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Vintage Film Review: Sabrina (1956) – A Must Watch for Every Hopeless Romantic

Sabrina 1956 Movie Review



Sabrina is a delightful romantic classic from Billy Wilder starring Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden. Though the movie released in 1956, this love story of a young girl reaching for the moon never gets old. This assertion is supported by the number of movies in various languages that are based on this very tale. The Harrison Ford 1995 eponymous movie is one such example.

The movie is about Sabrina Fairchild who lives with her father in the humongous Larrabee estate above its garage. The scenes that portray how rich and modern the Larabee lifestyle is are a must watch. Though living in this grandeur, Sabrina is not a part of it. She is merely the chauffeur’s daughter who has a terrible crush on the playboy, David Larrabee, who is the younger son of the rich Larabees.

One of my favourite scenes of the film is right at the very beginning. As Sabrina’s voice-over tells us, the Larrabees throw the most magnificent of parties and Sabrina watches all the glitter and glamour from her seat on a hidden branch of a tree in the gardens. At it’s heart, Sabrina is a timeless Cinderella fairy tale. The girl who cannot go to the ball watches life pass by without getting a chance to be a part of it.

Sabrina knows David first dances with any pretty girl who catches his fancy. He then whispers sweet nothings in her ear, and sends her off to the tennis court to wait for him. He puts the champagne glasses into his back pocket and makes his way to the private rendezvous spot. And though Sabrina knows all of this, it still hurts her to know he will never see her with those lovestruck eyes. To him, she will remain the little girl who is the chauffeur’s daughter.

Lovelorn and heartbroken, she goes back to her father who reminds her she is to leave for Paris the following day. But the intensity of that first love she feels for David compels her to want to rather die than be insignificant in his life. The beauty of the scenes are how tragic they feel, and yet they have humor and simplicity. She is inadvertently rescued by the workaholic brusque elder Larrabee son, Lionel Larrabee.

“La Vie En Rose. It is the French way of saying, ‘I am looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses.’ ”

Her time in Paris is remembered throughout the movie in beautiful words and songs. Also in the French phrases she imbibed and in the art of cooking that she learnt. Some of the most inspiring dialogues of the film reflect the allure of Paris and its solace for lovers. Later, she recollects that a visit to Paris changes one’s outlook towards life. It is clear she enjoys her life abroad, but is also still irrevocably in love with David. In some ways, Paris is the fairy godmother in this Cinderella story.

Her letters from Paris are read by her father and other household help with warm relish. Sabrina’s father has a few scenes that treat the divide between the working class and the rich with equal parts of sensibility and humor. He cautions her to not reach for the moon, but the spirited girl throws cautions to the wind.

In the meantime, Lionel makes sure the papers announce David’s engagement to the daughter of a rich sugarcane merchant. It is a business merger that will get solidified by David’s soon to be wedding. Predictably, David is not too happy about the prospect, even though his fiance is a quite a lovely lady.


Then Sabrina returns. When David lays eyes on Sabrina he has no idea she is the same girl he ignored all those years. Now, she is a sophisticated 22-year-old fashionable girl from Paris. She was never the ugly duckling, but her years away have definitely turned her into the beautiful swan. He is swept right off his feet. She in turn, revels in every bit of his attention. Her happiness is infectious and so is her silvery laughter.

He invites her to the Larrabee party where she is the belle of the ball. How content she must feel to be dancing in his arms and not have to watch from a far off tree branch! When he asks her to wait for him in the tennis court, all her dreams are about to come true, but instead of the charming David, the curt Lionel comes instead.

He plans to keep his brother away from such a foolish alliance. His scheme is to have Sabrina fall for him and leave David. He dances with Sabrina and even steals a kiss. Her dream date has finally come true, only with the wrong brother!

More dates, dinners and a boat cruise later, it is apparent that Lionel himself is not as unaffected by her charm as he would like. After all, who can be untouched when Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina is at her very best? Her Oscar winning elegant gowns, her enchanting slender figure only add to the experience. Like a heroine right out of a novel, Sabrina’s character is bright eyed, a little lost and extremely lovable.


“Never resist an impulse Sabrina, specially if its terrible”

Another aspect of the movie that I love, is that Lionel and Sabrina get to have actual conversations. They talk of love and Paris, among other things.. He has come up with the story that he is leaving everything to go to Paris. Of course, that is only to lure her away and he has no actual plans of leaving Long Island. But, Sabrina has made all plans for him to enjoy his time in Paris. She instructs him to order some rain on his very first day there. Then take a drive with a beautiful companion.

All this while, David nurses a bruised touche thanks to some broken champagne glasses and his expedient brother. Sabrina fears herself falling for Lionel and tries hard to resist. Her interactions with David are full of light banter.

Sabrina featured image

On the other hand, with every moment with Lionel their connection assuredly gets deeper. As she herself admits, she has known the elder brother only a few days, but loved the younger brother all her life. But, when has love been reasonable?

There are beautiful songs in the film. A few of my favourites are  “Isn’t it romantic” and “La Vie En Rose.” All adding to the dreamy sense of romance that is sure to touch your heart. Every time I watch Sabrina, without fail I sigh and smile throughout. This classic tale of romance will only make your belief in love and dreams stronger. Hopefully you enjoy (or will enjoy) Sabrina as much as I do. My only complaint for Sabrina (without giving away the ending for those of you who haven’t seen the film), is that I didn’t want the movie to ever end.

Photos: Paramount

Overall Rating

Five Star Rating border

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”

Romance Rating


“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

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By on June 25th, 2015

About Rhea Sinha

Rhea Sinha is a software engineer by profession, a writer and reader at heart. She has grown up on, and not grown out of, classics. Now, living in the beautiful city of Seattle her secret desire is to chance upon a glittering brooding vampire one day. On a cloudy evening you will find her curled up with a murder mystery or watching the newest shows on tv. She hopes to become a full time columnist someday.

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