Paris When It Sizzles

Paris When It Sizzles is a 1964 American romantic comedy film directed by Richard Quine, and produced by Quine and George Axelrod. The screenplay is by Axelrod based on the 1952 French film Holiday for Henrietta by Julien Duvivier and Henri Jeanson. The film stars William Holden and Audrey Hepburn, and features Grégoire Aslan, Raymond Bussières, Noël Coward, and Tony Curtis.

Paris When It Sizzles
Original film poster
Directed byRichard Quine
Produced by
Screenplay byGeorge Axelrod
Based on
StarringWilliam Holden
Audrey Hepburn
Music byNelson Riddle
Edited byArchie Marshek
  • Richard Quine Productions
  • Charleston Productions
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 8, 1964 (1964-04-08) (United States)
Running time
108[2]/110[1] minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million (est.)

The film's title derives from the Cole Porter song "I Love Paris":

I love Paris in the springtime
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles


Alexander Myerheim (Noël Coward) hires veteran playboy screenwriter, Richard Benson (William Holden) to write a screenplay. Overly immersed in his playboy lifestyle, Benson procrastinates writing the script until two days before the due date. Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn), a temp secretary Benson hired to type the script, arrives at Richard's hotel room, only to discover that little has been written. The desperate and self-loathing Richard is awakened and inspired by the beautiful Gabrielle. He creates various scenarios for his screenplay, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, which is based on their unfolding romance. The screenplay, with small but inspired and comedic roles for Noël Coward, Tony Curtis, and other famous stars of the era, spoofs the movie industry, actors, studio heads, and itself, and is rife with allusions to the iconic earlier roles of Hepburn and Holden.


Some members of the cast have roles in The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, the film-within-the-film.

ActorRoleRole in the
Audrey HepburnGabrielle SimpsonGaby
William HoldenRichard BensonRick
Grégoire Aslan Police Inspector Gilet
Raymond Bussières François, the gangster
Tony Curtis Gaby's narcissistic boyfriend; Maurice, the second policeman
Noël CowardAlexander MeyerheimThe Producer
Cast notes
  • In addition to the uncredited role played by Tony Curtis, dressed in a red jumper, and white pants and riding a Vespa, [3] the film also features uncredited cameo appearances by Marlene Dietrich as herself, dressed in white, stepping out of a white Bentley, and Mel Ferrer,[2] Hepburn's real-life husband at the time, who plays a party guest dressed as Dr. Jekyll. Frank Sinatra sings a few bars of the opening song, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower.


The film, whose working title was Together in Paris,[1] is a remake of the 1952 French film Holiday for Henrietta, directed by Julien Duvivier. Paramount exercised an option on their contracts with both Hepburn and Holden, forcing them to make the film together. Holden, having had an affair with Hepburn during the making of Sabrina a decade earlier and been in love with her ever since, attempted without success to rekindle a romance with the now-married actress.[4] Holden's alcoholism was also a constant challenge for Quine, who moved into a rented house next to Holden's during production to keep an eye on him.[4] Holden later commented on both of the problems:[4]

Curtis was brought into the production to film during a week when Holden was undergoing treatment for his alcoholism at the prompting of the director.[4] Noel Coward worked on the film for three days, and a cameo from Marlene Dietrich meant to duplicate the many cameos of Around the World in 80 Days (1956)[5].

Audrey Hepburn's choice for cinematographer was Franz Planer who had photographed her in several of her films[6]. With Planer being ill, Hepburn agreed to the use of Claude Renoir, however Charles Lang replaced Renoir as the director of photography during production, a change demanded by Hepburn after she saw what she felt were unflattering dailies.[4]

Hepburn shot the film in the summer of 1962, back-to-back with Charade, which she shot that fall. The films shared several locations, most notably a Punch and Judy puppet theatre in the park in front of the Théâtre Marigny.

Though finished shooting in October 1962, a screening at Paramount led to studio to deem the film unreleasable with the exception of the attraction of its two stars[7].


Variety called Paris When It Sizzles "marshmallow-weight hokum", and quoted a line from the film as an apt description of the film itself: "contrived, utterly preposterous, and totally unmotivated"; it complimented the two leads, saying Hepburn is a "refreshingly individual creature in an era of the exaggerated curve", and Holden "handles his assignment commendably".[2]

Time magazine said the film was "a multimillion dollar improvisation that does everything but what the title promises" and suggested that "writer George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch) and director Richard Quine should have taken a hint from Holden['s character Richard Benson], who writes his movie, takes a long sober look at what he has wrought, and burns it."[8]

Turner Classic Movies notes that "critics uniformly panned" the film, but said it "has earned a reputation as a guilty pleasure for those who enjoy in-joke movie spoofs and an absurdist storyline played out against the glorious backdrop of the City of Light".[4]


  • In one scene, Holden's character remarks that the film-in-the-film could have a theme song by Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's voice is heard singing the laughable lyric, "The girl who stole the Eiffel Tower also stole my heart" over the fictional credit sequence.
  • My Fair Lady is mentioned as being the same story as Frankenstein. Hepburn would film the movie adaptation of that musical a year after shooting this film. This line comes moments after a reference to a prostitute with "a heart of gold", which can be seen as an allusion to Hepburn's character, Holly Golightly, in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Paperback Novelization

In February 1964, Dell Publishing issued a paperback novelization (with a cover price of 40¢) by then-veteran tie-in author Saul Cooper. There may have been some editorial confusion in coordinating the copyediting and design stages of the book's production, however, because the byline on the cover is "Michael Milner" (Cooper's occasional pseudonym), while on the title page, the byline is that of fictional screenwriter "Richard Benson", the story's male lead. The Benson attribution is amusingly fitting, as Cooper's novelistic approach was to narrate the story in the first person, using Benson's voice and perspective. But that's what makes it seem to be a publishing glitch that the cover byline should be yet another pseudonym, rather than a follow-through with the literary conceit.

See also


  1. Paris When It Sizzles at the TCM Movie Database
  2. "Paris When It Sizzles". Variety. January 1, 1964. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
  3. Paris When It Sizzles on IMDb
  4. Eleanor Quin. "Paris When It Sizzles: Overview Article". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
  5. Epstein, Edward Z. Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden Hachette UK, 14 Apr 2015
  6. Epstein, Edward Z. Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden Hachette UK, 14 Apr 2015
  7. Epstein, Edward Z. Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden Hachette UK, 14 Apr 2015
  8. "Flame-Out". Time. April 17, 1964. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
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