Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Directed, produced, written (with I.A.L.Diamond) by Billy Wilder. Based on the novel Ariane by Claude Anet.  Photography, William Mellor. Editing, Leonide Azar. Production design, Alexander Trauner. Music, Franz Waxman. Costumes, Hubert de Givenchy. Cast: Gary Cooper (Frank Flannagan), Audrey Hepburn (Ariane Chavasse), Maurice Chevalier (Claude Chavasse, Van Doude (Michel), John McGiver (Mr. X), Lise Bourdin (Mrs. X) Bonifas (Commissioner of Police), Audrey Wilder ( a brunette), Gyula Kokas, Michel Kokas, George Cocos. Victor Gazzoli (the 4 Gypsies, musicians), Olga Valery (Lady with Dog), Leila Croft and Valerie Croft (Swedish Twins), et al.

Comedy-romance stars Gary Cooper (1901-1961), Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993), Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972), with John McGiver in a funny supporting role, and the Diga Valery Gypsy musicians reinforcing the comedy. This gem by Billy Wilder is on my short list of the most underrated movies, and is one of the least mentioned Wilder films. Of course, it is not without fervent admirers.

American playboy millionaire Cooper, in Paris, has an affair (one of dozens) with the wife of bumbling Britisher McGiver. The latter employs private eye Chevalier, a specialist in getting evidence on unfaithful spouses. Chevalier's daughter, music conservatory student Hepburn, learns of this, goes to the famous Hotel Ritz to warn Cooper that McGiver (awkardly gun-toting) is about to catch the couple in flagrante delicto.

A May-December romance develops. Even though Cooper looks his age and may well have been already ill at the time, and even though Hepburn, then 28-ish, looks radiantly like 19 or 20, the rapport between the two works extremely well. The loving father-daughter Chevalier-Hepburn relationship is utterly charming too.

The script is by Wilder and his then-new collaborator I.A. L. Diamond. This team went on to more superb work together, including the 1959 "Some Like It Hot." "Love in the Afternoon " is an original movie, in ways sometimes apparent -- even obvious -- but also sometimes too delicate and anti-cliche for unsophisticated viewers -- and the cinema public has been sadly and gradually losing its sophistication since that movie was made.

Cooper's unusual, un-rakish ladykiller, for example, is deemed improbable by some people, yet it adds something new to the traditional depiction of Don Juans. "Love in the Afternoon" has wit, humor, slapstick, sentiment that never cloys, gags and naughtiness a la Ernst Lubitsch with whom Wilder had worked and whose major inheritor he became, though with original creations rather than imitations.

The movie was beautifully and realistically filmed in France: Paris, the Ritz Hotel, the Studios de Boulogne, the Opera, the Chateau de Vitry, etc.  The score includes (repeatedly!) the famous slow waltz "Fascination" by Filippo D. Marchetti (copyright 1901) used in a most amusing and imaginative way.

Though an American production, LITA employed many fine French artists, technicians and performers. Vienna-born Wilder who had his first career in German-language films, emigrated to Hollywood (as many Jewish artists did) when Hitler came to absolute power. Before coming to the USA however, he spent a couple of years in Paris--where he directed his first film --and understood very well the French and their wit, both very close to Wilder's own.

The score (other than Fascination) was by one of the great Hollywood composers, German-born Franz Waxman, who fled anti-semitism and reached Hollywood about the same time as Wilder, ca. 1934.

What used to be called "art direction" and now has become "production design" is by Alexander Trauner, the best stage designer in France and one of best in the world. He makes a small, sub-cameo appearance in the movie.

Hubert de Givenchy (or at least his "Maison, " i.e. his firm) provided the dresses. Givenchy was one of the reigning fashion designers in the world, known for his chic, discreet elegance (and later, his perfumes). It's worth looking at the dresses closely and noticing that even in the case of "schoolgirl" Hepburn, a middle-class, middle-income young lady, what she wears, while looking appropriate, is subtly the product of Haute Couture.

A film not to miss. (Edwin Jahiel)

APPENDIX: A table in which the age of Audrey Hepburn is compared with that of her leading men.
(months of birth not considered --only years) [Audrey Hepburn, born 1929. Films where she was much younger than her leading men.]

ROMAN HOLIDAY 1953, Peck born 1916, then 40 / AH then 24 --age diff 16 yrs SABRINA 1954, Bogart b. 1899, then 55 / AH then 25 -- age diff 30 yrs WAR AND PEACE 1956, Henry Fonda, b. 1905, then 51 / AH then 27-- age diff 34 yrs

FUNNY FACE 1957, Fred Astaire, b. 1899, then 58 / AH by then 28 ---age diff 30 yrs

LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON 1957, Gary Cooper, b. 1901, then 56 / AH by then 28 --age diff 28 yrs

THE UNFORGIVEN 1960, Burt Lancaster b.1913, then 47 / AH then 31 ---age diff 16 yrs

CHARADE 1963, Cary Grant, b. 1904, then 59 / AH then 34 / --age diff 25 years MY FAIR LADY 1964, Rex Harrison, b. 1908, then 56 / AH then 35 --age diff 21 yrs

PARIS-WHEN IT SIZZLES 1964, Wm Holden b. 1918, then 46 / AH then 35 -- age diff 11 yrs

WAIT UNTIL DARK 1967, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. born 1923, then 44 / AH then 38--age diff 6 yrs

[Audrey Hepburn, born 1929.Films where she was just about 1 year younger than her leading men.]

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, 1961, George Peppard b. 1928, then 33 / AH then 32, 1 yr younger

THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, 1962, James Garner b. 1928, then 34 /AH then 31, 1 yr younger

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, 1961, George Peppard b. 1928, then 33 / AH then 32, 1 yr younger

THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, 1962, James Garner b. 1928, then 34 /AH then 31, 1 yr younger

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, 1961, George Peppard b. 1928, then 33 / AH then 32, 1 yr younger

THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, 1962, James Garner b. 1928, then 34 /AH then 31, 1 yr younger

[Audrey Hepburn, born 1929. Films where she was OLDER than her leading men.]

ROBIN AND MARIAN, 1976, Sean Connery b. 1930 then 46 /A Hepburn by then 47, 1 year older

GREEN MANSIONS, 1959, Tony Perkins b. 1932, then 27/ AH then 30, 3 yrs older HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, 1966, Peter O'Toole b. 1932, then 34/ AH then 37, 3 yrs older

TWO FOR THE ROAD, 1967, Albert Finney b. 1936, then 31/ AH then 38, 7 yrs older ********

Julia Ormond born 1965, by then 30 -- Harrison Ford born 1942, by then 53 Ormond was 23 yrs younger than Ford !

Bloodline 1979, They All Laughed 1981, Always, 1989 : comparisons irrelevant. AH's age was respectively 50, 52 and 60.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel