Sometimes Your Soulmate Turns Out to Be Your Crush’s Older Brother
If I want to take the world with power, and you want to take it with love, which of us will conquer the world, you or I?
- Samuel Taylor, Sabrina Fair
On November 11, 1953, Samuel Taylor’s play Sabrina Fair premiered at the National Theatre and changed my life forever. I wasn’t alive in 1953, of course — neither were my parents, for that matter — but that play, along with the two film adaptations it produced, is an integral part of my life nevertheless. Like all good stories, the story of Sabrina Fairchild teaches its audience an important lesson: despite spending the whole of your early life crushing on one man, your soulmate may actually be his older brother.
Though the ending and lesson of all three iterations of Sabrina’s story are the same, the routes to get there are different. The 1954 and 1995 movies tell the story of Sabrina Fairchild, daughter of the chauffeur to the wealthy Larrabee family. Sabrina is perennially awkward and spends the entirety of her young life in love with the younger Larrabee brother, David. David, a playboy, barely notices that she exists. Eventually, Sabrina leaves and spends a few years in Paris, where she outgrows her awkwardness and comes of age. Upon her return to New York, she meets David, who is awed by her new appearance and begins to fall in love. Unfortunately, this goes against the plans of his older brother, Linus. Linus likes Sabrina and, unlike many wealthy people, doesn’t really care about appearances or status. It’s not Sabrina being of a different class that bothers him. What bothers him is that David is engaged to the daughter of another business owner whose company the Larrabee Corporation was set to merge with. In other words, David and Sabrina being together would cause him to lose quite a bit of money, and he’s not very interested in that. He puts David out of commission via glass to his ass and sets about making Sabrina fall in love with him instead, with the end goal of convincing her to run away to Paris with him and then abandoning her (either on the boat to Paris or in Paris itself, depending on the version). Of course, what actually happens can be seen from miles away: Linus plays himself and ends up actually falling in love with Sabrina, Sabrina falls in love with him, and David is a good enough guy that he enables Linus to follow Sabrina to Paris after all, where one can only assume that they live happily ever after. And, in the case of the 1954 version, cause Parisians to wonder why someone who looks like Audrey Hepburn would fall for someone who resembles an Easter Island statue.
The play (the original recipe version of Sabrina, if you will) is quite different. Sabrina returns from Paris. Everyone except Linus has trouble recognizing her (this detail, which is one of my favorites, is actually brought back in the 1995 film). Though Linus and Sabrina were never close before due to their age difference, they end up talking one night and Linus manages to figure out why Sabrina gave up a fairly good position in the diplomatic service to return to New York: she has been in love with David her whole life, and wanted to see if she had a chance with him before committing to Paris and, possibly, another man. Linus is thrilled. This Linus, like his counterparts, also doesn’t really care about appearances or status. Unlike them, he also doesn’t really care about money. He cares about control and chaos, and he knows that Sabrina marrying David would throw the upper crust world they live in into complete upheaval. What he doesn’t count on is Sabrina. Sabrina spends a night talking to David, and while David is enchanted, Sabrina realizes that he is not the man for her. The man for her, in fact, is Linus. You see, they both want to take over the world — he with power, and she with love. Could there be a better match? The answer is no, and I refuse to hear otherwise.
Like many women, I spent a good portion of my preteen and early teenage years in love with love. I was fortunate enough to go through this phase in the early 2000s, which was a prime time for romantic comedies. I not only devoured then-new releases like Serendipity and Two Weeks Notice, but also 90s favorites such as You’ve Got Mail and, as you have hopefully realized by now, the 1995 version of Sabrina. I first saw this movie on cable at the age of eleven, and I proceeded to watch it at least once a month for the next ten or so years. In recent years, I have managed to get that number down to once or twice a year, but I will not pretend that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this movie, this play, and this love story.
What was it about this movie? Middle-aged but still incredibly handsome Harrison Ford? Probably. Incredibly charming Julia Ormond? Yes. Beautiful shots of Paris? Of course. A gloomy, somewhat dark and enigmatic man falling in love with a woman who is in love with the world? In hindsight, and given the way my tastes in the romance genre have developed since, it’s probably mostly that one.
Whenever I watched any romantic comedy as a young teen, I would think, “That could definitely be me some day.” Sabrina was no different. Sure, I wasn’t a chauffeur’s daughter, but it’s not as if Sabrina Fairchild and I had absolutely nothing in common. We were both quiet and awkward. We both thought Harrison Ford was hot. We both had single dads. Our respective single dads could both drive cars. It was totally realistic to expect that one day I would meet a special guy, and then a little while later I would meet his older brother and realize that I was meant to be with him instead.
Suffice it to say that that has not happened, though I do still hold out hope. These days, my fantasies about how I will fall in love have gotten a bit more elaborate: I’ll meet a guy, and then a few months later I’ll meet his older brother. We’ll actually be pretty indifferent to each other at first, but we’ll be forced into a sham marriage (I’m ambivalent about the reasoning for this. Needs to be married in order to inherit from a wealthy great aunt? Sounds good.) and will eventually fall in love via “fake it until you make it.” At this point, I am very doubtful that it is possible for me to fall in love any other way. The love story of Sabrina Fairchild and Linus Larrabee taught me these lessons, and I have taken them to heart.
That said, there is one other lesson to take away from the story of Sabrina and Linus. In the play, Sabrina is a rosy-eyed, idealistic person who wants to see and experience everything, causing her to fear being “domesticated” or tied down. Linus, meanwhile, is cold and practical to the point of malice, and he fears love because it means giving up control. And yet, they fall in love anyway. And you get the impression that, through Linus, Sabrina is learning to be a bit more practical, and a bit less afraid of missing anything. Through Sabrina, Linus is learning to be more open and vulnerable. Their love makes each of them a better person. That, I think, is the type of love that is always worth fantasizing about.
And so, almost twenty years after my first introduction to Sabrina Fairchild, I wait. I continue to keep my eyes open and search for the one — that special guy who will change everything by introducing me to his older, much more taciturn brother.