Today, on June 22, 2015, Billy Wilder would have been 109 years old! He was one of the most talented movie directors and movie writers of the 20th century or, may I say, of all times! I never saw a Billy Wilder’s film that I didn’t like. Some Like it Hot is my favourite movie of all times, and his screenplays (most of the time co-written with other talented movie writers) are some of the best. Did you know that I can recite all Joe Gillis’s narration in the opening scene of Sunset Boulevard? From “Yes, this is Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California” to “The poor dope. He always wanted a pool. Well, in the end he got himself a pool, only the prize turned out to be a little high…” When I can remember movie lines so well, it’s because I like them, they are well-written or because I have seen the film so many times. Billy Wilder’s films are masterpieces that I can watch countless times. Some Like it Hot is the best comedy of all times and Sunset Boulevard is one of the most fascinating movies I ever saw. Well, I’m here, talking about these films and it simply makes me want to watch them all. Right now!
Anyway, today, for the occasion, I’m happy to take part in the Billy Wilder Blogathon hosted by Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. I won’t talk to you about Sunset Boulevard or Some Like it Hot but about a film that doesn’t immediately comes up to our minds when we think of Billy Wilder. It’s not his most famous one, but it’s a movie that has a special place in my heart. It’s a real pearl of the Silver Screen: Love in the Afternoon. This film is different from his other ones but like all his films, it has the “Billy Wilder’s Touch”. That little something that makes it so appealing, so enjoyable to watch, and so memorable. Just look at the title: Love in the Afternoon. There is something very poetic about it and, yes, there is a certain poetry in this film, ingrown by Audrey Hepburn. To review this film will also be a good occasion for me to write about an Audrey Hepburn’s AND a Gary Cooper’s film for the first time on my blog.
Billy Wilder’s Love in the Afternoon was released in 1957. It was Wilder’s second collaboration with Audrey Hepburn (the first one being Sabrina) and his first and only collaboration with Gary Cooper. The director first wanted Cary Grant for the male leading role, but that didn’t happen and Gary Cooper got the job. Some people say he was not perfect for the part, that he was too old, but I’m not one of those people. It’s Gary Cooper, after all, not some “nobody”! Well, as Billy Wilder would have said: “Nobody’s perfect!” Of course, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant will have to wait until the 60’s to make a movie together: Charade (directed by Stanley Donen).
To me, Billy Wilder’s movies were always easy to summarize. That’s probably because they are so well written. It’s a real inspiration for those who study screenwriting like me.
Love in the Afternoon takes place in Paris. Claude Chavasse (Maurice Chevalier) is a private detective. He investigates on an adultery case: Monsieur X (John McGiver), his client, believes his wife is having an affair with another man. She is, indeed, having an affair with Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper), a businessman already well-known for his many love-affair scandals. When Monsieur X learns the news, he only has one idea stuck in his mind: to kill Frank Flanagan. Claude Chavasse tells him that it would be a regrettable idea, but his “project” is already all set in his mind: he will go to the Ritz Hotel where Frank stays, surprise him with his wife and kill him. Fortunately, Claude Chavasse’ daughter, Ariane (Audrey Hepburn), stops him. She goes to the Ritz, enters in Flannagan’s suite by the window, explains the situation to Flannagan and Madame X, takes Madame X’s hat, this one runs away by the window, and when Monsieur X enters in the suite, he realizes that his wife is not having an affair with Flannagan. This is only the beginning of the film, but that’s what set the story and that’s how Frank Flannagan and Ariane Chavasse will meet. As you can imagine, a love story eventually starts between them and the rest of the film is the evolution of their love. Of course, for the sweet, fragile and innocent Ariane, it is not easy to be in love with a man like Frank Flannagan. She invents some incredible stories to grab his attention.This movie is named Love in the Afternoon because every time Ariane and Frank meet, it’s during the afternoon, most of the time at 4 pm.
“Beautiful” would be the best word to describe Love in the Afternoon. It’s not only a Billy Wilder’s film but also a typical Audrey Hepburn’s film: simple and pretty. Here, she gives us one of her most sensible performances and also one of the most touching. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I can only tell you that the unforgettable ending will make you live some incredible emotions. Of course, Gary Cooper was great too and Maurice Chevalier was, in my opinion, at his best. Well, that’s another wonderful thing about Billy Wilder’s films: they are always well-casted. Love in the Afternoon was, unfortunately, not a Box Office success and that was mainly because Gary Cooper was considered to be too old for the part. However, as I read on IMDB, he “was very pleased with his performance and was very disappointed that the majority of critics thought him miscast due to his age” (IMDB). Well, I support him.
There’s one aesthetic aspect of the film I really have to highlight: Audrey Hepburn’s gorgeous gowns designed by Hubert de Givenchy. Those are very chic, classy, elegant, but also simple, and perfectly well designed for Audrey Hepburn. That proves us that a simple black dress can be a very beautiful thing to wear.
What I also like about this film is that the tragic and comic parts are both well-balanced. You have both chances to cry and laugh when you watch Love in the Afternoon. In other words, it’s certainly not a bore. Love in the Afternoon‘s screenplay was written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond and based on the novel Ariane by Paul Czinner. The Wilder-Diamond writing duo was certainly one of the best. They also worked together for the following films: Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, One, Two, Three, Irma La Douce, Kiss Me, Stupid, The Fortune Cookie, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Avanti!, The Front Page, Fedora and Buddy Buddy. Love in the Afternoon was their first collaboration together. I think it was a success because, as you can see, they worked 11 other times together.
I can’t say that Love in the Afternoon‘s screenplay is Billy Wilder’s BEST screenplay, but it’s certainly is a great one. It has its great moments and its great lines, and a great structure too. Here are some of my favourite lines:
1- Frank Flannagan: What does he export and what does he import?
Ariane Chavasse: Oh, he uh – he exports perfume and imports bananas. There’s a fortune in it. Do you realize that for one bottle of perfume you get twelve bananas?
Frank Flannagan: Twelve bananas for one bottle of – doesn’t sound like such a hot deal to me.
Ariane Chavasse: It’s a tiny bottle of perfume and very large bananas.
2- Ariane Chavasse: You know who I am, Mr. Flannagan, I’m the girl in the afternoon
3- Ariane Chavasse: I’m against violence. In my opinion, there’s too much shooting in the world and not enough love.
Frank Flannagan: How’s that, again?
Ariane Chavasse: I mean, if people loved each other more, they’d shoot each other less!
The characters in this film have an evolution and that’s one of the most importing aspects of a screenplay.
Of course, Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier, and Gary Cooper are the main actors in this film, but I have to make an honourable mention to the music band The Gypsies. How can we forget this beautiful music, Fascination? This band follows Frank everywhere and they are ALWAYS playing music; a the Ritz, in the car and even on a pinnace! The music in this film is certainly a real treat to our ears.
You know, if The Man Who Knew Too Much is our “Hitchcock family film”, Love in the Afternoon is our “Billy Wilder’s family film”. I remember, the first time I saw it, I didn’t know what to expect. I watched it with my parents and we all loved it very much. I always watch my classic films with my mother (well, most of the time) but rarely with my father because he is always too tired to watch them in the evening (except if it’s a Martin Scorsese’s film). So, I was very surprised that he watched it all! He thought it was a great film as well. I think it became my mother’s favourite Audrey Hepburn’s film. As I said at the beginning of my article, this Hepburn-Wilder’s film is less known than Sabrina, but for those who love Billy Wilder and Audrey Hepburn, I highly recommend it.
Well, it was a great pleasure to participate in the Billy Wilder Blogathon. He really was a fantastic movie director. I love all his films (well the ones I have seen so far. That’s a total of 12). Billy Wilder made me discover the world of screenwriting, my favourite film but also some wonderful actors such as Jack Lemmon, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, William Holden, Shirley MacLaine, and more. Each time I watch a Billy Wilder’s film, I’m never disappointed. This afternoon, I’m going downtown, so I may go to a video store and buy Double Indemnity, one I haven’t seen yet and that is, apparently, one of his best. Earlier this year, I borrowed the book Conversation with Billy Wilder at my school library. It was very interesting, but, unfortunately, I didn’t have time to read it all. I will definitely have to borrow it again or buy it.
I would like to finish this article by presenting you, first, my top 10 Billy Wilder’s film (you know how much I love doing top list):
1- Some Like it Hot
2- Sunset Boulevard
3- Love in the Afternoon (yes, number 3! So you can imagine how much I love it!)
4- Irma La Douce
6- Witness for the Prosecution
7- The Spirit Of St. Louis
8- Stalag 17
9- The Apartment
Second, I want you to enjoy my Billy Wilder’s video tribute! I’ve made a lot of video tributes, and this is one of my personal favourites.
Of course, don’t forget to watch Love in the Afternoon and to read the other entries for this blogathon!
Happy birthday Billy Wilder! 😀