One Upon a Time, the narrator tells us … there was a beautiful Long Island mansion … it was home to the Larrabees, one of America’s wealthiest families. And there’s Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn): heir to the vast fortune.
Wait, no. Audrey Hepburn is just the chauffeur’s daughter. What a twist.
“Sabrina” was only Hepburn’s second movie. But “Roman Holiday” was so sensational that she was already a rising star. Ms. Hepburn was an actual European aristocrat who had gotten famous playing a princess. So it would have made total sense for her to be typecast playing rich women.
Writer/director Billy Wilder quietly did the world a favor when he cast Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina. He envisioned her as a great actress, not just a pretty princess.
Young Ms. Hepburn was ready for the challenge. She is enchanting as the Cinderella-style underdog.
She believes that she is destined to be more than just a servant to the rich. “There you go again,” her dad warns, “always shooting for the moon.” “No, father,” Sabrina smiles, “the moon is shooting for me.”
Indeed, lovely Sabrina finds herself in an enviable love triangle between the two Larrabee sons.
Linus Larrabee (Humphrey Bogart) is like Beau Biden: focused and practical. He has taken control of the day-to-day affairs of the business from his father. David Larrabee (William Holden) is like Hunter Biden: fun-loving and irresponsible. David is a lovable cad. Unless you’re the one he is cheating on, in which case he’s just a regular cad.
The odd thing about this love triangle is that you don’t have to choose sides. “Sabrina” is a fairy tale with no bad guys and no sorrow. There’s a magical spirit of positivity; this is a world where poverty is unthinkable and blissful happiness is just around the corner.
Some of the magic is pure serendipity. Cary Grant was all set to play Linus Larrabee; Bogart took his place last minute.
Thank goodness for that. Humphrey Bogart brought a rawness and vulnerability that Grant was not capable of. And can you imagine Cary Grant as the hard-nosed CEO of a major industrial corporation? No one in Hollywood was more charming, but I wouldn’t trust him as the floor supervisor for a mid-sized bubble gum factory.
“Sabrina” is a classic romantic comedy that is even better than I was expecting. Plus it reintroduced the world to Audrey Hepburn. She wasn’t just a great-looking movie star; she was an elite actress capable of anything.