Richard Benson (William Holden) is a screenwriter who is due to deliver his latest script in two days time, but hasn’t even started it yet. He hires Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn) to type the script, and she ends up helping him write it. As they work, they imagine themselves as the characters in the screenplay, and envision each other acting the scenes out.
This was Audrey Hepburn’s least favourite of her films, and it’s fair to say that it probably is one of worst of both her films and William Holden’s films, but that is partly because they both made some truly wonderful films during their respective careers. By all accounts, this was quite an ordeal to make, because Holden, who was in the grip of his alcoholism, tried to rekindle his previous relationship with Hepburn, but by this time she was married, and therefore not interested. Holden was hospitalised for his drinking during filming, which probably didn’t help matters. There’s a bittersweetness to watching this because the character Richard Benson also drinks too much alcohol; also, I think Paris When It Sizzles is the movie where you can start to see the damage that alcoholism has caused to Holden’s good looks. He looks tired and drawn, and it’s sad to see. Audrey, as ever, is beautiful and radiant, and just adorable.
However, the film itself is actually quite a lot of fun, despite being a flop when it was released, and being critically panned. Hepburn and Holden were both fantastic actors (two of my favourites), and do a good job here. The script is contrived in places, but I kind of thought that it was supposed to be – this is a hack screenwriter doing a rush job, after all. There are quite a few in-jokes or references to other films, including some of Audrey’s, and plenty of familiar plot devices are used – but that’s kind of the point. Tony Curtis has a very small role in the film – he agreed to do it when Holden went into hospital, in order that the crew could keep working – and he certainly makes the most of it. His scenes are actually some of the funniest in the film. There is also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Marlene Dietrich, as herself. Additionally, when Benson says that the name of his screenplay is The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, and Frank Sinatra could sing the theme song, Sinatra’s voice is actually heard singing a few lines, including the title itself.
I would say that the film is lightweight, but still enjoyable, and is also quite clever in parts, with a few digs at the Hollywood film industry. I’d recommend it to fans of Hepburn and/or Holden.
Year of release: 1964
Director: Richard Quine
Producers: George Axelrod, Richard Quine, John R. Coonan, Carter De Haven Jr.
Writers: Julien Duvivier (story ‘La fete a Henriette’), Henri Jeanson (story ‘La fete a Henriette’), George Axelrod
Main cast: William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Gregoire Aslan, Noel Coward, Tony Curtis