In class today we watched Sabrina, and while the Givenchy clothing Audrey Hepburn wears as the title character are absolutely beautiful, what really caught my attention was the incredibly age difference between Audrey at 25 and Humphrey Bogart playing her lover at 55 (he in fact died 3 years after the film was released) and how incredibly uncomfortable seeing them kissing makes me feel. I'm sure a lot of it is that she was my age and he was about the same age as my father.
And it isn't just this film where she is paired with a much older man (I'm counting any age gap of more than 20 years, old enough to be her father), the situation is the same in Roman Holiday, Funny Face, War and Peace, Love in the Afternoon, My Fair Lady and Charade. It was only in her mid-30s that she began to get paired with men of a closer age.
According to Pamela in our lectures this was a deliberate decision by film companies to emphasise her youthful looks and childlike figure. She would almost always play the "girl", not in control of her emotions or her circumstances.
In the example of Sabrina she grows up enamoured with the younger of a pair of brother, an irresponsible playboy who at the beginning of the film has already had 4 failed marriages. Upon seeing him romancing his next girl she tries to kill herself. She is rescued and sent to Paris to go to cooking school to forget him.
She comes home with a new wardrobe and outlook on life (supposedly), and as soon as he sees her looking beautiful and begins to try and romance her (despite being engaged), she goes back to mooning over him.
The older brother sees this and the disruption it would cause in a business plan he has with the fiancés father, and so decides to seduce her away.
Audrey realises he is doing this, and cries about being seduced away from her love, but seems completely incapable of doing anything about it. She is the little girl, being controlled by these older men. And she just accepts it.
While I have grown up in a very different time with different social norms, that time period also portrayed strong woman in other films. I just find that it makes me angry that she is so used and controlled by them and just accepts this as her role.