The Heroine’s Journey in “Sabrina”

Bogart plays a cold-hearted tycoon whose sole companion in life is The Wall Street Journal. Holden is his wastrel brother, and Hepburn the chauffeur’s daughter. Yes, you’ve guessed what happens. Holden fools around with her, she attempts suicide, is sent to France for a cookery course, returns to melt Bogart’s heart, and Holden is left to chair the board.

Getting to this characteristic Wilder reversal of roles is romantic, funny and astringent all at the same time. Bogart is the man of plastic – he doesn’t burn, melt or scorch – and Wilder satirises him and his ideals ruthlessly.

Bogart’s age here is crucial: he looks like an undertaker who has sidestepped the youth which Hepburn will give him. The golden boy Holden is the other extreme and equally ridiculous, driving around in his snazzy cars, coerced into a marriage between corporations, and forced to sit on some champagne glasses, enabling Bogart to sort out the Hepburn problem.

It is a Cinderella story — of the girl who lives over the garage of the wealthy Long Island family and returns from cooking school in Paris to charm the playboy son of the gentry, only to find herself crashing head-on into the well-arranged plans of his older brother to marry him off to the daughter of a sugar king. The hitch is that in his sly endeavors to get Cinderella out of the way, this older brother finds himself falling strangely into the noncommercial clutches of love

It’s a Cinderella story that gets turned on its head, a satire about breaking down class and emotional barriers (neatly signified in the array of window and glass imagery), and a confrontation between New World callousness and Old World humanity.