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Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection

by Glenn Erickson Oct 19, 2021

It’s been said that American women of the 1950s admired Marilyn Monroe, but they wanted to be Audrey Hepburn, who projected an entirely different appeal. Hepburn had talent, grace, a dazzling smile and the strength to overcome any obstacle. Paramount now rounds up their Audrey Hepburn holdings to release this seven-picture ode to the great actress, the sentimental favorite. Several are near-perfect entertainments, great films everybody should see. All are handsomely remastered in HD, in their proper aspect ratios. I’d consider this definite holiday gift-giving material.


Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection
Roman Holiday, Sabrina, War and Peace, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Paris When It Sizzles, My Fair Lady
Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment
1952-1964 / Color + B&W / Street Date October 5, 2021
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart, Mel Ferrer, Fred Astaire, George Peppard, William Holden, Rex Harrison.
Directed by
William Wyler, Billy Wilder, King Vidor, Stanley Donen, Blake Edwards, Richard Quine, George Cukor

Robert Matzen’s 2019 book about star Audrey Hepburn’s early life and wartime experience as a Dutch teenager has put her in a new, even more flattering perspective. It whet my appetite to revisit some of her movies. I tend to see Sabrina and The Nun’s Story and then back away, but every Hepburn movie is entertaining, and several are superlative.

The Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection gives us Paramount’s holdings from her 21- feature starring career, which include four no-contest classics, at least by audience approval ratings. Paramount’s Blu-ray encodings really pop — especially the two VistaVision movies, which have never before looked this good on home video.

Sort of the ‘anti-Marilyn’ of the 1950s, Hepburn presented an entirely different appeal. Slim, sweet, with enormous eyes and a glittering smile, her image made one want to protect her, until her characters showed their inner strength. She projected poise and dignity, and possessed a voice that could read any line of dialogue and make it sound like gold. That normally wasn’t a problem, what with writers like Billy Wilder and George Axelrod tailoring words especially for her delicate delivery. Hepburn had plenty of experience in bit parts before William Wyler saw to it that she took the world by storm in her first starring movie.

 


 

Roman Holiday
1953 / B&W / 1:37 Academy / 118 min.
Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power.
Harcourt Williams Harcourt Williams.
Cinematography: Henri Alekan, Franz Planer
Art Directors: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Costumes: Edith Head
Film Editor: Robert Swink
Original Music: Georges Auric
Written by Ian McLellan Hunter, John Dighton, (Dalton Trumbo) story by Dalton Trumbo, Ian McLellan Huner
Produced and Directed by
William Wyler

The fine dramatic director William Wyler wasn’t primarily known as a comedy man, but the humor in this romantic classic comes more naturally than in most scripted comedies. Audiences got much more than they bargained for — a whirlwind tour of Rome, a fairytale story, a top male star and the actress discovery of the decade.

Plenty of Hollywood films and one Oscar winner have been built around a reporter shadowing a newsworthy woman, and falling in love with her. The story here is a modern, fairly realistic take on Cinderella — Hepburn is a genuine princess who plays hooky from royal responsibilities, to see Rome with Gregory Peck’s opportunistic newshound. The fairy tale element rises when Peck and his shutterbug pal Eddie Albert change their minds, and protect the princess instead of exploiting her.

The princess is a pampered and sheltered innocent who has never walked down an ordinary street as an ordinary person. She can converse about economic policies but has never had the ordinary experiences of a teenager. Her romp through Rome is a delight, but the screenplay keeps one foot in reality at all times — when the princess and the reporter part we know that she might not enjoy many others — she takes her diplomatic responsibilities seriously.

From Avie Hearn I learned that this script is indeed written almost completely by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo: Ian McLellan Hunter served only as Trumbo’s front.

The byplay between Peck and Hepburn is more than just Funny Things Happening — no situations are exaggerated, and the pair’s reactions are underplayed. The princess wants to ‘lose control’ and once or twice almost does so. Only one scene shows some clumsy comedy — when Peck repeatedly kicks, pushes, and spills drinks on Eddie Albert to keep him from speaking out of turn. But there’s also the classic moment at the ‘mouth of truth,’ which uses Peck’s limitless self-control to advantage. The ‘mouth of truth’ gag fits, as both Ann and Joe are operating under false pretenses. Neither maybe-romantic partner is being honest with the other.

Dalton Trumbo’s name was returned to the credits twenty years ago, a bit of revisionism that’s a slap at film history. Giving a few star writers back their stolen credits, many posthumously, doesn’t neutralize the wrong done hundreds of other artists deprived of their careers. Future politicians will be able to claim that the Blacklist never happened when the fudged credits disappear. The right thing to do would be to put a text card before or after the film, and properly credit Trumbo there. Text cards are often added when a picture wins a big prize in a film festival.

 


 

Sabrina
1954 / B&W / 1:75 widescreen / 113 min.
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams, Martha Hyer, Joan Vohs, Marcel Dalio, Marcel Hillaire, Ellen Corby, Marjorie Bennett, Nancy Kulp.
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Art Directors: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Costumes: Edith Head
Film Editor: Arthur Schmidt
Music: Frederick Hollander
Screenplay by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor, Ernest Lehman from the play Sabrina Fair by Samuel Taylor
Produced and Directed by
Billy Wilder

Sabrina marks Billy Wilder’s turn to give Audrey Hepburn a Cinderella story. This one has an unending stream of witty humor plus satirical jabs at American big business and economic class distinctions. The daughter of the chauffeur to the Larrabee business dynasty tries to commit suicide, but then comes back from Paris as a newly- blossomed beauty. The Larrabees’ playboy son David (William Holden) suddenly has eyes for the girl he ignored just a few months before. The other, serious son Linus (Humphrey Bogart) eventually decides to woo Sabrina as well — to prevent David’s engagement to another woman from falling apart, ruining an important merger.

The movie is as light as a feather; the only less-than-inspired part is a sequence in a Paris cooking school. Everything else is beyond charming. It’s a fully developed Billy Wilder screenplay that relies on the contrasting charms of its cast. William Holden was happy to play elevated support, as Wilder had given him breakthrough roles in Sunset Blvd. and Stalag 17. Humphrey Bogart hated the screenplay, hated Wilder and reportedly filmed while nursing a grudge and insulting his director. Just the same it’s one of his better movies.

As for Wilder, he was still recovering from his career misstep, the excellent but extremely unpopular Ace in the Hole, which ended his string of noir dramas, an entire movement and style that was more or less codified by his earlier Double Indemnity. No cynicism or acid-tinged dialogue here, and no resentful hero calling everything he sees a fraud. Sabrina is supposed to be 1954, but from what we see it could be 1925 — limousines, travel by boat, etc..

Sabrina affords us excellent opportunities to watch Wilder develop and then milk a joke. Examples are a pair of champagne glasses that return to give David a royal pain, and a sheet of super-strong plastic that then returns as a special hammock to soothe David’s injured posterior. Sabrina’s father chides her for ‘reaching for the moon,’ a verbal image already made literal in the film’s main title. Wilder develops his motifs from film to film as well. Linus Larrabee’s hat, umbrella and copy of The Wall Street Journal are further elaborated for C.R. MacNamara in Wilder’s later One, Two, Three.

Although Billy Wilder’s films are now universally accepted critics once accused him of being a heartless cynic, and especially cruel to his leading ladies. That rumor may have begun with A Foreign Affair, when Jean Arthur was convinced that Wilder favored Marlene Dietrich. The charge of misogyny was also applied because Wilder sets up several of his heroines for humiliations and suicide attempts, notably Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment. If anything Sabrina gives Audrey Hepburn more different kinds of scenes to play. All in interesting Edith Head/Givenchy fashions, of course.

The critics somehow overlooked Wilder’s intense sense of sympathy and irony. They didn’t mention his visual skills, either. At one point Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina rides an elevator up to a meeting with Linus, who we know plans to tell her he doesn’t love her. As Sabrina climbs upward, Wilder superimposes the numbered elevator lights over her body, with the final light hovering over her heart.

 


 

War and Peace
1956 / Color / 1:85 widescreen (VistaVision) / 208 min.
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, Vittorio Gassman, Herbert Lom, Oscar Homolka, Anita Ekberg, Helmut Dantine, Tullio Carminati, Barry Jones, Milly Vitale, Lea Seidl, Anna Maria Ferrero, Wilfrid Lawson, May Britt, Jeremy Brett, John Mills, Mino Doro, Mimmo Palmara, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart.
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
Art Director: Mario Chiari
Costumes: Maria De Matteis
Supervising Film Editor: Stuart Gilmore
Film Editor: Leo Catozzo
Original Music: Nino Rota
Adapted by: Bridget Boland, Robert Westerby, King Vidor, Mario Camerini, Ennio De Concini, Ivo Perilli from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Carlo Ponti
Directed by
King Vidor

When it comes to film versions of War and Peace nothing compares to the amazing 1967 Bondarchuk four-part version from the Soviet Union, with a nine hour running time. Yet this 1956 French-Italian co-production is eminently watchable at one third the duration. It does commit some corner-cutting with the epic scenes, and at least one star seems seriously miscast. How do I know?  My daughter the Russian lit major gave me a whole list of literary offenses committed by the screenwriters. Actually, no screenwriters are credited, only a long list of ‘adaptors.’

Welcome to War and Peace the epic soap opera, with plenty of huge, ornate ballrooms and one elaborate street set filling in for all of Moscow. An international cast all speaking in English doesn’t project much Russian atmosphere, but all are capable. King Vidor’s direction is direct and clean, often impeccable. Ignoring the approach of Napoleon’s army, Moscow society remains concerned with its internal problems. The bookish, insecure Pierre Bezukhov (Henry Fonda) marries the wrong woman, Helene (Anita Ekberg), almost to spare the Rostov girls he truly admires, Sonya (May Britt) and Natasha (Audrey Hepburn). Helene’s faithlessness leads to a duel for Bezukhov, against the dashing Dolokhov (Helmut Dantine). When the good, noble Andrei (Mel Ferrer) becomes available after his wife dies in childbirth, and he and Natasha seem set to become the romance of the Napoleonic era. But the invading French prevent their love from advancing.

This is one good-looking movie, with expressive and colorful VistaVision lighting by the ace director of photography Jack Cardiff. Yet the show has long been the target of detractors. Some of the dialogue is really thin. Fonda has to speak the thudding line “Damn you Napoleon. Damn you to hell.” He strives in vain to not be Henry Fonda, to instead be the ineffectual Pierre. But we persist in seeing Tom Joad and young Abraham Lincoln.

Audrey Hepburn is a charming and adorable young Natasha, even if her dalliance with Anatol Kuragin (Vittorio Gassman) seems dictated by the script instead of an unavoidable accident. Natasha is poised, delicate and sensitive, yet as susceptible to romantic hysteria as any young girl … if anything, Hepburn’s persona of instinctual, inbred decorum works against her. But she readily handles every situation, and singlehandedly carries clichés, such as the noble scene when Natasha interrupts the evacuation to declare, ’empty the wagons of our valuables so we can carry wounded soldiers.’

Mel Ferrer (Hepburn’s real-life husband) for once comes off exceptionally well. Often ill-cast, Ferrer tended to loiter uncomfortably in scenes wearing an inappropriate smile. But as an imperious Russian prince he’s great, just noble enough to be convincing in the stoic bedside scenes near the end. Anita Ekberg made more of an impression in the later Fellini fountain scene in La dolce vita. But she’s plenty attractive here as the onerous predatory female who snaps up poor Pierre.

This War and Peace is a model of economy, using less and making it look like more. The battle scenes are large, but not overwhelming. The Moscow balls are impressive yet not massive. King Vidor is efficient & expressive: the main combat sequences are accompanied by tension-inducing metronomic drums, as in the director’s silent classic The Big Parade. Art director Mario Chiari’s settings are lavish but sleek, not cluttered with a lot of detail. The impression given is of many big empty rooms with shiny floors, with a frequent dash of cameraman Cardiff’s expressive reds and oranges. In glorious VistaVision Cardiff makes many scenes come alive, as with Pierre’s duel: the bleak snowscape is an expressive soundstage set. For an unplanned wide shot Cardiff filled in the top half of the image with an improvised, quickly handpainted glass matte, with a light bulb to repesent a weak winter sun.

The ultimate compliment for Audrey Hepburn’s performance was reported on the extras on the Criterion disc of the Sergei Bondarchuk version. When Russians were polled as to what the perfect Natasha should look like, the overwhelming answer was that Hepburn was perfect in the Vidor movie. The casting winner Lyudmila Savelyeva has looks very similar to Audrey, just ‘more Russian.’

 


 

Funny Face
1957 / Color / 1:85 widescreen (VistaVision) / 103 min.
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson, Michel Auclair, Robert Flemyng, Dovima, Suzy Parker, Ruta Lee, Iphigenie Castiglioni, Carole Eastman.
Cinematography: Ray June
Art Directors: Hal Pereira, George W. Davis
Costumes: Edith Head
Audrey Hepburn’s Paris wardrobe: Hubert de Givenchy
Film Editor: Frank Bracht
Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin
Additional Songs: Think Pink!”, “Bonjour Paris” and “On How to Be Lovely” by Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe
Music adapted and conducted by Adolph Deutsch
Orchestrations: Conrad Salinger, Van Cleave, Alexander Courage, Skip Martin
Choreography: Eugene Loring, Fred Astaire
Musical Numbers staged by Stanley Donen
Special Visual Consultant and Title Design: Richard Avedon
Written by Leonard Gershe
Produced by Roger Edens
Directed by
Stanley Donen

Stanley Donen confected some of Hollywood’s happiest musical delights, and 1957 was right in the middle of his brilliant collaborations with George Abbott on Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. This bon-bon of a musical plays directly to Audrey Hepburn’s appeal, with an excellent original screenplay credited directly to Leonard Gershe, a close Roger Edens associate. It was nominated for the Oscar, which seems correct to me — the feather-light story never goes dull. The dances by Fred Astaire and the breathtaking designs and fashion oversight by Richard Avedon don’t hurt. Audrey Hepburn was often clothed for movies by names like Hubert de Givenchy… and nothing she wears ever seems to date. It’s likely she would give credit to her performances to her stylists, but we know better.

Hepburn is bookstore clerk Jo Stockton, who is snapped up for a whirlwind promotional campaign by Quality Magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson). Prescott has picked Jo as the ‘special girl’ to be flown to Paris and made over by the great couturier Paul Duval (Robert Flemyng, the Horrible Dr. Hichcock himself). She’s instead tempted to wander into the intellectual corners of Paris, to seek out her philosopher-guru Émile Flostre (Michel Auclair). Jo is of course a huge success — everything looks good on her and her natural bouyant personality does the rest. And she of course falls in love with Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), the good-humored fashion photographer who really discovered her, and who captures all the dazzling photos.

Surrounding Audrey Heburn with so much elegance and style pays off. She also does some dancing now and then, reminding us that she trained to be a ballerina. In proper VistaVision widescreen proportions, the film knocks us over — the colors in the titles and Hal Pereira’s art direction. Pretty much everything clicks, from Kay Thompson’s grandly overdone personality (so glad she got her chance to shine here) and the fact that Fred Astaire is allowed to be so relaxed and natural. With no overdone dramatic complications, his function is really to front the ‘adore Audrey’ cheerleading section. The self-critical Astaire had threatened to retire as early as ten years before. His Dick Avery forms a romantic combo with an actress thirty years his junior, and we don’t mind a bit.

Is it Donen or producer Roger Edens that’s responsible for the anti-Hollywood casting here?  Both Damn Yankees and Pajama Game had offered many great stage talents to recreate their parts on film; for Funny Face is just as fresh. In addition to Kay Thompson there’s the odd Englishman Robert Flemyng, and the quirky French actor Michel Auclair. Only Francophile film fans knew him, in shows like H. G. Clouzot’s Manon… and Cocteau’s La belle et la bête.

The only odd note with Funny Face is that it goes all the way to Paris to insult French philosphical culture — Auclair’s ’empathicalist’ guru is revealed as a sleazebag seducer of foolish young American virgins. Dick Avery’s not-so-progressive advice is that Jo should discard all the thinking she got in that bookstore, and just be a natural girl interested in being attractive and effervescent.

The film’s music keeps spirits high — Edens assembled a pack of MGM orchestrators and composers to blend the Gershwin music into a seamless soundtrack of reassuring melody. Hepburn is allowed to sing for herself in Funny Face, something that would become an issue seven years later…

When Maggie Prescott discovers the ‘ordinary’ Jo Stockton, she already looks rather tastefully dressed and coiffed. From then on everything Jo wears makes older fashion scenes in Hollywood movies look tepid. Oddly the only entrance Jo/Audrey makes that doesn’t knock us out is her big debut after Paul Duval’s major makeover. Stiff, with her hair up and plenty of makeup, she momentarily looks like just another statuesque model.

 


 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
1961 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 115 min.
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, John McGiver, Alan Reed, Orangey, Mickey Rooney, Mel Blanc, Joyce Meadows, Joan Staley,
Cinematography: Franz F. Planer
Art Directors: Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson
Costumes: Edith Head
Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe (principally): Hubert de Givenchy
Patricia Neal’s wardrobe (principally): Pauline Trigere
Film Editor: Howard Smith
Original Music: Henry Mancini
Written by George Axelrod based on the novella by Truman Capote
Produced by Martin Jurow, Richard Shepherd
Directed by
Blake Edwards

The ‘sixties milestone Breakfast at Tiffany’s captured the imagination of those that craved stylishness and independence, the glamour of the classy New York culture that revolved around show biz and cocktail parties. Purists complain that the movie is a bastardization of Truman Capote’s 1958 novel while others maintain that it follows the story quite closely. With Blake Edwards directing a screenplay adaptation by George Axelrod, the movie shifts erratically between bittersweet drama and slapstick comedy. And then there’s the egregious racial stereotyping… when Turner Classic Movies shows this film I always tune in to hear a new, hilarious host atttempt to navigate a PC disclaimer minefield.

This is fourth of five serious roles for Audrey Hepburn. Not technically a call girl, ‘gentleman’s escort’ Holly Golightly is certainly mistaken for one by some of her dates. She lives a New York fantasy in a brownstone walk-up with a world-class wardrobe and a cat for a companion. She hosts Manhattan’s hippest cocktail parties. The film dodges specifics on how Holly pays for all this but she’s essentially a kept woman, kept by no man in particular.

The popular Holly has connections with influential people like the Hollywood agent O. J. Berman (Martin Balsam), who once promoted her as a starlet. She avoids emotional involvements because her goal is to marry a millionaire. Too slippery to pin down, Holly answers direct questions with quirky humor; when in a bad mood she complains about having a case of the “mean reds”.

The opening scene on Fifth avenue is so iconic that it almost doesn’t matter what movie follows. Fresh from an all-night date and wearing a cocktail dress and dark glasses, Holly pays a dawn visit to Tiffany’s jewelry store, eating a pastry while browsing at the display windows. Add Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s smooth ballad Moon River and it’s instant movie history. Movies had differing views of Gold Diggers, from Gentleman Prefer Blondes to Gold Diggers of 1935, which switches from comedy to horror to trace the downfall of its Broadway Baby. Capote’s novella took place in the 1940s; he saw Marilyn Monroe as his ideal Holly Golightly.

The movie makes the book’s friendly observer and sometime companion Paul Varjak (George Peppard) into a conventional romance for Holly. As a Capote substitute, Varjak is himself a kept man, the gigolo of the wealthy “2-E” (Patricial Neal), a character not in the book. The similar sordid situations are the basis for bonding between Holly and Paul: they’re lost souls suffering in fine clothes. They aren’t concerned about the rent, social condemnation, or even growing old.

Blake Edwards penchant for slapstick at parties and elsewhere lightens the tone, yet steers the show wrong. The silly visual puns don’t date well, although Holly’s penchant for kooky behavior definitely points to the future and Richard Lester, etc. Holly and Paul make a day trip to play cute with a clerk at Tiffany’s. They shoplift at a five ‘n’ dime just for fun, to distinguish themselves from square society. Wow, that’s some social rebellion you got goin’ there, worshipping Tiffany’s while pilfering from a low-end retailer.

Similarly, Holly’s acting up in the Public Library now rings false — to show her spirit, she feels entitled to plague the stuffy librarians. In the more serious scenes Paul and Holly’s common attitude is self-contempt; the filmmakers must have felt compelled to balance the film’s tone with comedy relief wherever possible.

The biggest racist stumble of the decade is the casting of Mickey Rooney as a buck-toothed ‘funny Jap’ stereotype, a surreal miscalculation that would confuse Luis Buñuel. I don’t remember anybody complaining about it in 1961, and we weren’t bothered when Edwards had Peter Sellers impersonate a ‘cute’ Indian either. Frankly, what with the social justice and inclusion going on right now (and its accompanying purges of ‘invalid’ film and filmmakers) we’re surprised nobody has cut a revised, PC version Tiffany’s.

The dramatic shock comes when we learn what Holly’s background was before, through a character played by Buddy Ebsen — she’s really a desperate escapee. Her existential dilemma explains her erratic behavior and her self-destructive lifestyle in general. The glamorous Paul and Holly are a glamorous mix of unworthy values, triumphing over low self-esteem.

Buddy Ebsen and Patricia Neal anchor the serious story, while standouts in the big cast are Alan Reed (the voice of Fred Flintstone) and John McGiver. ‘Orangey’ the cat plays the tabby known simply as ‘cat’ because Holly avoids relationships that might interfere with her social climbing. The finale invented for the movie is a cloying fabrication that succeeds by exploiting audience fondness for adorable pets. Thematically it’s all there, with the lovers affirming their commitment in a rainy alley with a soaking wet cat. The ending is perfectly balanced between throwback romanticism and slick calculation. The earnest actors — particularly the wet cat — pull it off.

 


 

Paris When It Sizzles
1964 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 110 min.
Starring: William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Grégoire Aslan, Raymond Bussières, Christian Duvallex, Michel Thomass, Dominique Boschero, Evi Marandi, Noël Coward, Tony Curtis, Marlene Dietrich, Mel Ferrer
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Art Director: Jean d’Eaubonne
Costumes: Jean Zay
Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe: Hubert de Givenchy
Film Editor: Archie Marshek
Original Music: Nelson Riddle
Screenplay by George Axelrod suggested by the film Fête à Henriette, written by Julien Duvivier and Henri Jeanson
Produced by George Axelrod, Richard Quine
Directed by
Richard Quine

The odd title out in this collection is a proto-meta self-referential comedy about the movies, in which a desperate, irresponsible hack screenwriter (William Holden) and his starstruck, sexy typist (Hepburn) run through a Pirandellian series of movie fantasies. A one-act idea is stretched out to nearly two hours. A 1930s movie might pull off something like this for seventy minutes, but reserving 25 of those minutes for musical numbers.

Holden and Hepburn’s combined charm helps this pill go down. The fast-paced patter and inside jokes about story structure and screenwriter shortcuts/evasions are often amusing, but they’re still throwaways for the Writers Guild wannabes in the audience. The story still must contend with extended fantasy scenes that are 1) often tedious detours into cornball material, and 2) transparently parallel the writer and typist’s own budding romance.

Marlene Dietrich appears in a pointless cameo, walking from a limousine, and not looking too steady on her feet. Guest star Tony Curtis is actually excellent in the fantasy scenes, which often repeat the same action with writers’ alterations. Holden is decent in his various fantasy permutations, even as a glowing red-faced vampire, as unwelcome as that entire skit is. Hepburn’s role is to be an adoring ditz, allowing Holden’s character to continue to blather on with irresponsible, self-loathing talk about writers who become worthless hacks. When Holden confesses all at the end, Hepburn’s reaction doesn’t make much sense, as he’s really been confessing all along.

Director Quine gives us plenty of visual shorthand, with many fancy optical transitions. The explanations of what dissolves do (accompanied by dissolves) is superficially clever, although we get confused when fantasy and reality begin to blur. By the time of the climactic party on the Eiffel Tower with the writer’s impatient producer (Noël Coward) we’ve lost track if the giant party is part of the fantasy, or the reality. The film then goes on for an entire reel, to square the story as a conventional romance, still playing ‘movie convention’ games. Inside jokes reference both Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady. Why, did you know that My Fair Lady and Frankenstein are really the same story?

Writer George Axelrod slams the French New Wave numerous times without saying why. Paris When It Sizzles’ own analytical autopsy of movie conventions mostly falls flat — whereas most of Jean-Luc Godard’s cinematic deconstructions are truly witty (well, in his earlier films).  Watching all those bad ‘scenes’ with the screenwriter’s bad dialogue makes us wonder why any movie works.

Despite its attractive settings and occasional engaging scene, Paris When It Sizzles is almost dispiriting. We’d much rather see these extremely attractive actors in any confected drama or comedy that’s on the level. This in-joke format repeatedly undercuts itself, saying ‘none of this matters, it’s all a joke,’ and especially, ‘aren’t we cute?’

The movie is actually a re-thinking of a French comedy by Julien Duvivier and Henri Jeanson, that sounds like it might be a hoot. A pair of screenwriters are forced to improvise a script, and their furious work is intercut with the final result, in which genre, characters and tone change constantly as the writers become more desperate.

 


 

My Fair Lady
1964 / Color / 2:20 widescreen (Super Panavision 70) / 170 min.
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett, Theodore Bikel, Mona Washbourne, Isobel Elsom, Walter Burke, Henry Daniell,
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Production and Costume Designer: Cecil Beaton
Art Director: Gene Allen
Film Editor: William Ziegler
Music and Lyrics by: Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner
Music supervised and conducted by Andre Previn
Written by Alan Jay Lerner from his stage musical book,from the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Produced by Jack L. Warner
Directed by
George Cukor

The Collection lists its films in alphabetical order, which puts Hepburn’s biggest color films first and her B&W pictures and the now less familiar War and Peace last. Rearranging things chronologically we wind up with this mega- musical, a 65mm Super Panavision blockbuster that was probably the pinnacle of Audrey Hepburn’s career, at least in business terms. Jack Warner pushed the movie through despite having to wait more than seven years for the rights. It’s an unassailable entertainment machine; I remember watching it first on a 19-inch B&W TV, stretched to four hours with commercials. Not quite a Road Show experience.

Most of us saw the 1938 film Pygmalion with Wendy Hiller, which is almost half as long and just as good, after seeing the musical version. Both shows retain viewer integrity, one doesn’t cancel out the other. We don’t miss the music while watching Pygmalion and don’t miss Hiller and Leslie Howard while watching My Fair Lady. The musical takes its sweet time with everything, as a good Road Show picture should. The genius of George Bernard Shaw is happily alive in both versions.

This is director George Cukor’s biggest hit; his main responsibility seems to have been to record the performances properly and to secure Jack Warner’s investment. Cukor could wrangle the troublesome Rex Harrison; the major wrinkle was taming the protests that the original Eliza Doolittle, Julie Andrews, had been pushed out of the role. The sure-fire replacement star Audrey Hepburn either couldn’t or wasn’t allowed to sing for herself. The replacement voice tracks work better here than they had for West Side Story, although it’s still a low point for mix ‘n’ match musical fakery: if you must have a movie star for the marquee, for pity’s sake find one who can sing.

As it is all the songs are big winners, including the ones that feature Audrey Hepburn / Marni Nixon. Cecil Beaton’s costumes (and some designs) stylize the film attractively. But it’s the performance chemistry that clicks. The fiesty Hepburn and the pain-in-the-tail Rex Harrison go at each other magnificently. Warner wisely imported Stanley Holloway to help the show retain some of its satirical roots. This is a movie that needs neither to be explained nor defended. The triumph for director Cukor and his stars is not winding up with an overproduced monster. My Fair Lady may weigh a ton but it’s still light and frolicsome.

 


 

Paramount Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray of Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection gives us all the films in their best Blu-ray encodings, which is a relief: I’ve reviewed at least one collection that substituted obsolete transfer copies, just to clear up old inventory.

All of the films have been previously released on Blu-ray, although a couple slipped under the radar. All look terrific. The remastered Roman Holiday has a very pleasing Italo sunshine look, while Sabrina is at its correct widescreen ratio. War and Peace and Funny Face benefit from VistaVision clarity. The 65mm My Fair Lady was the recipient of a major restoration by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz.

A full list of extras is below. Breakfast at Tiffany’s carries a highly informative commentary by producer Richard Shepherd. Two of the movies have only trailers for extras; the others are loaded with featurettes, both substantial and lightweight fluff. I cruised the ones that interested me, and found thoughtful pieces on supporting actors, rather defensive takes on the blacklist and racial profiling, and occasional items that really stood out: pieces on VistaVision, Henry Mancini, and an opportunity to hear Audrey Hepburn singing Eliza Doolittle with her own voice. Most of the films have image galleries.

The fat keep case contains eight discs, as the extras for My Fair Lady have a disc of their own. All in all, should you know the right Audrey Hepburn fan, this is a very attractive gift box idea.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson


Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection
Blu-ray rates:
Movies: all Excellent except for Paris When It Sizzles Good – minus and War and Peace Good + plus
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements:
Roman Holiday
Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday; Behind the Gates: Costumes; Rome with a Princess; Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years; Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist; Paramount in the ’50s; Remembering Audrey.
Sabrina
Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon; Sabrina’s World; Supporting Sabrina; William Holden: The Paramount Years; Sabrina Documentary; Behind the Gates: Camera.
Funny Face
Kay Thompson: Think Pink!; This is VistaVision; Fashion Photographers Exposed; The Fashion Designer and His Muse; Parisian Dreams.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Commentary by producer Richard Shepherd; A Golightly Gathering; Henry Mancini: More Than Music; Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective; Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The Making of a Classic; It’s So Audrey: A Style Icon; Behind the Gates: The Tour; Brilliance in a Blue Box; Audrey’s Letter to Tiffany.
My Fair Lady
More Loverly Than Ever: The Making of My Fair Lady Then & Now; 1963 Production Kick-Off Dinner; Los Angeles Premiere 10/28/1964; British Premiere; George Cukor Directs Baroness Bina Rothschild; Rex Harrison Radio Interview; Production Tests; Alternate Audrey Hepburn Vocals; Comments on a Lady; Theatrical Featurettes; Story of a Lady; Design for a Lady; The Fairest Fair Lady.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly?
YES
; Subtitles: English (feature only)
Packaging: One Blu-ray in Keep case
Reviewed:
October 17, 2021
(6585hepb)CINESAVANT

Visit CineSavant’s Main Column Page
Glenn Erickson answers most reader mail:
cinesavant@gmail.com

Text © Copyright 2021 Glenn Erickson

Film Editor: Howard Smith
Original Music: Henry Mancini
Written by George Axelrod based on the novella by Truman Capote
Produced by Martin Jurow, Richard Shepherd
Directed by Blake Edwards

The ‘sixties milestone Breakfast at Tiffany’s captured the imagination of those that craved stylishness and independence, the glamour of the classy New York culture that revolved around show biz and cocktail parties. Purists complain that the movie is a bastardization of Truman Capote’s 1958 novel while others maintain that it follows the story quite closely. With Blake Edwards directing a screenplay adaptation by George Axelrod, the movie shifts erratically between bittersweet drama and slapstick comedy. And then there’s the egregious racial stereotyping… when Turner Classic Movies shows this film I always tune in to hear a new, hilarious host atttempt to navigate a PC disclaimer minefield.

This is fourth of five serious roles for Audrey Hepburn. Not technically a call girl, ‘gentleman’s escort’ Holly Golightly is certainly mistaken for one by some of her dates. She lives a New York fantasy in a brownstone walk-up with a world-class wardrobe and a cat for a companion. She hosts Manhattan’s hippest cocktail parties. The film dodges specifics on how Holly pays for all this but she’s essentially a kept woman, kept by no man in particular.

The popular Holly has connections with influential people like the Hollywood agent O. J. Berman (Martin Balsam), who once promoted her as a starlet. She avoids emotional involvements because her goal is to marry a millionaire. Too slippery to pin down, Holly answers direct questions with quirky humor; when in a bad mood she complains about having a case of the “mean reds”.

The opening scene on Fifth avenue is so iconic that it almost doesn’t matter what movie follows. Fresh from an all-night date and wearing a cocktail dress and dark glasses, Holly pays a dawn visit to Tiffany’s jewelry store, eating a pastry while browsing at the display windows. Add Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s smooth ballad Moon River and it’s instant movie history. Movies had differing views of Gold Diggers, from Gentleman Prefer Blondes to Gold Diggers of 1935, which switches from comedy to horror to trace the downfall of its Broadway Baby. Capote’s novella took place in the 1940s; he saw Marilyn Monroe as his ideal Holly Golightly.

The movie makes the book’s friendly observer and sometime companion Paul Varjak (George Peppard) into a conventional romance for Holly. As a Capote substitute, Varjak is himself a kept man, the gigolo of the wealthy “2-E” (Patricial Neal), a character not in the book. The similar sordid situations are the basis for bonding between Holly and Paul: they’re lost souls suffering in fine clothes. They aren’t concerned about the rent, social condemnation, or even growing old.

Blake Edwards penchant for slapstick at parties and elsewhere lightens the tone, yet steers the show wrong. The silly visual puns don’t date well, although Holly’s penchant for kooky behavior definitely points to the future and Richard Lester, etc. Holly and Paul make a day trip to play cute with a clerk at Tiffany’s. They shoplift at a five ‘n’ dime just for fun, to distinguish themselves from square society. Wow, that’s some social rebellion you got goin’ there, worshipping Tiffany’s while pilfering from a low-end retailer.

Similarly, Holly’s acting up in the Public Library now rings false — to show her spirit, she feels entitled to plague the stuffy librarians. In the more serious scenes Paul and Holly’s common attitude is self-contempt; the filmmakers must have felt compelled to balance the film’s tone with comedy relief wherever possible.

The biggest racist stumble of the decade is the casting of Mickey Rooney as a buck-toothed ‘funny Jap’ stereotype, a surreal miscalculation that would confuse Luis Buñuel. I don’t remember anybody complaining about it in 1961, and we weren’t bothered when Edwards had Peter Sellers impersonate a ‘cute’ Indian either. Frankly, what with the social justice and inclusion going on right now (and its accompanying purges of ‘invalid’ film and filmmakers) we’re surprised nobody has cut a revised, PC version Tiffany’s.

The dramatic shock comes when we learn what Holly’s background was before, through a character played by Buddy Ebsen — she’s really a desperate escapee. Her existential dilemma explains her erratic behavior and her self-destructive lifestyle in general. The glamorous Paul and Holly are a glamorous mix of unworthy values, triumphing over low self-esteem.

Buddy Ebsen and Patricia Neal anchor the serious story, while standouts in the big cast are Alan Reed (the voice of Fred Flintstone) and John McGiver. ‘Orangey’ the cat plays the tabby known simply as ‘cat’ because Holly avoids relationships that might interfere with her social climbing. The finale invented for the movie is a cloying fabrication that succeeds by exploiting audience fondness for adorable pets. Thematically it’s all there, with the lovers affirming their commitment in a rainy alley with a soaking wet cat. The ending is perfectly balanced between throwback romanticism and slick calculation. The earnest actors — particularly the wet cat — pull it off.

 


 

Paris When It Sizzles
1964 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 110 min.
Starring: William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Grégoire Aslan, Raymond Bussières, Christian Duvallex, Michel Thomass, Dominique Boschero, Evi Marandi, Noël Coward, Tony Curtis, Marlene Dietrich, Mel Ferrer
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Art Director: Jean d’Eaubonne
Film Editor: Archie Marshek
Original Music: Nelson Riddle
Written by George Axelrod story by Julien Duvivier, Henri Jeanson
Produced by George Axelrod, Richard Quine
Directed by
Richard Quine

The odd title out in this collection is a proto-meta self-referential comedy about the movies, in which a desperate, irresponsible hack screenwriter (William Holden) and his starstruck, sexy typist (Hepburn) run through a Pirandellian series of movie fantasies. A one-act idea is stretched out to nearly two hours. A 1930s movie might pull off something like this for seventy minutes, but reserving 25 of those minutes for musical numbers.

Holden and Hepburn’s combined charm helps this pill go down. The fast-paced patter and inside jokes about story structure and screenwriter shortcuts/evasions are often amusing, but they’re still throwaways for the Writers Guild wannabes in the audience. The story still must contend with extended fantasy scenes that are 1) often tedious detours into cornball material, and 2) transparently parallel the writer and typist’s own budding romance.

Marlene Dietrich appears in a pointless cameo, walking from a limousine, and not looking too steady on her feet. Guest star Tony Curtis is actually excellent in the fantasy scenes, which often repeat the same action with writers’ alterations. Holden is decent in his various fantasy permutations, even as a glowing red-faced vampire, as unwelcome as that entire skit is. Hepburn’s role is to be an adoring ditz, allowing Holden’s character to continue to blather on with irresponsible, self-loathing talk about writers who become worthless hacks. When Holden confesses all at the end, Hepburn’s reaction doesn’t make much sense, as he’s really been confessing all along.

Director Quine gives us plenty of visual shorthand, with many fancy optical transitions. The explanations of what dissolves do (accompanied by dissolves) is superficially clever, although we get confused when fantasy and reality begin to blur. By the time of the climactic party on the Eiffel Tower with the writer’s impatient producer (Noël Coward) we’ve lost track if the giant party is part of the fantasy, or the reality. The film then goes on for an entire reel, to square the story as a conventional romance, still playing ‘movie convention’ games. Inside jokes reference both Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady. Why, did you know that My Fair Lady and Frankenstein are really the same story?

Writer George Axelrod slams the French New Wave numerous times without saying why. Paris When It Sizzles’ own analytical autopsy of movie conventions mostly falls flat — whereas most of Jean-Luc Godard’s cinematic deconstructions are truly witty (well, in his earlier films).  Watching all those bad ‘scenes’ with the screenwriter’s bad dialogue makes us wonder why any movie works.

Despite its attractive settings and occasional engaging scene, Paris When It Sizzles is almost dispiriting. We’d much rather see these extremely attractive actors in any confected drama or comedy that’s on the level. This in-joke format repeatedly undercuts itself, saying ‘none of this matters, it’s all a joke,’ and especially, ‘aren’t we cute?’

The movie is actually a re-thinking of a French comedy by Julien Duvivier and Henri Jeanson, that sounds like it might be a hoot. A pair of screenwriters are forced to improvise a script, and their furious work is intercut with the final result, in which genre, characters and tone change constantly as the writers become more desperate.

 


 

My Fair Lady
1964 / Color / 2:20 widescreen (Super Panavision 70) / 170 min.
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett, Theodore Bikel, Mona Washbourne, Isobel Elsom, Walter Burke, Henry Daniell,
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Production Designer: Cecil Beaton
Film Editor: William Ziegler
Music and Lyrics by: Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe
Written by Alan Jay Lerner from his stage musical book,from the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Produced by Jack L. Warner
Directed by
George Cukor

The Collection lists its films in alphabetical order, which puts Hepburn’s biggest color films first and her B&W pictures and the now less familiar War and Peace last. Rearranging things chronologically we wind up with this mega- musical, a 65mm Super Panavision blockbuster that was probably the pinnacle of Audrey Hepburn’s career, at least in business terms. Jack Warner pushed the movie through despite having to wait more than seven years for the rights. It’s an unassailable entertainment machine; I remember watching it first on a 19-inch B&W TV, stretched to four hours with commercials. Not quite a Road Show experience.

Most of us saw the 1938 film Pygmalion with Wendy Hiller, which is almost half as long and just as good, after seeing the musical version. Both shows retain viewer integrity, one doesn’t cancel out the other. We don’t miss the music while watching Pygmalion and don’t miss Hiller and Leslie Howard while watching My Fair Lady. The musical takes its sweet time with everything, as a good Road Show picture should. The genius of George Bernard Shaw is happily alive in both versions.

This is director George Cukor’s biggest hit; his main responsibility seems to have been to record the performances properly and to secure Jack Warner’s investment. Cukor could wrangle the troublesome Rex Harrison; the major wrinkle was taming the protests that the original Eliza Doolittle, Julie Andrews, had been pushed out of the role. The sure-fire replacement star Audrey Hepburn either couldn’t or wasn’t allowed to sing for herself. The replacement voice tracks work better here than they had for West Side Story, although it’s still a low point for mix ‘n’ match musical fakery: if you must have a movie star for the marquee, for pity’s sake find one who can sing.

As it is all the songs are big winners, including the ones that feature Audrey Hepburn / Marni Nixon. Cecil Beaton’s costumes (and some designs) stylize the film attractively. But it’s the performance chemistry that clicks. The fiesty Hepburn and the pain-in-the-tail Rex Harrison go at each other magnificently. Warner wisely imported Stanley Holloway to help the show retain some of its satirical roots. This is a movie that needs neither to be explained nor defended. The triumph for director Cukor and his stars is not winding up with an overproduced monster. My Fair Lady may weigh a ton but it’s still light and frolicsome.

 


 

Paramount Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray of Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection gives us all the films in their best Blu-ray encodings, which is a relief: I’ve reviewed at least one collection that substituted obsolete transfer copies, just to clear up old inventory.

All of the films have been previously released on Blu-ray, although a couple slipped under the radar. All look terrific. The remastered Roman Holiday has a very pleasing Italo sunshine look, while Sabrina is at its correct widescreen ratio. War and Peace and Funny Face benefit from VistaVision clarity. The 65mm My Fair Lady was the recipient of a major restoration by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz.

A full list of extras is below. Breakfast at Tiffany’s carries a highly informative commentary by producer Richard Shepherd. Two of the movies have only trailers for extras; the others are loaded with featurettes, both substantial and lightweight fluff. I cruised the ones that interested me, and found thoughtful pieces on supporting actors, rather defensive takes on the blacklist and racial profiling, and occasional items that really stood out: pieces on VistaVision, Henry Mancini, and an opportunity to hear Audrey Hepburn singing Eliza Doolittle with her own voice. Most of the films have image galleries.

The fat keep case contains eight discs, as the extras for My Fair Lady have a disc of their own. All in all, should you know the right Audrey Hepburn fan, this is a very attractive gift box idea.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson


Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection
Blu-ray rates:
Movies: all Excellent except for Paris When It Sizzles Good – minus and War and Peace Good + plus
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements:
Roman Holiday
Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday; Behind the Gates: Costumes; Rome with a Princess; Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years; Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist; Paramount in the ’50s; Remembering Audrey.
Sabrina
Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon; Sabrina’s World; Supporting Sabrina; William Holden: The Paramount Years; Sabrina Documentary; Behind the Gates: Camera.
Funny Face
Kay Thompson: Think Pink!; This is VistaVision; Fashion Photographers Exposed; The Fashion Designer and His Muse; Parisian Dreams.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Commentary by producer Richard Shepherd; A Golightly Gathering; Henry Mancini: More Than Music; Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective; Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The Making of a Classic; It’s So Audrey: A Style Icon; Behind the Gates: The Tour; Brilliance in a Blue Box; Audrey’s Letter to Tiffany.
My Fair Lady
More Loverly Than Ever: The Making of My Fair Lady Then & Now; 1963 Production Kick-Off Dinner; Los Angeles Premiere 10/28/1964; British Premiere; George Cukor Directs Baroness Bina Rothschild; Rex Harrison Radio Interview; Production Tests; Alternate Audrey Hepburn Vocals; Comments on a Lady; Theatrical Featurettes; Story of a Lady; Design for a Lady; The Fairest Fair Lady.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly?
YES
; Subtitles: English (feature only)
Packaging: One Blu-ray in Keep case
Reviewed:
October 17, 2021
(6585hepb)CINESAVANT

Visit CineSavant’s Main Column Page
Glenn Erickson answers most reader mail:
cinesavant@gmail.com

Text © Copyright 2021 Glenn Erickson

About Glenn Erickson

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 6.51.08 PM

Glenn Erickson left a small town for UCLA film school, where his spooky student movie about a haunted window landed him a job on the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS effects crew. He’s a writer and a film editor experienced in features, TV commercials, Cannon movie trailers, special montages and disc docus. But he’s most proud of finding the lost ending for a famous film noir, that few people knew was missing. Glenn is grateful for Trailers From Hell’s generous offer of a guest reviewing haven for CineSavant.