Tag: Billy Wilder

MOVIE REVIEW | ***B&D SATURDAY FLASHBACK*** Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina poster
And so I stumble across another Billy Wilder picture that I had no idea was a Billy Wilder picture until his name popped up on the screen.  It turns out this dude churned out a lot of movies that have stayed pretty famous and kept good reputations 60 odd years later.  And of all his movies that I’ve seen, Sabrina definitely falls more on the side of things like The Seven Year Itch than something like The Lost Weekend.

So, Humphrey Bogart, the original hard boiled PI and king of film noir.  The ruthless gangster of more than one James Cagney movie.  The greed infected killer of The Treasures of the Sierra Madre…  Not exactly the guy you expect to see in a love triangle fuelled, romantic comedy romp.  But here is, none the less.

One half of pair of brothers with William Holden, the two are described in the opening voiceover with Bogart, “Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him The Man Most Likely to Leave His Alma Mater Fifty Million Dollars. His brother, David (Holden), went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time, and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player and is listed on Linus’s tax return as a six hundred dollar deduction.

While they grew up in luxury, their chauffer’s daughter, the titular Sabrina, played by Audrey Hepburn, grew up in love with their life and in love with David.  After a couple of years in France, Sabrina returns grown up enough to finally be noticed by David.  Hepburn really is one of the only actresses who could ever play a part like this.  When David declares his love almost immediately after her return, and when every man at a party stops dead in their tracks on her arrival, it never seems far fetched.  If any women in the history of Hollywood could have that effect, it’s Audrey Hepburn.

David’s infatuation with Sabrina threatens to destroy a $20million business merger, so Linus decides to intervene and stop the two from hooking up.  And you’ll never guess, but Linus falls in love with her too.

With almost six decades of terrible rom coms in its wake bastardising so much of movies like Sabrina, no one is going to be surprised by the ending and the path it takes to get there, but it’s how the movie delivers these now old standard devices that makes it work.  The comic relief of the Larrabees hen pecked father works every time, the growing attraction between Bogart and Hepburn is totally believable and the schmaltz is never too on the nose.

Really, with two of Hollywood’s greatest screen presences in Bogart and Hepburn (plus Holden isn’t too bad either), and one of the greatest directors of all time, I shouldn’t be surprised by how good Sabrina is, but it really did take me off guard.  I just never expected anything that could be described as a rom com to be this watchable.

(Review originally posted Dec 19, 2013)

Sabrina
Directed By – Billy Wilder
Written By – Billy Wilder, Samuel A Taylor, Ernest Lehman

MOVIE REVIEW | Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s one thing when a bona fide genius blows you away in a way you knew they were capable of.  It’s a whole other thing when they give you something totally unexpected.”

Witness 1
“But this is England, where I thought you never arrest, let alone convict, people for crimes they have not committed.”

One of the greatest things for me that has happened since starting this blog is my discovery of and appreciation for Billy Wilder.  Sure, I’d known he was a legend for a long time, and I’d seen a few of his movies.  Sometimes on purpose, sometimes inadvertently.  But it wasn’t until I started to think about them in such a detailed way that I realised just how brilliant and versatile he was as a director.  Something that was just solidified even more by watching Witness for the Prosecution.

Respected barrister Sir Wilfred Roberts (Charles Laughton) comes home after a severe heart attack.  Shadowed by his over protective and over talkative nurse, all he wants is a few minutes to sneak a relaxing cigar.  A moment he finds when a colleague arrives on his doorstep with Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power).    After a wealthy, old, female acquaintance of Vole’s was murdered and left him a substantial inheritance, Vile became suspect number one.  Claiming innocence, he went to the police unsolicited and made a statement.  Unfortunately, his eagerness to clear his name only incriminated him more. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #16. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

Sunset 1
“Sometimes it’s interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit.”

Billy Wilder is undisputedly one of the greatest directors to have ever made movies. This AFI Top 100 list includes several of his movies. His total here is only beaten or rivalled by legendary names like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. I knew I liked and respected Wilder’s work before I started this countdown, but now I know I absolutely love it. And while his silly comedies, like The Seven Year Itch, are great, it’s his dark, cynical streak that I really dig. Movies like Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend. And possibly the greatest display of his darker sensibilities, Sunset Blvd.


A dead body floats face down in a pool. But this is how Sunset Blvd. will end, so first, it’s time to flash back. Down on his luck Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) hasn’t sold a script in a while and is broke enough to consider skipping town and heading back to Ohio. Doing his best to evade debt collectors and avoid having his car repossessed, he loses them by turning into the driveway of a rundown old mansion and hiding his car in the garage. Before he can leave, Joe is summoned inside by the home’s butler Max (Erich von Stroheim). Mistakenly believing Joe to be the monkey mortician (yep, I said “monkey mortician”) they’re expecting, Joe is sent upstairs where he meets the mansion’s owner, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #29. Double Indemnity (1944)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Double-Indemnity-Poster
“Suddenly it came over me that everything would go wrong. It sounds crazy, Keyes, but it’s true, so help me. I couldn’t hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.

Film Noir Cliches: Filmed in black and white.  A cynical man who thinks he’s seen it all, dragged into something by a beautiful woman.  Double crosses.  Double crosses of double crosses.  Rat-a-tat dialogue delivered with as little emotion as possible.  No real winners, but all sorts of losers.  Cliches are bad when they’re utilised for the sake of being there, or out of pure laziness and unoriginality.  Cliches are amazing when you see them being invented and understand immediately why they became clichés, irresistible to lazy and unoriginal story tellers.  And it’s the masterclass in film noir clichés that makes Double Indemnity one of the absolute best movies ever made.


Walking into an office in the middle of the night, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) turns on a tape recorder and starts to tell his story.  An insurance salesman, Neff made a house call several months ago to a wealthy oil tycoon client whose car insurance had lapsed.  The tycoon wasn’t home, but his young, trophy wife (Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson) was.  The two flirted immediately and Neff left with Phyllis well and truly stuck in his mind. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina poster
And so I stumble across another Billy Wilder picture that I had no idea was a Billy Wilder picture until his name popped up on the screen.  It turns out this dude churned out a lot of movies that have stayed pretty famous and kept good reputations 60 odd years later.  And of all his movies that I’ve seen, Sabrina definitely falls more on the side of things like The Seven Year Itch than something like The Lost Weekend.

So, Humphrey Bogart, the original hard boiled PI and king of film noir.  The ruthless gangster of more than one James Cagney movie.  The greed infected killer of The Treasures of the Sierra Madre…  Not exactly the guy you expect to see in a love triangle fuelled, romantic comedy romp.  But here is, none the less.

One half of pair of brothers with William Holden, the two are described in the opening voiceover with Bogart, “Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him The Man Most Likely to Leave His Alma Mater Fifty Million Dollars. His brother, David (Holden), went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time, and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player and is listed on Linus’s tax return as a six hundred dollar deduction.

While they grew up in luxury, their chauffer’s daughter, the titular Sabrina, played by Audrey Hepburn, grew up in love with their life and in love with David.  After a couple of years in France, Sabrina returns grown up enough to finally be noticed by David.  Hepburn really is one of the only actresses who could ever play a part like this.  When David declares his love almost immediately after her return, and when every man at a party stops dead in their tracks on her arrival, it never seems far fetched.  If any women in the history of Hollywood could have that effect, it’s Audrey Hepburn.

David’s infatuation with Sabrina threatens to destroy a $20million business merger, so Linus decides to intervene and stop the two from hooking up.  And you’ll never guess, but Linus falls in love with her too.

With almost six decades of terrible rom coms in its wake bastardising so much of movies like Sabrina, no one is going to be surprised by the ending and the path it takes to get there, but it’s how the movie delivers these now old standard devices that makes it work.  The comic relief of the Larrabees hen pecked father works every time, the growing attraction between Bogart and Hepburn is totally believable and the schmaltz is never too on the nose.

Really, with two of Hollywood’s greatest screen presences in Bogart and Hepburn (plus Holden isn’t too bad either), and one of the greatest directors of all time, I shouldn’t be surprised by how good Sabrina is, but it really did take me off guard.  I just never expected anything that could be described as a rom com to be this watchable.

Sabrina
Directed By – Billy Wilder
Written By – Billy Wilder, Samuel A Taylor, Ernest Lehman

MOVIE REVIEW | The Lost Weekend (1945)

the_lost_weekend-21

Ever get worried that you’re too happy?  That life is too good?  That your future is too bright?  If you ever think your mood needs to be taken down a notch and that a quick injection of depression is required, The Lost Weekend is the movie for you.  If you really want to get crazy with the bring downs, make it a double feature with Days of Wine and Roses.  Bugger it, go all the way, triple bill those two bring downs with Leaving Las Vegas, then get ready for a night of cold sweats and deep regrets, even if you’ve never touched a drop.


Yep, The Lost Weekend is another delightful romp into the world of alcoholism.  And not the fun kind of alcoholism like Burt Reynold’s character hiding booze in a lamp shade in Smokey and the Bandit II.  But the full blown, balls to the wall, depressing kind of alcoholism, like Ray Millan’s character hiding booze in a lamp shade in The Lost Weekend.  Strap yourself in, because while this is a pretty amazing movie, it’s not pretty.

One thing that really stood out to me about The Lost Weekend is that it’s not a story about a man’s descent into alcoholism.  Ray Millan’s Don Birnam has already hit rock bottom before the opening scene is set.  His brother and girlfriend are helping him pack for a weekend of drying out in the country.  Even as the shot ripples and fades into a flashback, the movie still resists telling the origins of his problem.  Instead, it tells the origin of his relationship with his girlfriend Helen St James, played by Jane Wyman.  When they meet, he’s already well and truly in the bottle.

Directed by Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend was his first big Academy Awards success, bagging four Oscars.  Before this, Wilder had made Double Indemnity and would go on to make classics like Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot and The Apartment.  And while they all have their own feeling of darkness (Some Like it Hot accepted), The Lost Weekend really did stand out to me as one of his most intimately dark stories.  Rarely widening the story beyond central character Don Birnam, his girlfriend and his brother, Wilder somehow creates a grand, high stakes feeling out of a really small story.

Set in New York, with all exteriors shot there, this is a great look at the city, and life in general, almost seventy years ago.  It also leads to one of the very few off notes in The Lost Weekend.  A struggling writer, Millan attempts to pawn his typewriter for booze money.  In a conversation with a Jewish dude, it’s revealed every pawn shop in New York is owned by Jews or Irishmen.  I don’t know if this is accurate to the period or a lazy stereotype on the part of Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett, but watching it in 2013, the exchange really jumped out at me in a not so good way.

The other minor problem I have with The Lost Weekend is the overly tidy, convenient ending.  After seeing Millan go through so much and sink so low, the conclusion comes a little too suddenly.  And while it doesn’t necessarily give away what his future holds, I thought it made it a little too definite.  With a character as complex as Don Birnam, I could have done with just a bit more grey area in his final minutes.

Watch the full movie, streaming for free HERE
Directed By – Billy Wilder
Written By – Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder