Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper
LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957). Director: Billy Wilder.

Ariane (Audrey Hepburn), the daughter of a private detective, Chavasse (Maurice Chevalier), saves a playboy, Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper), that her father has been tracking, from a jealous husband (John McGiver). Ariane and Frank eventually begin seeing each other, and she tries to make him jealous by reciting all of the mythical men she has been with before (even though she's hardly old enough to have had so many affairs). Wanting to know the truth about Ariane, and not knowing her true identity, he hires her own father to find out more about her. Said to be Wilder's tribute to Ernst Lubitsch, this lacks the "Lubitsch Touch" and is rather slow at times. If it was meant to be a screwball comedy it doesn't work on that level, and the characters are too one-dimensional to make them really interesting. The whole bit with the aging playboy who finally finds the right girl is as old as "The Affairs of Anatol" and then some, and the whole movie has a distinctly old-fashioned quality even for the fifties. A big problem is that Hepburn [The Children's Hour] was 28 but looks ten years younger, and Cooper was 56 but (due to illness) looks ten years older -- Cooper is given only two closeups and they are not good --  so it looks as if Ariane is in love with a man old enough to be her grandfather. Exploring the sexuality of senior citizens is a perfectly worthwhile project, but Flannagan is not supposed to be as old as he looks, and he would come off much better with a more age-appropriate female on his arm. A bigger problem is not the age difference, but that Flannagan is a bit of a pig, even a vulgarian, making the allegedly "happy" ending more tragic than anything else. He is also an uncultured nincompoop (a la Donald Trump) who acts like an eight-year-old during the gorgeous overture of Tristan and Isolde in the opera house, another example of someone who has lots of money but absolutely no taste. The film never explores the reality that Flannagan's millions and ostentatious lifestyle would certainly influence Ariane's feelings toward the man. Hepburn may be bony, but she's wonderful in the movie, as are Chevalier and McGiver. Cooper does his familiar "cutesy" act but it's especially off-putting by this time; he basically just walks through the movie. Wilder directed some great movies, such as Double Indemnity and Witness for the Prosecution, but this picture hasn't aged at all well.

Verdict: Given the talent involved, this is a major disappointment. **.


angelman66 said...

I've never seen this one, and it's just for the reason you mentioned...I have never been a Gary Cooper fan, and his pairing with Audrey in this strains credulity because of the age difference. But if Billy Wilder's direction, the script, the performances of Chevalier and McGiver make up for it, perhaps it's worthwhile time spent.

William said...

Well .. there is some very good acting in this so it might be an okay "rainy afternoon" movie. You might like it better than I did.