Love in the Afternoon [1957]

Fairy-tale Paris doesn't get more enchanting than Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon, an ode to picnics on the grass and champagne at the Ritz. Audrey Hepburn (who had already made Sabrina with Wilder) is at her best as the inexperienced cellist with a fascination for millionaire American playboy Gary Cooper. Maurice Chevalier (who else?) is Hepburn's father, a private detective with ample evidence of Cooper's crowded history of l'amour. Alongside the sheen of the romance is Wilder's unerring sense of craftsmanship; watch how inanimate objects such as a liquor tray, a white carnation, or the little dog in the suite next door are developed into sublime running gags. The age difference between the two leads has often been questioned, but perhaps this is what gives the gossamer material the whiff of welcome melancholy. The final three minutes leave no doubt that Wilder hatched the best endings in Hollywood history. --Robert Horton

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