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"Sabrina" is often considered one of "My Two Favorite Audrey Hepburn Films" by devout Hepburn lovers (of which I am one - the other film being "Roman Holiday," debuting one-year earlier) - 1953-1954 could be considered a mini Golden Age of Audrey Hepburn. Sabrina (Hepburn) is the young daughter of a chauffeur (played by the eminently recognizable John Williams), who works for a mega-wealthy family living on the North Snore of Long Island (think: "The Great Gatsby"). The two sons in the family are played by Humphrey Bogart (the same year as his Oscar nomination for "The Caine Mutiny") and a very blonde William Holden (one year after his Oscar victory for "Stalag 17") - Hollywood must have spared no expense in getting these three leading actors. Early on, there's an amusing scene about a Parisian cooking school. Without issuing any spoilers for people who are going to watch this classic Romantic Comedy, all I'll say is that "Sabrina," in some small way, can be thought of as a sequel to "Casablanca."
I will confess--I have always been infatuated with Audrey Hepburn. The pixie cut, the cigarette pants, those eyes! I grew up wanting to be her, and now, in my 50s, I still emulate her gamine fashion style. I first became smitten with her when I saw her Oscar-winning performance in the 1953 romantic comedy, "Roman Holiday." She was just 24 when she landed the role of Ann, a princess who sneaks away from her royal duties for a day of fun in Rome with Gregory Peck. She went on to receive five Oscar nominations throughout her career, but this was her only win. She won a Tony award that same year for Best Lead Actress in a Play for her performance in Ondine. She remains one of the few people who have won Academy, Tony, Emmy and Grammy Awards. Since I was a young girl, "Roman Holiday" has been one of my favorite films. It won three Academy Awards: best actress, costume design and screenwriting. I watched it again this week, and I still love it. It isn't the most complicated story. There aren't any special effects. But the chemistry between Peck and Hepburn is compelling, and the shots of Rome are delightful. The thing that makes this film a classic--the standard by which romantic comedies are judged, and often found lacking--is Audrey Hepburn. She isn't the most beautiful film actress of her era, nor is she the most talented. But she is graceful, charming and beguiling. She has that "it" factor that makes it impossible to take your eyes off of her when she is on the screen. She radiates loveliness, kindness and approachability. I have never been one to follow celebrities. When she died in 1993, I bought a copy of the commemorative People Magazine about her. I felt like the world lost a true icon, a woman with a spirit and style that inspires people to this day. I enjoyed her performances in "Sabrina," "Charade," and "Wait Until Dark." I am not a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" fan, although that role is one that established her as one of the world's top fashion icons. Born in Brussels, she lived in German-occupied territory during the second World War. She later became a ballet dancer, a model and an actress. Perhaps because of the adversity she faced as a child, Hepburn became an advocate for children in her later years, devoting much of her time to UNICEF.
I decided to watch "Charade" tonight for a number of reasons. I recently watched "Suspicion," a 1941 thriller starring Cary Grant directed by Alfred Hitchcock. While "Charade" was not directed by Hitchcock, it has a Hitchcockian feel. I adore Carey Grant, and felt like spending another evening being charmed by this embodiment of the Hollywood leading man. I am obsessed with Audrey Hepburn, and I was born in 1963. It seemed like a no-brainer that I should give this film another viewing. Although I saw this film several years ago, I remembered very little of it. While Hitchcockian in style and plot twists, it lacks the cinematic magic of an actual Hitchcock film. The plot is a bit like "Suspicion," with the leading lady unsure whether she should or should not trust Grant. The witty banter between Hepburn and Grant made me think of Nick and Nora in "The Thin Man." Their repartee is amusing, but not nearly as fast and funny as Nick and Nora's. I enjoyed watching Grant and Hepburn together, and I was drawn in by the plot's twists and turns. At times, "Charade" seems self conscious, and the film feels like it is trying too hard. While Grant and Hepburn make a charming couple, their chemistry pales in comparison to the sparks that flew between Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday." Hepburn tells Grant time and again in this film that she loves him. She never once uttered those words to Peck in "Roman Holiday," but their love seemed more believable. Perhaps this is because at its core, "Charade" is a silly and stylish movie. It has an early '60s feel throughout, from the opening cartoon-like credits to Audrey's oh-so-chic Givenchy wardrobe. It isn't a great film, but it is an enjoyable one.