Trouble's Brewing On The Sabrina Set!
Tensions on the set of Sabrina have been well documented. Between the bios of Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, and Billy Wilder, you get a pretty fair impression that this was anything but a tranquil place. Bogart was surly, Hepburn was skittish, Holden was combative, and Wilder was just too cruel and sarcastic to live with. I began reading this stuff at a tender age after watching Sabrina’s network bow on NBC around 1965. There were a couple of Bogart paperbacks shortly after that, both by veteran newshounds (Joe Hyams and Richard Gehman) who’d followed Bogie around since when and always found him good copy. It seemed he was always ready to shoot off his mouth and insult people in print, and the press, then as now, loved this kind of thing. So did I when I was thirteen. It was fun watching Sabrina on TV, then reading of how Bogart really felt toward sweet Audrey Hepburn, or the time Bill Holden got so mad that he lunged at Bogie on the set and had to be physically restrained. And how about when Bogart called director Billy Wilder a Nazi? Might just as well have pitched a cherry bomb onto the sound stage.
There was something about studio complaints over Bogart riding a bicycle around the lot, "dead drunk and wearing filthy pajamas." I have doubts as to veracity of that one. First off, I’m not sure that even Johnny Weissmuller, immediate post-olympics, could navigate a bike while "dead drunk," assuming I understand the meaning of the term. Plus the fact Bogart was fifty-four years old at the time, with a close and ongoing alcohol/tobacco relationship. By 1954, there'd been years ingesting the stuff, and here's HB within months of its catching up with him. And the pajamas. Did he drive to work in them? I doubt if Bogart would have cared if a speed cop stopped him on the way in from Holmby Hills and found him wearing P.J’s ("That’s O.K., Mr. Bogart. By the way, loved you in Battle Circus"). Otherwise, I’ll have to assume he was wearing them for the picture, but there’s no such scene in Sabrina. But there is at least the bicycle, and here’s a dapper, sans pajamas, Bogart checking out the hand-brake (could he be disabling it so Audrey will crash?). Note the toupee, readers. Hair thick like Tony Curtis with that touch of gray for authenticity’s sake. Go ahead and finish that cigarette, Bogie, as it’s too late already (what a pity he didn’t quit that years before, so we could have enjoyed this great actor longer). Was this Bogie’s personal Schwinn used for drunken joyriding occasions? Is this the bike he drove while impaired? Careening about the Paramount lot and nearly running over Bing Crosby, Chuck Heston, Dean and Jerry? Doubtful. I think the whole story’s apocryphal. That two-wheeler looks more to be a commercial tie-in, but if that’s the case, why wouldn’t the Schwinn people have at least cleaned the tires? I did pull the pressbook to see if there was indeed a publicity link with the bicycle company for Sabrina, but there’s no mention of it.
This other picture, the one where they’re sitting in lawn chairs, was taken while on location at Paramount chief Barney Balaban's Long Island estates where much of Sabrina takes place. Guess it’s still there, though I wouldn’t advise crashing the place to get snapshots. Now be sure to highlight and enlarge this one, and look at Audrey’s legs. Yes, they are nice, but look at all the goosebumps. Poor waifish thing was cold! And not eating enough either, I’d wager. Having to sit there with surly Bogart, him telling the press she’s O.K., if you don’t mind a hundred takes, must have rankled. Were Audrey sitting closer, I'd expect him to blow smoke in her face. That expression of Bogie's is not unlike one he gave Mary Astor before she took the fall, or a post-double cross Lizabeth Scott. At least HB lent Audrey his coat, but do note shoes Bogart’s wearing. They look about ready for the Goodwill drop box.
Finally the L.A. premiere photo. Imagine being there among those lucky people. Most took it all for granted, no doubt. Just another opening. Not as good as last week's splash for A Star Is Born, or one to come with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. What embrassment of riches they enjoyed in 1954 ...