Director: Richard Quine | 110 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Grégoire Aslan, Raymond Bussières, Christian Duvaleix, Michel Thomass, Dominique Boschero, Evi Marandi, Noel Coward
In the forties, fifties and sixties you still had real movie stars. Actors who could not step outside or the press mosquitoes fired at them. Actors whose turbulent love life has been widely reported in the press. Very frustrating of course if you cannot have a moment for yourself. No wonder many stars indulged in alcohol and drugs. Take William Holden, for example, a talented actor who starred in classics like “Sunset Blvd.” And “Sabrina” and won an Oscar for his role in “Stalag 17”. However, he was also known as a notorious cheater and alcoholic. The drink even indirectly caused his death in 1981, when he was so drunk that after bumping his head on a cupboard, he couldn’t get up and bled to death.
Holden starred in “Sabrina” with Audrey Hepburn as early as 1954. The chemistry between the two was so strong that they also started a relationship in real life. This one got so serious that Hepburn considered divorcing her husband Mel Ferrer to move on with Holden. However, when it turned out that the (also married!) Actor had been sterilized and could therefore no longer have children, Hepburn broke off the relationship. However, she always kept a soft spot for him and when they were re-cast together in 1964 for the movie “Paris – When It Sizzles” she had a very difficult time. Holden was already drinking heavily and Audrey watched with sorrow how he drank himself to death.
In “Paris – When It Sizzles”, acclaimed script writer Richard Benson (Holden) has sold a story to flamboyant producer Alexander Meyerheim (Noel Coward). However, there is no plot yet; Meyerheim bought the script after hearing the title, “The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower”. For eighteen weeks, Benson lounged, celebrated and drank. With two days to go – before Meyerheim arrives on the doorstep to receive the script – he has not yet written a letter. Desperate, Benson hires a young typist, Gabrielle Simpson (Hepburn), to type the story he dictated. But this lady is so attractive that it only distracts Benson from his task even more. He decides to combine the useful with the pleasant and comes up with a way to court Gabrielle by inventing the scenes at the same time. As if in a kind of ‘movie-in-a-movie’, the viewer sees the scenes they come up with together (and in which they both play the leading roles), intertwined with what happens in the Parisian apartment while they are working on the story. to write. But what is fiction and what is reality?
“Paris – When It Sizzles”, directed by Richard Quine, starts very strong and has everything it takes to become a memorable, stylish sixties film à la “Breakfast at Tiffany” (also with Hepburn). But it soon turns out that this film does not come close to that classic. Despite the nice cameos by Marlene Dietrich and Tony Curtis, the music of Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire and the atmospheric cinematography of Claude Renoir. William Holden portrays his characters with a lot of energy and conviction and Audrey Hepburn does what she does best; play the charming and stylish young lady. Yet “Paris – When It Sizzles” isn’t what it could have been, and that’s mostly because of the script. The idea of the “movie-in-a-movie” is original, but not something the whole movie can rely on. And it seems that director Quine thought he could. In fact, in the second part of the film he seems to finish his direction on automatic pilot, he trusts his trick that much.
Although the question of course remains with what expectations Quine made the film – which could also have been half an hour shorter. If the goal was to create a light-hearted, entertaining yet stylish film, he succeeded. For fans of Hepburn, the film is of course worthwhile, although she – and of course Holden too – has made much better films. But on a rainy Sunday afternoon, watching “Paris – When It Sizzles” is an entertaining pastime.