DATELINE: Paris When It Sizzles
Holden & Hepburn
With the godawful title of 1964’s Paris When It Sizzles, you have two glorious stars of the 1950s on the cusp of making lesser films.
William Holden plays his patented, jaded screenwriter (shades of Sunset Boulevard) with a drinking problem made light (though Holden went into detox during filming).
Hepburn hardly fits the role of a typist secretary in a Givenchy wardrobe, but the film is spritely written in Noel Coward witty style and gives us a bad movie within the less bad movie, using the play-within-a-play device.
Genres of grade-B films are broadly satirized, including Holden in the Dracula role for a few laughs. It’s an insider laugh, but we thought he should have costarred with his pal Lucille Ball as the secretary, but Hepburn is lover-ly.
Noel Coward actually is in the film as a movie producer, and he does have a marvelous scene with Holden. The cast is populated with unbilled names like Marlene Dietrich, Mel Ferrer, with Sinatra singing the fake movie title song, and Fred Astaire singing for a Hepburn scene.
Why did Audrey Hepburn hate it so? It probably was fun to make, and it is fun to watch when she calls Holden a well-preserved middle-aged man, or when he compares the movies Frankenstein to My Fair Lady.
Another notable star of the ‘50s plays “the second policeman,” in the fake movie and is reminded he is not an important character. He too is delightful, though we won’t spoil it by naming him.
George Axelrod’s script is flippant, and Paris is definitely there in the background. We enjoyed it, but it falls into the category of a most guilty pleasure.