’s a student at a distinguished culinary school. David takes up more room in her mind and memory than before. But something does change. Sabrina gets a glamorous makeover on the outside, and a renewed look at her life. She vows in a letter to her father that she’s never going to run away from life – or from love, either.

When Sabrina arrives back in Long Island, hair shorn and wearing a chic Givenchy suit, she’s no longer the shrinking violet hiding in a tree.

sabrina3

The camera pans over her body slowly, moving upwards from her legs to her face. The instrumental version of “La Vie en Rose” is playing when we see this new Sabrina. The music, the camera, the girl; all of it produces a dazzling effect. She is exquisite, and the first person to see this new Sabrina is none other than David. He doesn’t recognize her but he’s attracted to her immediately. Sabrina has a lot of fun toying with him as he guesses about her identity. And when he does learn that she is Sabrina, the same kid who used to go whipping around corners when she heard him coming, he decides that he wants her.

Thomas Fairchild tries to discourage his daughter from pursuing David or allowing herself to be pursued. David is engaged, but Sabrina coyly brushes this off.

“But he’s still David Larrabee. And you’re still the chauffeur’s daughter. And you’re still reaching for the moon.”

sabrina4

I can’t be sure if this quote has had a far reaching impact on pop culture, but I do know that it expresses realized longing in the most beautiful way imaginable. Sabrina isn’t merely setting out to steal David from his fiancee. She still has so much more to learn, much more growing to do, but for now, the moon is in her orbit. Audrey is so dreamy here. It captures to me all the hopefulness of a young girl. To see good things happening for you, to be more than just optimistic, to no longer feel as if all those things you’ve dreamed for are as distant as the moon. She’s not stretching out her arms for something impossible; the impossible is coming down to her.

_______________________

This is my second post for the second annual Classic Quotes blogathon. Click on the banner to read more!

its-a-wonderful-quote

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “The moon’s very own Sabrina Fairchild.

  1. Yes- I think Audrey gains confidence both as an actress and in her character in Sabrina- this was only her second film- but she won the Oscar for her first- so she did have a lot to live up to with her second role- more than most actresses! I just love this movie- and Even though I adore her and Bill Holden together as a couple- its still just great because it is! Thanks for submitting 2 posts!!! Emily

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Probably because I’m such a sucker for Cinderella themes, this was the movie that made me shift my opinion of Audrey Hepburn as an actress (and ironically when she’s teamed up with my ~beloved Bogart /sarcasm). I’m not able to connect with a lot of Audrey’s characters for some reason or another. Maybe because of the point you make about it still being a little too Hollywood. For the most part Audrey is so often pedaled or marketed as this ultra-thin, posh and modern character (the ‘I believe in pink’ Audrey subculture so to speak) even when she’s playing with the expectations of that kind of character (e.g. My Fair Lady or How To Steal A Million) or doing something else completely (e.g. Green Mansions or Wait Until Dark).

    Obviously, the older I get the more I see it as marketing and misconceptions and obsession with Breakfast At Tiffany’s as opposed to anything greatly to do with Audrey – who like you’ve pointed out here and I’ve learned on my own, was actually quite insecure. And you’ve done your part in helping me get past my knee-jerk reaction of, “well, yeah, of course everyone loves her; she’s pretty and wispy and idyllic.” Still, it’s that long-held knee-jerk reaction that made it difficult for me, an ugly duckling (by societal standards) and unnoticeable one reaching for the moon with no (currently available) means of making the moon reach for me, that made it a little difficult to fall under her very specific spell.

    Until this movie. Which I will always find insanely ironic. Sabrina is a lovesick, over-dramatic, pretty, and privileged – if not overly rich (and I understand costs were different then) – girl who spends half of the film with no moral qualm, towards herself or the other woman, trying to “steal” (men can’t be stolen if they don’t want to be, of course) a man who so obviously doesn’t want her until she changes every single thing about herself to turn his head (likely temporarily if his ability to give her up so easily to Linus in a sudden bout of altruism is any indication). The point is, all of that should rankle my deep insecurities about such shallowness, and it probably did up until she started to grow throughout the movie, and I probably shouldn’t be able to relate to her, and yet I do. I fell in love with her performance in this film because in spite of the shallowness, she’s so earnest. I see myself in Sabrina Fairchild. If I were in her position, as much as I wish my convictions were stronger, I’d do much of the same. If I’m being completely honest, I’m shallow and overdramatic and want to turn people’s heads, only I haven’t had the same chance that Sabrina got. When I see Sabrina, I see the insecurity and self-loathing that leads her on her quest to make peace with herself more than her shortcomings in the quest itself.

    This is probably why I’m also completely okay that she ends up with Linus. Jarring age difference aside, it takes the (surface-level) problematic aspect of Cinderella everyone complains about and turns it into a situation where, yes, Sabrina can dress herself up and get the prince and maybe live happily ever after or maybe not OR she can make peace that she’s neither that dreamy-but-sad girl she’s tried to culture away nor fully the more confident girl she’s finally managed to become, but something in between and fall in love with somebody as that in-between person even if it ends up being a different prince. Sabrina’s makeover turns David’s easily-turned head, but it’s her beauty inside and out that turns Linus’ stubborn one. Maybe the dreamy part of me that relates to Sabrina is swept away by such a romantic outcome while the stubborn part of me is glad that it also ends up being a less shallow outcome!

    But back to Audrey, she really does play Sabrina so beautifully and with a nuance that made me finally take notice and eventually get over my misconceptions of her! This quote is but one example of that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, this makes me so happy. This whole comment and the fact that you gave her a chance. And believe me, that kind of wispy, idyllic quality does seem so very typical. After all, owing to her insecurities she really didn’t think she was beautiful but she had the Hollywood figure or at least an acceptable one by societal standards. (Ironic too considering that her near starvation during the war is what caused her to be so skinny in the first place)! And I mean, yes. David is just so not good, in any way. Obviously he’s lovable because it’s William Holden, but he just didn’t deserve or understand her. Like, is it any wonder that we only see the two of them making heart eyes at the party, but nothing else? It’s only with Linus that more of her besides the makeover shines through. There’s no getting around that age difference, but Linus was always going to be a lot older since Wilder wanted Cary Grant first. But it’s such a sweet love story between the two and you perfectly articulated why. Thanks for reading and for the comment. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how you wrote about about Audrey Hepburn, and how this film captures “all the hopefulness of a young girl.”

    As an aside, when I was at the TCMFF this year, I happened to be walking behind a young family on the Walk of Fame. Suddenly the daughter, who was about 11, squealed and pointed at a terrazzo star. “AUDREY HEPBURN!!!” she shouted. Then she pulled out her pink iPhone and started madly photographing. I had to laugh – I’d been doing exactly the same thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Ruth!
      Ahhh, how amazing. I’m hoping to make it to TCMFF next year, but I will be looking for Audrey’s star when I go to LA later this month. And snapping photos wildly too, haha!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s