AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Alternate Title: Sabrina Fair
Director: Billy Wilder (Dir)
Release Date:   Oct 1954
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York opening: 23 Sep 1954
Production Date:   late Sep--late Nov 1953
Duration (in mins):   112-113
Duration (in reels):   13
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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)  
    Joan Vohs (Gretchen Van Horn)  
    Marcel Dalio (Baron)  
    Marcel Hillaire (The professor)  
    Nella Walker (Maude Larrabee)  
    Francis X. Bushman (Mr. Tyson)  
    Ellen Corby (Miss McCardle)  
    Marjorie Bennett (Margaret, cook)  
    Emory Parnell (Charles, butler)  
    Kay Riehl (Mrs. Tyson)  
    Nancy Kulp (Jenny, maid)  
    Kay Kuter (Houseman)  
    Paul Harvey (Dr. Calaway)  
    Emmett Vogan (Board member)  
    Colin Campbell (Board member)  
    Harvey Dunn (Man with tray)  
    Marion Ross (Spiller's girl friend)  
    Charles Harvey (Spiller)  
    Otto Forrest (Elevator operator)  
    David Ahdar (Ship steward)  
    Grey Stafford    
    Bill Neff    

Summary: 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.


Production Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Director: Billy Wilder (Dir)
  C. C. Coleman Jr. (Asst dir)
Producer: Billy Wilder (Prod)
Writer: Billy Wilder (Wrt for the screen by)
  Samuel Taylor (Wrt for the screen by)
  Ernest Lehman (Wrt for the screen by)
Photography: Charles Lang Jr. (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Hal Pereira (Art dir)
  Walter Tyler (Art dir)
Film Editor: Doane Harrison (Ed adv)
  Arthur Schmidt (Ed)
Set Decoration: Sam Comer (Set dec)
  Ray Moyer (Set dec)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost supv)
  Hubert de Givenchy (Cost des for Miss Hepburn)
Music: Frederick Hollander (Songs adpt and addl mus comp)
Sound: Harold Lewis (Sd rec)
  John Cope (Sd rec)
  Howard Beals (Sd ed)
Special Effects: Farciot Edouart (Process photog)
  John P. Fulton (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup supv)
Production Misc: Marvin Weldon (Scr supv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "La vie en rose," words by Edith Piaf, music by Louiguy; "Isn't It Romantic," words by Lorenz Hart, music by Richard Rodgers; "Yes, We Have No Bananas," words and music by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn.
Composer: Irving Cohn
  Lorenz Hart
  Edith Piaf
  Richard Rodgers
  Frank Silver
Source Text: Based on the play Sabrina Fair by Samuel Taylor (New York, 11 Nov 1953).
Authors: Samuel Taylor

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Paramount Pictures Corp. 2/9/1954 dd/mm/yyyy LP4072

PCA NO: 16882
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.75:1

Genre: Romantic comedy
Sub-Genre: with songs
Subjects (Major): Brothers
  Class distinction
  Romance--Age difference
  Romantic rivalry
Subjects (Minor): Attempted suicide
  Fathers and daughters
  Long Island (NY)
  New York City
  Ocean liners
  Paris (France)
  Tennis and tennis players
  La vie en rose (Song)
  Wounds and injuries

Note: 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 Mar 1953 DV news item, Paramount paid $75,000 for the rights to Samuel Taylor’s play, prior to its first production. An Aug 1953 Var 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 Sep 1953, and the play, which starred Joseph Cotten as “Linus” and Margaret Sullavan as Sabrina, opened in New York in mid-Nov 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 Nov 1953 Var 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 HR news items and production charts, some scenes were shot in New York City. An Aug 1953 Var 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 HR 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.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7 Aug 1954.   
Daily Variety   25 Mar 1953.   
Daily Variety   2 Aug 54   p. 3.
Film Daily   2 Aug 54   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jul 1953   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Sep 1953   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Sep 1953   p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Oct 1953   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 1953   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Nov 1953   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 1953   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 1954.   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Mar 1955   p. 1.
Life   4 Oct 1954   p. 60.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Aug 54   p. 97.
New York Times   23 Sep 54   p. 43.
Newsweek   30 Aug 1954.   
Time   17 Apr 1995.   
Variety   12 Aug 1953.   
Variety   19 Aug 1953.   
Variety   25 Nov 1953.   
Variety   4 Aug 54   p. 6.
Variety   4 Aug 1965.   

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