My Favorite Movies: Sabrina, 1954

It’s chilly and rainy these past few evenings, perfect for a cozy night in re-watching favorite old movies.   The latest- Sabrina, from 1954.  It’s Audery Hepburn’s second big Hollywood film, a follow-up to Roman Holiday which consolidated her “star” status.  The first time I watched this movie, I found it a little poky and dated with a gentle 1950’s glow cast over everything.  I confess, I found the plot hard to follow.

Humphrey Bogart is one of my favorite actors and plays Linus; William Holden is bad-boy David

(Spoilers!)  She’s a chauffeur’s daughter in love with the “playboy” brother in a rich family (David), goes away to Paris to get over him and learn cooking, comes back and he finally notices her, he has a little accident and is bedridden.  Got it.   Then his older, businessman brother (Linus) shows her a good time on behalf of his brother.  He even kisses her on David’s behalf (full frontal, grown-up kissing) and says to her by way of explanation- “It’s all in the family.”

What?  Ew.

Then Linus leads her along with the plan to trick her into thinking she’s running away with him (Linus) to get her out of the way so his brother’s marriage of convenience to a business partner can go through.  But he falls in love with her for real.

Weird.  Even weirder- when David gets better and realizes that Linus has basically stolen the girl he was crazy about, he pushes them together.  I still don’t get it, though I like Linus and Sabrina together.

Click for a description of the relationship between Audrey and the Capri pant

I *do* get the fashion- it’s one gorgeous ensemble following another. This is Audrey’s first time on film wearing what becomes an iconic look for her- black capris and ballet flats (it’s the second from the left).  Also- has anyone else noticed how many times Audrey plays a character with a huge makeover?  The princess-to-regular-girl-back-to-princess in Roman Holiday, Sabrina, intellectual-to-fashion-model in Funny Face, and Eliza Doolittle’s hilarious bath scene in My Fair Lady.  She’s a changeling.

Her post- Paris wardrobe was designed by Givenchy- including a cocktail dress that became known of as the “Sabrina” dress.  It was quite popular at the time, and I have several patterns from the mid-late 50’s that feature a wide, slightly rounder neckline and call it the “Sabrina neckline.”

The Sabrina dress shows up black on film, and I found it described as such in many, many online sources…

…but movie posters from 1954 show the dress as a winey red.  It’s not black at all!  I can’t decide which I like better, to be honest.

Sabrina drew me in with the fashion, but I rewatch it for the quality of the performances and the writing.  This time around I was struck by several one-liners that escaped me before, as well as the excellent performances of the supporting cast.  Even the extras were quite good at being interesting (but not too interesting) in the background, proving the old saying- “There’s no such thing as small parts, just small actors.”

Here’s a few clips, including the “all in the family” kiss at 0:47.  I still can’t decide if it’s romantic or creepy!

Have you seen Sabrina?  What’s your favorite outfit?  Is the brotherly love triangle a touch creepy?  How about that father of the two brothers- he has so many great bits in the movie.

Next- I’ll show you my pink wrinkles and what I did about them!


  1. It’s a movie like Gigi- don’t think too deeply about the plot, just enjoy the pretty! I do love how she says ‘Linus’ it just rolls off her tongue…..

    • Dear me, Gigi… Yes… You’re right.. But the rest of the entire movie is so smart! I love listening to Linus talking about (basically) how globalization will mean that kids in other countries can have shoes and get their teeth fixed and etc… So much optimism, but it hasn’t exactly panned out as he envisioned…

  2. I own the 1990s version of Sabrina. I am in love with one particular dress from this version which is bottle green of all colours. I don’t like much of the fashion in it otherwise, except for some of her suits when she returns from Paris. I am now going to have to purchase the 1954 version of this movie and watch it to compare. It will be interesting to see what changes were made to fit in with the popular culture of the 1990s. I think I will always love that green dress though.

    I found a link to a photo but it is not full length and the dress looks black, but it really is green in the movie I’m sure! :(,r:0,s:0,i:67

    • Julia Ormond is a beautiful woman… I never saw that Sabrina though! The Hepburn movie was based on a Broadway play which was popular at the time… It’s always interesting to me how stories are told and re-told…

  3. I love this film. It’s so charming and the clothes are beyond adorable. My favourite dress is the cocktail dress and it’s always black in my head too. I think I’m going to have to dig it out (I have the full set of Audrey Hepburn movies…she’s adorable) and rewatch it.

    • Ok, confesssion time… I actually watched it twice in the past week.

      There’s even dolls out there wearing the dress and it’s black…

      • Nothing wrong with that! ;-) You just know the dress was black in the film and the poster artist coloured it for effect to make it pop a little on the artwork!

    • Me too… I’ll happily watch Rom-coms from the time, but most of them aren’t very well done. This one is… I mean, it’s Billy Wilder as the director and all… (His next film was the 7 Year Itch, which he plugs in this movie…)

  4. it is SO strange to see that dress in red. you’d think i’d drool over it but i prefer it in the black i always thought it was…. what is wrong with me…

    • Yes… And it’s so interesting to me because some of the very “Audrey” things she does in this movie (Black capris, transformation characters, short hair, Givenchy, older male leads) happen here, before she was a timeless icon… She was just an It Girl..

      I wonder what it is that helps someone make the leap from It Girl to Icon? Hmmm…

  5. Red alwys reads as black in black and white and those costume designers were brilliant at making things to look their best in black and white, so I wonder if it was wine because it look better black than black would? Shadows and things etc.? Never seen it, now I want to! I love how ugly/gorgeous Bogey is. So not the typical leading man. Like Fred Astaire. These guys made it on talent, not looks!

    • You’re so brilliant, Mrs C! Of course! That makes sense.

      I like Bogart, too. I think he’s an acquired taste, but I do like him.

  6. I rewatched this movie recently, too. It always made me wonder why Audrey Hepburn was often cast against older romantic leads. It’s a little creepy to me when she seems so young. I am a great lover of old movies and I find it best if I ignore the impossible plots and sometimes silly stories and just enjoy the way they look. I recently also rewatched A Summer Place, which had some stunning outfits in it.

    • I get that… But- movies are a mirror of the time in many ways (though still movies and a bit silly) so I like to overthink them a little…

      She really does have a lot of older men leads… It kind of works, but takes some getting used to….

  7. It’s absolutely one of my favourite Audrey hepburn films. She’s just so classy in it and you’re right the performances, especially Humphrey bogart are so timeless and amazing. Plus, most importantly, Audrey’s costumes are so inspiring. This film was the beginning of her classic, elegant style

  8. I have a soft spot for older movies. Even if the plot is a little odd, often the dialogue is amusing but so quick that sometimes it takes a second listen – or with your mind in the gutter for some of the sex refrences that are pretty oblique. But… Sabrina is one that I have not yet seen and I’m not sure why. You can’t go wrong with Billy Wilder.

    • Sometimes the plots are just deliciously bizarre. Bringing Up Baby comes to mind, but that’s another Hepburn altogether… I like that though, it’s way different from most Rom Coms being put out nowadays that more or less pick and choose from a small well of plot points and franken-comedy a movie together with predictable styling, shooting, and lighting… Right?

      • Ah yes, Bringing Up Baby is a little strange, but so funny. Arsenic and Old Lace is another one that is a bit strange. Cary Grant had good timing for that kind of comedy, good with the quick dialogue and physical comedy.

        Have you ever read romance novels from that time, like Harlequin-type? They were actually my first introduction to that kind of templated stories from clearing out my Nana’s house and needing anything at all to read. I find them quite amusing. They can’t have sex until they are married so either they fight the whole way through the book and suddenly realize at the end that they love each other, or… they create some bizarre reason for them to get married and spend the whole book suspecting that the other person doesn’t love them. Nana seemed to like the travel and UK based authors, I’m not quite convinced that these authors ever went to Sri Lanka, the Caribbean nor whatever desert country their archiologist widowed father worked in.

      • Yes- I like Arsenic and Old Lace, too. :) I haven’t read many novels of that type from then, but I have read the ridiculous serial-style romances in women’s magazines… My goodness they’re silly… But harmless I suppose…

  9. I haven’t watched Sabrina in years, now I want to see it again and check out all the clothes!!! I wonder if I could get my husband to sit through it?

  10. I love Audrey Hepburn. I’ve always thought of ‘Sabrina’ as a bit of a French Farce – not meant to be taken seriously. I love the whole look of the movie. The remake does not compare.

  11. You don’t “get” it? Linus does not want Sabrina to be with David. He is purposely trying to seduce her away from him. Despite his manipulations, Linus falls into his own trap and falls in love with her himself. David, once he steps away from the situation, he realizes that his cold brother Linus has finally had his heart touched. David also realizes Sabrina was just his latest infatuation and he was not really in love with her. Sabrina also realizes that her crush on David was a girlhood thing but her love for Linus is an adult love. When Linus realizes that he loves Sabrina and wants her greatest happiness which he mistakenly believes is with David, he tries to sacrifice and undo the damage. And Linus is supposed to be an old, cold fuddy duddy. It is part of what makes his change astonishing. I find the whole plot very romantic and enjoy the growth and evolution of the three main characters.

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