Audrey Hepburn plays ‘the afternoon girl’ of an ageing playboy in, Billy Wilder’s acclaimed romantic comedy, Ariane (1957) a.k.a. Love in the Afternoon.
Love in the Afternoon (1957) - Audrey Hepburn, Gary CooperI am taking part in ‘THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON’, organised by Aurora of Once Upon A Screen and Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled. Being a fan Audrey Hepburn, I chose to blog about one of my favourite Billy Wilder (& Audrey Hepburn) films, Love in the Afternoon (Ariane).

The first time I watched Ariane, which is set in Paris, France, was on the small screen, in Paris itself, back in 2008. Pretty late, for an Audrey Hepburn fan since childhood, since the early-mid 1980’s. The following year, 2009, just before leaving Paris, I came across the Ariane DVD, at the ‘Virgin Stores’ on the Champs-Élysées. Obviously I had to buy it, and have watched it a gazillion times since then.

Within my ‘Top-5’ favourite Audrey Hepburn films (4th to be exact), and with a great star cast with the likes of Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier and John McGiver, Ariane is amongst the most beautiful ‘Romantic Comedies’ ever, and one of Billy Wilder’s best in that genre. Wilder was a versatile film director who experimented with many a genres, from ‘Film Noir’ to ‘Melodrama’ to ‘Screwball Comedy’, et al.
Ariane posterSynopsis
A young French girl named Ariane Chavasse (Hepburn), a cellist, lives a simple life with her father Claude Chavasse (Chevalier), a private investigator, in a charming little apartment in the heart of Paris. The private eye’s latest case involves one of most notorious playboys, Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper), he has been following, and the wife of a constantly grunting businessman played by John McGiver. One day Ariane overhears the businessman planning to shoot Flannagan who is romancing his wife in ‘suite 14’ at the Ritz Hotel. She rushes to save him, as The Gypsy’s play ‘Hot Paprika’ and ‘Fascination’ in the suite, and in turn can’t save herself falling for the very tall, ruggedly handsome, American, that Flannagan happens to be.
Soon she ends up being the nameless girl, he keeps referring to as ‘The Thin Girl’, he meets every afternoon.
Gary Cooper & Audrey Hepburn - Love in the Afternoon picture 2The Analysis
What is really interesting is how cleverly Ariane’s character manipulates Flannagan’s character and drives him to the verge of madness, to the extent of him forgetting his own business, i.e. the business of being a conniving playboy, so that he mends his ways and becomes completely hers. She’s so innocent and yet so smart, managing to push his ‘jealousy’ button to the brink of insanity.

Mr. Flannagan only meets Ariane twice, initially, before leaving Paris, and she’s already head over heels in love and pain. When he returns, he fails to recognise her on a chance meeting at a Symphony (here there is a cameo by Audrey Young, wife of film director Billy Wilder, as Cooper’s character’s date for the evening). Once he manages to remember Ariane, they start meeting every summer afternoon, but she let’s Mr. Flannagan only kiss her. She pretends to be a playgirl herself whose had at least 19 men before him, and sights many a stories of her various concocted conquests, that she has read through her own private library, i.e. her fathers collection of his various investigative files. Added to which she manages to bring false proof of her lovers, by showcasing fake gifts like a Herman fur coat or a platinum anklet. Yet she never lets him know who she is. She even hides her cello so that he has no aware that she is a musician. Thus the biggest complain for poor old Flannagan is that he can’t get to ‘first base’ with her, dispelling any indication, that the audience might assume, of the couple having sex in the afternoon. A playboy falls for a virgin, who pretends to be a playgirl that doesn’t let him touch her. A hilarious movie, that twists the playboy’s existence through a naïve young girl madly in love. The original ending of the film was changed (or rather a voiceover added), for the film was otherwise threatened to land on the ‘Catholic Legion of Decency’s – Condemned List’.

The music is beautiful. The scenery, the art décor and the cinematography are breathtaking. The atmosphere is romantic. And Love in the Afternoon is one of the most romantically enjoyable films ever made. One can just lose oneself in the movie, just like one can just lose oneself in the city of love itself, Paris.
Love in the AfternoonOther Essential Facts
In the beginning of the film, the voice over of Maurice Chevalier is heard saying, ‘‘….in Paris, people make love ….., The butcher, the baker, …….. Once in a while even existentialists do it…..’’. Audrey Hepburn filmed Ariane back-to-back with Stanley Donen’s Funny Face (1957), which too was set in Paris, and where Hepburn played an ‘existentialist’ herself (see my post Audrey Hepburn & The Musical).
Originally Cary Grant was to be cast as the male lead, but he refused, as he felt he was too old for it. Ironically, an even older Gary Cooper was cast instead. The 55 year old Cooper, though initially felt miscast for the role, ended up feeling very happy with the results. Cooper and Hepburn had great chemistry besides their massive age gap.
Director Billy Wilder, one of the greatest film personalities ever, was born on the 22nd of June, 1906. ‘THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON’ was created to celebrate this master’s work for his 108th Birth anniversary, which falls day after tomorrow. Billy Wilder was born exactly 69 years before I came into existence, to date. Some other famous personalities who share our (Wilder’s & mine) birth date, but not year, are Andrée Lumière, Charles Lindbergh Jr., Lionel Banks, Michael Todd, Prunella Scales, Amrish Puri, Meryl Streep, Cyndi Lauper, Douglas Smith and Joe Dempsie to name a few.

A must watch for any fan of Billy Wilder, Audrey Hepburn and the good old ‘Romantic Comedy’.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Thank you Aurora and Kellee, for letting me write about Love in the Afternoon (Ariane) for ‘THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON’.

Cheers
Nuwan Sen

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