Sabrina (1954 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byBilly Wilder
Screenplay by
Based onSabrina Fair
by Samuel A. Taylor
Produced byBilly Wilder
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byArthur P. Schmidt
Music byFrederick Hollander
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • September 3, 1954 (1954-09-03) (Toronto premiere)
  • September 23, 1954 (1954-09-23) (New York and Los Angeles)[1]
Running time
113 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.2 million
Box office$4 million (US/Canada rentals)[3]

Sabrina (Sabrina Fair/La Vie en Rose in the United Kingdom) is a 1954 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Billy Wilder, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Samuel A. Taylor and Ernest Lehman, based on Taylor's 1953 play Sabrina Fair.[4] The picture stars Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. This was Wilder's last film released by Paramount Pictures, ending a 12-year business relationship between him and the company.

In 2002, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[5]


Hepburn and Holden

Sabrina Fairchild is the young daughter of the Fairchild family's chauffeur, Thomas, and has been in love with David Larrabee all her life. David, a three-times-married, non-working playboy, has never paid romantic attention to Sabrina. Since she has lived for years on the Fairchild estate in Long Island New York with her father, to him, she is still a child.

Eavesdropping on a party at the mansion the night before she is to leave to attend the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, Sabrina watches, follows, and listens as David entices yet another woman into a dark and vacant indoor tennis court. Distraught, she leaves her father a suicide note and then starts all eight cars in the closed garage in order to kill herself. She is passing out from the fumes when Linus, David's older brother, opens the door, discovers her, and carries her back to her quarters above the garage when she does pass out.

After two years in Paris, Sabrina returns home an attractive, sophisticated woman. When her father is delayed from picking her up at the station, flirtatious David, passing by, offers her a lift without recognizing her. She accepts.

Once David realizes who she is, he is quickly drawn to Sabrina and invites her to join him at a party at the mansion, and then later invites her to the indoor tennis court. When Linus sees this, he fears that David's imminent marriage to Elizabeth Tyson may be endangered. If that engagement were broken it would ruin a profitable opportunity for a great corporate merger between Larrabee Industries and Elizabeth's very wealthy father's business. Instead of confronting David about his irresponsibility, Linus pretends to sympathize with him. Linus manipulates David to sit down on champagne glasses he has placed in his pockets, and David is incapacitated for a few days.

Linus now takes David's place with Sabrina, on the pretext that "it’s all in the family", and both fall in love, though neither will admit it. Linus's plan is to pretend that he will accompany Sabrina back to Paris on an ocean liner but then not join her, getting her away from David, the family, and the now-threatened merger. However, when Linus instead confesses these intentions to Sabrina, she is hurt but understands the logic of the tactic. She agrees to sail the next day to live in Paris, but without Linus's offered money and other inducements.

The following morning Linus has second thoughts and decides to send David to Paris with Sabrina. This means calling off David's wedding with Elizabeth and the big Tyson deal, and Linus schedules a meeting of the Larrabee board to announce this. Instead, David enters the meeting room at the last minute and shows that he will marry Elizabeth after all. He also helps Linus recognize his own feelings for Sabrina by insulting her and letting Linus punch him in the face. Then, having already arranged a car and a tugboat to wait for Linus, David assists him to rush off and join Sabrina's ship before it leaves the harbor. Once this is accomplished, Linus seeks out Sabrina on board after providing an inside-joke hint that he is there, and they sail away together.



Sketches for skirt, blouse, and apron by Edith Head for Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina

Initially, Cary Grant was considered for the role of Linus, but he declined,[7] and the role was taken by Bogart. Best known for playing tough detectives and adventurers, Bogart was cast against type as a smart businessman gradually transformed into a romantic lead.

During production of the film, Hepburn and Holden entered into a brief but passionate and much-publicized love affair. Bogart had originally wanted his wife Lauren Bacall to be cast as Sabrina. He complained that Hepburn required too many takes to get her dialogue right and pointed out her inexperience.[8]

Bogart was unhappy during the filming, convinced that he was totally wrong for this kind of film, mad at not being Wilder's first choice, and not liking Holden or Wilder. But Wilder's offbeat casting produced a performance that critics generally considered successful. Bogart later apologized to Wilder for his behavior on set, citing problems in his personal life.[citation needed]

Wilder began shooting before the script was finished, and Lehman was writing all day to complete it. Eventually he would finish a scene in the morning, deliver it during lunch, and filming of it would begin in the afternoon.[8]

Although Edith Head won an Oscar for Best Costumes, most of Hepburn's outfits are rumored to have been created by Hubert de Givenchy and chosen personally by the star. In a 1974 interview, Head stated that she was responsible for creating the dresses, with inspiration from some Givenchy designs that Hepburn liked, but that she made important changes, and the dresses were not by Givenchy.[9] After Head's death, Givenchy stated that Sabrina's iconic black cocktail dress was produced at Paramount under Head's supervision but claimed it was his design.[10]

The film began a lifelong association between Givenchy and Hepburn. It has been reported that when Hepburn called on Givenchy for the first time in Paris, he assumed that it was Katharine Hepburn in his salon.[11]

The location used to portray the Larrabee family's mansion in Glen Cove, New York was 'Hill Grove', the home of George Lewis in Beverly Hills, California.[12] This mansion was later demolished during the 1960s. The location used to portray the Glen Cove train station was the Glen Cove train station on the Oyster Bay Branch of the Long Island Rail Road.[12] The building at 30 Broad Street in Manhattan's financial district was used as the location for the headquarters of the Larrabee company.[12]


The film opened in New York and Los Angeles on September 23, 1954[1] and was number one at the US box office for two weeks.[13] Bosley Crowther, writing for The New York Times on its original release, lauded the film, thinking it, "in our wistful estimation, the most delightful comedy-romance in years". Crowther also offered praise to Audrey Hepburn's performance, declaring "she is wonderful in it — a young lady of extraordinary range of sensitive and moving expressions within such a frail and slender frame".[14]

Critical reception to Sabrina has been uniformly positive. James Berardinelli gave it 3 out of 4 stars and thought that it "will leave almost all viewers, even those as cold as Linus, with a smile on their lips and a warm glow in their hearts".[15] Variety noted that "the Script is long on glibly quipping dialog, dropped with a seemingly casual air, and broadly played situations. The splendid trouping delivers them style. Leavening the chuckles are tugs at the heart."[16] On film aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, 93% of critics have given the film a positive review, with an average of 7.8/10. The critical consensus reads "With its humorous script and its stars' immense charm, Sabrina remains a resonant romantic gem."[17]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Director Billy Wilder Nominated [18]
Best Actress Audrey Hepburn Nominated
Best Screenplay Billy Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor and Ernest Lehman Nominated
Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Art Direction: Hal Pereira and Walter H. Tyler;
Set Decoration: Samuel M. Comer and Ray Moyer
Best Cinematography – Black-and-White Charles Lang Nominated
Best Costume Design – Black-and-White Edith Head Won
British Academy Film Awards Best British Actress Audrey Hepburn Nominated [20]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Billy Wilder Nominated [21]
Golden Globe Awards Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Billy Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, and Ernest Lehman Won [22]
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 7th Place [23]
Best Supporting Actor John Williams (also for Dial M for Murder) Won
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted [24]
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Audrey Hepburn Nominated [25]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy Billy Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, and Ernest Lehman Won [26]


There have been Indian adaptations of the film. Manapanthal (1961) was a Tamil version, followed in the same year by a Telugu version, Intiki Deepam Illale. In addition Sabrina was the inspiration for the successful Hindi film Yeh Dillagi (1994), although with some changes to the plot.[27] Sabrina was remade in Turkish as Şoförün Kızı in 1965. In 1995 there was a Hollywood remake from Paramount Pictures.


  1. ^ a b Sabrina at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ "Sabrina Fair (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 1954-03-29. Retrieved 2022-09-22.
  3. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954'. Variety Weekly. January 5, 1955.
  4. ^ "Sabrina". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  5. ^ "Films Selected for the National Film Registry in 2002 (January 2003) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin". Library of Congress.
  6. ^ "Sabrina - Nancy Kulp". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  7. ^ Jaynes, Barbara Grant; Trachtenberg, Robert. Cary Grant: A Class Apart. Burbank, California: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Turner Entertainment. 2004.
  8. ^ a b Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies.
  9. ^ Dorléac, Jean-Pierre (2010-10-24). "Edith Head and the 'Sabrina' dress". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ "Style on Film: Sabrina". 20 March 2011.
  11. ^ "On This Day In Fashion".
  12. ^ a b c "Sabrina 1954 film locations". The Worldwide Guide To Movie Locations. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  13. ^ "National Boxoffice Survey". Variety. October 13, 1954. p. 3 – via
  14. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1954-09-23). "Screen: 'Sabrina' Bows at Criterion; Billy Wilder Produces and Directs Comedy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  15. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Sabrina". Reelviews Movie Reviews. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  16. ^ Sabrina - Movie Reviews, retrieved 2022-12-24
  17. ^ Sabrina, retrieved 2022-12-24
  18. ^ "The 27th Academy Awards (1955) Nominees and Winners". (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  19. ^ "NY Times: Sabrina". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-04-02. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  20. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1956". BAFTA. 1956. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  21. ^ "7th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  22. ^ "Sabrina – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  23. ^ "1954 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  24. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  25. ^ "1954 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  26. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  27. ^ Guy, Randor. "Manappandal". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 April 2014.

Further reading

  • Shaw, Mark; Juliet Cuming; David Taylor (2009-04-14). Charmed by Audrey: Life on the Set of Sabrina. San Rafael, CA: Insight Editions. ISBN 978-1-933784-87-8. (Candid photographs of Audrey, on and off the set, taken by Mark Shaw for Life magazine during production of the film.)
  • "Audrey Hepburn, Many-sided Charmer". Life. Vol. 35, no. 23. December 7, 1953. pp. 127–135. ISSN 0024-3019. (Life article on Hepburn including some of the photos from the Sabrina set.)

External links[edit]