A chauffeur's daughter is hopelessly in love with the younger son of the Larrabee household; womanising, fun loving and irresponsible David. Alas, David only sees her as the little girl living above the garage with her father and barely talks to her. Sabrina goes to a cooking school in Paris and returns a refined and confident young woman and David (though engaged for about the fourth time) is smitten with the 'new improved' Sabrina- to his family's dismay as it would mean the loss of an important business deal between the two families.
So the older Larrabee son- workaholic and humourless Linus- decided to divert Sabrina's attention from David towards him with the plan to abandon her once David recommitted himself to Elizabeth after getting the wrong impression of Sabrina.
But the plan backfired big time; Sabrina- after some initial confusion- did fall in love with the much more mature Linus and Linus refused to admit that he was genuinely in love with Sabrina but her sweetness made him repentant enough to confess the whole scheme- hurting her.
More for Sabrina's happiness than his brother's, Linus told David to go to Paris with her but got a shock when David informed him and the family he was going to marry Elizabeth after all. Finally acknowledging his feelings, Linus rushed off to find Sabrina and shared an emotional reconciliation on the ship already on its way to Paris.
Sabrina is in love with David Larrabee who hardly notices her and her concerned father, John Fairchild- hoped she'll forget the player during her time as an intern at Vogue in Paris. While she's away- David courts Elizabeth Tyson; the daughter of a very wealthy family and they get engaged.
Sabrina returns with beauty, refinement and confidence; to David's amazement and delight and becomes smitten; to Linus and their mother's dismay as it would mean the loss of a huge business merger between the Larrabees and the Tysons. So Linus diverts Sabrina's attention away from David but it ended up Linus getting to know Sabrina more than he ever did and becoming aware how most people see him while Sabrina saw there was more to the dour workaholic she'd known all her life and falls in love with him, however Linus doesn't or wouldn't admit he loved Sabrina. Instead he confessed what he'd been doing and Sabrina returned to Paris heartbroken. David- finally mature and self aware- recommits himself to Elizabeth and they and Mrs. Larrabee trick Linus into admitting he loved Sabrina- urging him to go after her, which he did after convincing John Fairchild he would make his daughter happy and in return was given Sabrina's address.
Sabrina found Linus on her doorstep and they are reconciled.
This is my favorite movie of all time, so much so that I don't like one version above the other, no... not at all! Sabrina is a modern day Cinderella story with an incredible plot and interesting characters; a true classic.
However, in Sabrina, it's not a wicked stepmother and two step-sisters barring the heroine's path to true love, it's class difference. The object of her affection is the son of a rich household, she's the daughter of their chauffeur. Her father however is a man of dignity who is well respected and felt that people should know their place. According to him:
'I like to think of life as a limousine. Though we are all riding together, we must remember our places. There's a front seat and a back seat and a window in between.'
Let's compare the portrayal of Sabrina and Linus and the relationship of the two characters- the original and the 'years late' remake.
Sabrina Fairchild was played in 1954 by Audrey Hepburn and Linus Larrabee was played by Humphrey Bogart- shocking since this particular actor was not known for being in romantic comedies. Hepburn played Sabrina with a moving aura of innocence and sweetness; with a touch of sensitivity and tender emotion that I won't be surprised if a huge number of male fans were in love with her and her character.
Bogie, like I said, was not a romantic comedy actor (I'd seen him previously in The African Queen, Dark Passage, Casablanca and Key Largo) but to my surprise he played the stuffy workaholic very well. It was when Linus began courting Sabrina that I really sat up, wondering how he was going to shed the gruffness and be romantic.
I wouldn't say he did but he adopted a sort of rugged charm when he was around Sabrina and after a while he was like a man who felt he was getting soft and trying very hard to disguise it.
Sabrina and Linus were a very unlikely pair but I disliked David (William Holden) so much that even though I thought Linus was very stuffy, I hoped the newly sophisticated Sabrina would loosen him up and realize there was more to life behind a desk and have some fun for once. Their first scene together in the movie was when he found her under one of the numerous cars in the garage and helped her up to her apartment by slinging her over his shoulder, lightly scolded her for her supposed carelessness.
When she returned from Paris a few years later, he didn't acknowledge her greeting but warned his infatuated brother: 'The last pair of legs that were something cost the family $25,000.' I wasn't pleased with that, it was like he was likening Sabrina to the bimbos David was involved in the past- all legs and no class or brains and of course wanting David to stay committed to Elizabeth. He's not hostile with Sabrina- deciding to
handle her with kid gloves by meeting her at the tennis court in David's stead (armed with glasses and a bottle of champagne) and realised from his discussion with her that she was no gold digging predator- just a young woman in love with his brother since she was a little girl.
The kiss he gave her (according to him was 'from David') was a hint there was more to come between them- to us viewers that is!
Anyhow, he had the plan- divert Sabrina from David and make her fall in love with him. Once David and Elizabeth were safe, he will dump her with money and 'gifts' including an apartment in Paris to 'soften the blow.' However he's not happy, not because it was a mean thing to do to Sabrina but because it was disturbing his work at the office and feeling he would make an ass of himself trying court a woman several years younger than him. Sabrina was surprisingly relaxed around him, recalling how she used to watch him going to work as a child and urged him to try and change his outlook.
He's at first cynical, saying that 'Paris is for lovers' but found himself unable to resist Sabrina's innocent charm and their tentative friendship turned rather playful, with him speaking the lines of French he'd learnt from her (in a rather bad accent) and Sabrina turning down the brim of his hat. But the tender look he gave Sabrina when they were dancing and the scene in the car where he quietly asked Sabrina to sing La Vi en Rose to him: 'Suppose you sing that song again. Slowly.' clearly showed he was falling in love with her.
And Sabrina felt her feelings shifting which got her worried and confused- she urged David to kiss her repeatedly and voicing her refusal to go out with Linus again... she was confused and frightened at how he was affecting her but of course David didn't know that at first. One would think that he would probe Sabrina about why she didn't want to hang out with Linus anymore but was just plain clueless. It's amazing, David- with his boyish charm and sentimentality- was suddenly a turn off for her, she was now longing for the gruff, unsentimental yet mature Linus. But it's understandable she's confused since she's been in love with David for most of her life (I'm sure the viewers- like I did- saw that love was actually an infatuation).
Linus' love for Sabrina was evident when he confessed to her the real reason why he'd been hanging out with her but since he was denying his feelings (probably because he'd never been in love before or maybe it was pride) he mostly likely acted on remorse and guilt and he had to watch the disillusionment on Sabrina's face. And Sabrina- though heartbroken and hurt- leaves the office with dignity with a parting that clearly showed the huge class difference between them had finally sunk in: 'Goodnight Mr. Larrabee. I'm sorry I can't stay to do the dishes.' That's enough to shame anybody!
Linus finally gave himself away when he punched David who was dishing out nasty remarks about Sabrina but in actual fact, David was trying to see what his brother felt for Sabrina and Linus, realising the trick, had to smile ruefully before grabbing his hat and umbrella and running off to catch up with Sabrina on the boat. 'If you'll excuse me, it appears I have a previous engagement,' he said solemnly but the way he ran out of the office showed how he was eager to get to the woman he loved!
At the boat, Sabrina was puzzled to receive a request to turn down the brim of a hat (like she did with Linus' previously) and startled to see Linus himself who showed her he was ready to live life to the fullest with her by hanging his umbrella on the coat of a passing stranger and without a word, Sabrina walks into his arms and the movie ended on a happy note; probably in Paris they had a quiet wedding!
1995 Sabrina. This time Sabrina is played by Julia Ormond and while people would say she's not Audrey Hepburn, she was enchanting as Sabrina Fairchild; with an air of innocence and sophistication and grace just like Hepburn before her. But she's more modern - instead of training to be a cook, she becomes a skilled photographer after her stint at Paris Vogue.
Linus Larrabee is played by Harrison Ford- a more ruthless Linus Larrabee, a workaholic too, with zero sentimentality and no charisma.
David (Greg Kinnear) gave her a lift home, wondering who 'the hot girl' was but Linus recognised her instantly and welcomed Sabrina home in a matter-of-fact kind of way and doesn't even say she looked beautiful, while David is stunned and kept repeating her name until Linus, exasperated asked, 'Why does he keep saying that?'
Neither brother hardly noticed Sabrina as a child except for a few instances; so how come Linus was quick to recognise her and David didn't? Probably because David always saw beautiful faces while Linus saw people. But he was more into the family business than women; so he didn't have a jaw dropping moment like David on seeing the 'new improved' Sabrina, except say how grown up she looked.
Linus and Sabrina started out a bit like wary adversaries. Linus antagonised Sabrina with 'the kiss from David' and she did what any insulted woman would do- she gave him a much deserved slap. However, though her action was justified, Sabrina immediately apologised- horrified she did such a thing but Linus acknowledged he had it coming. In the 1954 version, the subject of money to be paid off to Sabrina to leave David alone was handled tactfully and playfully, Sabrina gave Linus the message she wouldn't take a penny from the family; here Sabrina eyed Linus over her champagne glass and firmly said no to his barely veiled offer of a million dollars.
In this version, there is more compassion for Sabrina by the Larrabees- at least by Mrs. Larrabee. In the original version, Mr. Larrabee was contemptuous of 'the garage girl', wondering why his chauffeur would give a classy name like Sabrina to his daughter and Linus retorted in her defense, 'What would you suggest... Ethel?'
Mrs. Larrabee subtly tries to put Sabrina in her place the night she came back by asking her to cook something for the family on a chosen day- 'to see what she'd learnt'. 1995 Mrs. Larrabee wanted to find a way to nicely tell Sabrina David was 'jerking her chain' and does not approve of Linus' plan. 'I didn't teach you this,' she said later.
While Linus realised Sabrina was no gold digger, to him the situation was just worse- it would surely make David forget Elizabeth (who too is a modern woman- although from a rich family is a paediatrician) and it's bye bye to the business merger. So he began his ruthless quest- 'I like Sabrina. I always have. But I'm not about to kiss off a billion dollars; I don't care what she did to her hair.'
Both Linuses didn't care she's the chauffeur's daughter, they were more concerned about the business deal that will come with the marriage between David and Elizabeth. And like the first Linus, this one handled Sabrina with kid gloves- taking her to the family's summer cottage in Martha's Vineyard to take photos under the pretence he wanted to sell it hence needed photos for a catalogue. The whole trip is different from what he imagined, Sabrina does not pine for David and they learn a lot about each other. Linus found out how Sabrina got her name and listened to her outlook of life while Sabrina sees the man beneath the gruff millionaire and found herself more relaxed around him, even told him how people see him: 'the world's only living heart donor' and 'he thinks morals are paintings on walls and scruples are money in Russia.' And without flattering him, simply said he was good at what he did- running the family business.
When they returned from their outing and Sabrina says goodnight to him, Linus just sits in the garden, staring at nothing... in one day Sabrina had gotten to him and now he's as stunned as David but more by the woman than her beautiful face and found himself doing an unselfish deed for once: donating an family owned 1800 building he'd shown Sabrina at the Vineyard to the town to be used as a half way house, no tax advantage.
They go out for dinner and a show and Sabrina managed to make Linus smile and laugh, which was delightful to see. This version, it seemed, was more about Linus- the possibility of how a gruff man could change by the love of a woman, a woman he could both talk to and gaze at. Sabrina gets uncomfortable when Linus asked her to say in French, 'I'm looking at what I want.' and when she sees David on their return to the estate, the magic she felt with him is gone, to her shock and dismay- she can't understand why. David has finally noticed her but she was suddenly having feelings for his brother.
The same scenario- Linus cannot go on with his plan, out of guilt (and love) and no doubt felt now that he knew Sabrina better, it turned out David was not right for her rather than the other way round, but since she loved him she could make him a better man. But Sabrina is upset and accepts a ticket to Paris from Linus- a small pound of flesh. Linus is shocked to see that David is marrying Elizabeth after all and upset at the idea of Sabrina hating him for what he did. His mother gave him her blessing to go after Sabrina after assuring him she'll get over it, 'No mother could be prouder, but I think it's time you ran away from home.'
Sabrina is astonished to see Linus, wary about trusting him again but then came the heartfelt speech ending:
'Save me, Sabrina fair. You're the only one who can.'
Then the hug and the reconciliation kiss and the movie ended with them watching the view, in each other's arms.
Sabrina is a beautiful, classic love story and both versions depicted how a girl held a long cherished dream she hoped would be a reality. It didn't, because another man- whom she made a better man- swept her off her feet instead and gave her more than she ever imagined. The film should have been named Sabrina and Linus instead- the story was about both of them, overcoming obstacles and receiving their personal growth and unexpected love... with each other.