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Gary Cooper
Audrey Hepburn
Maurice Chevalier
Van Doude
John McGiver
Lisa Bourdin

Billy Wilder



About Hepburn

Time: 130 mins.
Rating: G
Genre: Romantic Comedy

I, like many people, am a huge Billy Wilder fan. If you don't know who he is, you should be ashamed of yourself since you're missing some of the best films ever made. From THE APARTMENT to SOME LIKE IT HOT, there's no other director more adept at mixing comedy, romance and an uncomfortable situation on the big screen. In this outing we get an onscreen coupling of epic proportions: the handsome and virile Gary Cooper and the charming and perky Audrey Hepburn. They are quite an odd match, especially since they have her playing about a decade younger than she actually was. Cooper's still old enough to be her father, but once you know the real spread the romance between the two isn't half as disturbing. Plus, Wilder always knew how to disarm a possible problematic situation. In this case, he has Audrey being the aggressor, so Cooper doesn't seem so disreputable and creepy. He still has a touch of that because he's playing a remorseless playboy, but one is able to put those feelings aside once you see how his character changes during the course of the film.

The film opens in Paris with Maurice Chevalier, as private eye Claude Chavasse spying on American millionaire Frank Flannagan (Cooper) dallying with his current client's wife. He delivers the news and photographic evidence to the wronged husband (McGiver), who decides to take matters into his own hands that evening and take Mr. Flannagan out of the picture once and for all. Chavasse's daughter, Ariane (Hepburn), a headstrong, love-starved, young lady, overhears the conversation and takes it upon herself to warn Mr. Flannagan of his impending doom. Instead of being disgusted by all the illicit liaisons her father has investigated, she finds all the doomed lovers sad and romantic. She also finds Flannagan's face rather appealing, much to her father's dismay. She manages to save the day, arriving at the hotel just in time to ruin his tete-a-tete and save his life. The husband bursts into the room, gun flailing, only to find Flannagan in an embrace with Arianne. Drunk and confused they manage to convince the man that he was wrong and no harm is done.

"In Paris people eat better, and in Paris people make love, well, perhaps not better, but certainly more often."

Though not usually his type, Frank is intrigued by this attractive thin girl, who knows so much about him and cared enough to save his life. Ariane refuses to divulge her identity and attempts to leave, but Frank won't let her go until she promises to return the following afternoon. This begins their secret romance. She knows he's no good. Her father has a file on him 3 inches thick, but she just can't stay away. She also knows the only way to keep him interested is to stay mysterious and elusive. Her behavior confounds him at every turn. When he questions her about other men in her life, she lets him believe she's extremely experienced. After all, he doesn't want some silly schoolgirl falling in love with him, trying to tie him down. He's only in Paris for a few weeks and he wants to have fun. When he returns to Paris several months later, they begin their affair right where they left off, only this time, Arianne twists the screws of jealousy.

She pretends that her daily evening appointment, she plays the cello in the conservatory orchestra, is really to meet another man. In fact, she leads him to believe there have been many, many men. Only Audrey could pull off a listing of 19 lovers without seeming like a whore. Granted you know her ploy to enflame his anger is untrue, but I don't really think it would matter if it were. She's makes you believe she loved all of them, though they are just stories from her father's files. She has a strange mix of sexuality and innocence that is entirely beguiling, so you can't blame her if men just fall at her feet...or that she would give in to amoré. She drives him so crazy with her nonchalant attitude that he seeks out her father to spy on her and tell him who she is. Of all his liaisons she's the only one to make him desperate to keep her for himself. Her father is horrified at the thought of his daughter's heart laid bare to this playboy. He exposes Arianne and begs Flannagan to leave at once and let her go before permanent damage is done. Frank tries to leave, but it's no use. She's the one he's been waiting for.

I must say I enjoyed this film much better the second time around. The first time I was too grossed out by the age difference to accept this romance. Granted Hepburn's character is the aggressor and goes into the relationship armed with the knowledge of exactly the kind of man Cooper is, but it still made me uneasy. However, after getting over that, it's clear to see that she's far older than her years and wants to experience love with a real man, not some schoolboy. In that case, you can't do much better than Cooper, even if he was pushing 60. It takes a bit too long to get to their first meeting, though the build up is suspenseful and fun. I know Wilder was trying to establish character, but I think he could have gotten there quicker with the same basic ideas still in tact. Though Cooper gets the job done, I don't think he was the best choice for this role. Hepburn gives a wonderful performance, as always, yet I can't help but wonder why she was forced to play it so young. One can still be youthful and innocent in your 20s. It makes the machinations of this drawing room comedy seem more contrived than they should be.

All in all, this is a first-rate effort from all involved even with it's pesky problems. It's witty, silly, romantic and fun. Certainly not Wilder's best, but not a bad way to spend a few hours. Especially with lead talent like Cooper and Hepburn, both of whom could read the phone book and still be entertaining. If you're up for something light and fluffy, this is a good film to pass the time with. It won't knock your socks off, but it's definitely worth a look-see.

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