Monday, September 15, 2008


"Sabrina is a movie originally adapted from a play, "Sabrina Fair" by Samuel Albert Taylor (The "Albert" is important because without it you might confuse him with Samuel Wooley Taylor and think that "Sabrina" is a movie like the latter's "The Absent Minded Professor, which it is not). Basically, it is the story of a young girl, Sabrina, who has fallen madly, hopelessly, in love with a rich, young playboy, David Larrabee. Because she is awkward, ungainly, and the Larrabee's chauffer's daughter, her love is, as stated above, hopeless, and her father sends her off to Paris to learn a trade. She comes back elegant, beautiful, and marvelessly self-confident, so that, not surprisingly, her fondest dream is realized when the object of her affection, David, falls madly in love with her. The trouble is that while she was in Paris, David has gotten himself engaged to another woman. That engagement is a necessary element in David's brother, Linus's, latest business venture. Linus fears that the breaking up of the engagement will destroy the chances of his being able to pull of his business deal, so he sets out to undermine the relationship between David and Sabrina by temporairily crippling his younger brother and using the resulting time to get Sabrina to fall in love with him, which Sabrina obligingly does. At the last minute, however, Linus realizes that this is rather an underhanded and shady thing to do so he obligingly gives Sabrina back to David. Depending on what you think of the characters and very dependent upon the portrayal, all turn's out in the end for the best, or, at least, what the screen writers intended us to think is the best. I have seen the play "Sabrina Fair" twice and in both instances I have felt that the ending was both believable and satisfying, something I cannot say for either of the movie versions.

In the original movie version the leads are played by Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart as Linus Larrabee, and William Holden as his younger brother, David. Of course, it is entirely believable that Humphrey Bogart's character, and almost anyone for that matter, would actually fall in love with Audrey Hepburn. What strains credulity to the breaking point is that Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina) would actually give up her infatuation with William Holden in favor of Bogart's Linus. I must admit that Hepburn really does make it almost convincing which is a testimony to her ability as the consummate actress. Part of the reason, however, that it works is that Linus is portrayed as a basically decent, competent, caring person who really does want the best for everyone. This is a role for which Bogart is clearly out of character--a far cry from his normal tough-as-nails, hardboiled, cynical, tyrant role. The casting makes little sense until you discover that the role of Linus was orginally intended for Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart was a last minute substitution. Cary Grant, of course, would have been perfect for the role and it is clear that the script was tailored with his normal character in mind.

The remake of the movie has Harrison Ford as Linus with I have no idea who as Sabrina and David. David actually does a fairly decent job, but the actress portraying Sabrina does not. Part, if not most of the problem, is Ford. He plays the role as undoubtedly the role would have been scripted had it been done for Humphrey Bogart. He is portrayed as Hollywood usually portrays businessmen, as being selfish, greedy, egotistical and thoroughly unlikeable to everyone except his mother. And even though, I felt, the portrayal of Sabrina was not all that sympathetic in this new version, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. If she does, in fact, marry Linus as the ending sort of implies she might, I suspect that theirs will not be a match made in heaven or anywhere in proximity thereto, as Linus, as portrayed by Ford, is clearly incapable of loving anyone but himself with the possible exception of working up a tiny bit of affection for his mother and an equally tiny bit of admiration for his very efficient secretary.

The two versions of the movie show how very much the perception of business, or, at least, big business, is portrayed in Hollywood. In the Bogart version, Linus, is always expanding his business and merging with companies because he is convinced that he can run them better and thus increase the amount of employment for the common man. He takes companies with promising products, adds his own expertise and capital and enlarges them, thus increasing opportunities for both workers and consummers, making everyone better off. In the Harrison Ford version, on the other hand, Linus is portrayed as a hachetman. He gets rich by merging with a company that has a product that is developed and has manufacturing equipment in place and takes over the operation and fires most of the workers, thus reaping in all the profits from the sale of the new item for himself. I wonder why Harrison Ford did not use all the expertise acquired in the making of Sabrina to fire all the people listed at the end credits of his movie, and all subsequent movies. He could thereby make himself a great deal more money and save us all the trouble of having to sit through those end credits. Movies never used to have end credits. If they did it was merely a relisting of the cast telling you exactly who played what person. Are all those additional people necessary because of a rule by the labor union, or the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals? The very idea that a businessman could get rich by firing all kinds of workers has credibility only because so many of our large corporations, due to subsidies, import restrictions and tariffs, and other government rules and regulations, have come to be nearly as inefficient as the government. I think it was the economist, John Kenneth Galbraith who once complained that he was convinced that many big corporations were as inefficient as the government. He actually phrased his complaint as a rhetorical question, but the answer is that there are none, unless there is government involved. The reason is that no one voluntarily pays some one else for doing nothing. Unless the companies that Linus was always merging with, had lots of "fat" due to government subsidies and other government actions, every person he fired would result in less output, and hence, ultimately, less profit.

The fact of the matter is that in a free society we do not voluntarily do business with the kind of people that Linus Larrabee is portrayed as being in the Harrison Ford movie. In such a society he would either need a lot of government force to stay in business or he would be best advised to take all his money, while he still has any, and put it in government securities.

No comments: