"I'm too thin, and my ears stick out, and my teeth are crooked and my neck is much too long." - Ariane Chavasse
I told you we should have bought a cordless phone.
"Maybe so, but I love the way it all hangs together." - Frank Flannagan
So do I. This line, spoken by Audrey Hepburn as Ariane Chavasse, sums up her own modesty concerning her acting career. She wondered why she was so famous. According to her son Sean Ferrer's book, "Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit - A Son Remembers," Humphrey Bogart (her co-star in "Sabrina") didn't think much of her as an actress. Hepburn thought he had reason to think that. The flaws that she describes about herself might have stemmed from her own beliefs, and not simply words that were written by screenwriters I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder. Frank Flannagan's response describes why everyone adores her anyway.
I bring that up because this exchange is one of the great pleasures of "Love in the Afternoon," a romantic love story taking place in the location of many Hepburn movies, Paris. She plays Ariane, the daughter of private investigator Claude Chavasse (Maurice Chevalier). She has a habit of looking through his paperwork, fascinated at the cases that Claude brings home. One such case involves a client's wife, and her affair with American millionaire Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper). When the jealous husband brags that he will kill Frank, Ariane sneaks off to the hotel to warn Frank and the wife about her husband's plan. Thanks to her help, Frank successfully avoids getting shot, but he finds himself infatuated with this girl, who came in through the balcony to save his life.
Frank is leaving that night, to embark on various ventures around the world, for both business and pleasure. Frank has had many women in his past. Fear not, because in this movie, having many women means dating them and dancing to music. He's a charming person, up front about his lifestyle. This appeals to Ariane, who has lived a sheltered life of playing the cello and going to school. She has never been in love, and has never tried anything daring. One year later, when Frank returns to Paris, Ariane is overjoyed, and begins sneaking out to his hotel room, to dance or have dinner. All of this happens right under Claude's nose. He knows she's up to something, but he dismisses her behavior (like borrowing a fur coat) as innocent.
Ariane never reveals her name or her address to Frank. She only meets him in the afternoon then disappears to take care of her own affairs. Frank is curious about her but she never lets up, keeping her life a secret. She doesn't want him to know that his father is a private eye, who has a huge file on Frank detailing all his affairs.
"Love in the Afternoon" is a treasure of a film. Gary Cooper ("High Noon") was old enough to be Audrey Hepburn's father but that doesn't in any way make their relationship unbelievable. It actually adds to the credibility of the story. Ariane sees in Frank the possibilities to take risks, and his age makes him more "forbidden." Sneaking out and pretending to go to school (which is why she takes her cello with her) takes lots of nerve but the fact that he's much older adds to her excitement.
Maurice Chevalier, as Ariane's father, brings understanding and gentleness to his role. He's not overbearing or sneaky, as his profession might suggest. When he eventually discovers what is going on with his daughter, his reaction is unexpected, if not unrealistic. As much as I liked this movie, I can't give it my highest rating, mainly because the ending feels rushed. Frank has a sudden change of character that, while not necessarily unwelcome, does come across as forced. However, there is much to like in "Love in the Afternoon." Hepburn and Cooper are wonderful, which is reason enough to see this film.