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Love in the Afternoon

Love in the Afternoon (Billy Wilder, 1957)

Love in the Afternoon is a classic Billy Wilder romantic comedy which isn't mentioned as often as many of his other classics. There could be many reasons, including the fact that Gary Cooper appears to be too old to limn the dashing playboy in the film, but most people love Bogie's casting against type in Wilder's earlier Sabrina. Perhaps younger audiences don't get all the jokes and references at the beginning and end of the film. Wilder, who always loved to use topical humor, has Audrey Hepburn's father, private detective Maurice Chevalier, narrate these scenes as if he were doing a Jack Webb/Joe Friday impression which is hilarious to Brenda and me but may mean nothing to others. There is also the fact that the film is all rather simple for a comedy which is over two hours long, but as usual with most very good films, it's all in the details.

The simplicity involves the fact that Hepburn's Ariane lives vicariously through her father's files which are all about other peoples' love affairs. One day, she tries to save the Cooper character from violence and becomes totally infatuated with him. The details here include that John McGiver (Breakfast at Tiffany's) has a sparkling cameo as a husband who hires Chevalier and then wants to put several bullets into Cooper. One of the funniest things about this movie is that Cooper has a Hungarian quartet known as the Gypsies who play appropriate mood music for him, not only in his hotel suite, but in boats on a lake and in the sauna too. But perhaps the greatest detail which this film has (and one which tops the ending to Sabrina) is that the actual ending is deeply-romantic and movingly-filmed by Wilder in what I would call one of his best-directed scenes ever.