Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn star in LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957), available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.
Billy Wilder directed and also cowrote the screenplay with I.A.L. Diamond, based on a book by Claude Anet.
The film tells the story of young Ariane (Hepburn), a cellist whose father (Maurice Chevalier) is a private detective. Through her father's work, in a roundabout way, Ariane meets American businessman Frank Flannagan (Cooper). Flannagan is an inveterate ladies' man, yet he finds himself increasingly fascinated with Ariane, and vice versa.
It's thus rather fitting that Flannagan's habit when wooing ladies is to hire violinists play "Fascination." Although the music begins as something of a joke, as the movie goes on "Fascination" begins to cast on a spell on the audience, too.
LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON seems to evoke strong emotions in viewers; some have trouble with the significant age difference between Cooper and Hepburn.
For my part, the age difference is a key reason the film is so moving; at the end of the film Flannagan realizes that Ariane is his very last chance for something lasting, and the suspense and his ultimate decision are all the more moving seen in that light.
There's something magical about a film which can take a rather disreputable character like Flannagan and make him so appealing; in the wrong hands the film would have been tasteless, yet somehow the director and actors pull it off with a light touch. Cooper's appeal and Hepburn's yearning are both completely believable, and they keep the viewer engrossed for the film's longish running time of 130 minutes.
Just a few days ago I saw Cooper in one of his early starring films, I TAKE THIS WOMAN (1931), so it was particularly interesting to revisit this film from the last years of his career. The films were made over a quarter century apart, but he owns the screen in both, and in each film he's teamed with a leading lady with enough star power to more than hold her own opposite him.
The Warner Archive widescreen Blu-ray looks terrific. (The film was shot by William Mellor.) The disc includes the trailer.
I loved LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON when I first saw it in 2009, and I deeply enjoyed it all over again thanks to the Warner Archive. Recommended.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.