Love in the Afternoon is a 1957 American romantic comedy film produced and directed by Billy Wilder and starring Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn. The screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond is based on the 1920 Claude Anet novel Ariane, jeune fille russe (Ariane, Young Russian Girl). The story explores the relationship between a notorious middle-aged American playboy business magnate and the 20-something daughter of a private detective hired to investigate him.
Young cello student Ariane Chavasse eavesdrops(played by Audrey Hepburn on a conversation between her father, Claude Chavasse(played by Maurice Chevalier), a widowed private detective who specializes in tracking unfaithful spouses. After Claude gives his client "Monsieur X" proof of his wife's daily trysts with American business magnate Frank Flannagan(played by Gary Cooper) in Room 14 at the Paris Ritz, Monsieur X announces he will shoot Flannagan later that evening. Claude is nonchalant, regretting only the business he will lose, since Flannagan is a well-known international playboy with a long history of casual affairs. When Ariane cannot get the Ritz to put her through to Flannagan on the phone, and the police decline to intervene until after a crime has been committed, she decides to warn him herself.
Ariane is in time. When Monsieur X breaks into Flannagan's hotel suite, he finds Flannagan with Ariane, not his wife, who is cautiously making her escape via an outside ledge.
Flannagan is intrigued by the mysterious girl, who refuses to give him any information about herself, even her name. He starts guessing her name from the initial "A" on her purse, and when she declines to tell him he resorts to calling her "thin girl". She has no romantic history but pretends to be a femme fatale to interest him, and soon falls in love with the considerably older man. She agrees to meet him the next afternoon, withholding that she has orchestral practice in the evenings. She comes with mixed feelings, but spends the evening while waiting for him to leave for the airport.
After Flannagan's departure, Ariane's father notices her change of mood but has no idea that it proceeds from one of his cases.
A year later, Flannagan returns to Paris and the Ritz. Ariane, who has kept track of Flannagan's womanizing exploits through the news media, meets him again when she sees him at an opera while surveying the crowd from a balcony. She puts herself in his path in the lobby, and they start seeing each other again. This time, when he persists in his questioning, she makes up a long list of prior imaginary lovers based on her father's files, later telling Flannagan that he is her 20th. Flannagan gradually goes from being amused to being jealously tormented by the possible comparisons, but is unsure whether they are real. When he encounters a still-apologetic Monsieur X, the latter recommends Claude to him, and thus Flannagan hires Ariane's own father to investigate.
It does not take Claude long to realize that the mystery woman is Ariane. He goes to the Ritz, tells Flannagan her first name, informs his client that the girl fabricated her love life, and eventually tells him that Ariane is his daughter. He tells Flannagan that she is a "little fish" that he should throw back, since she is serious and he wants to avoid serious relationships.
When Ariane comes to his hotel suite that afternoon Flannagan is hurriedly packing to leave Paris, pretending to be on his way to meet "two crazy Swedish twins" in Cannes. At the train station they both keep up their act of not caring deeply for each other, although Ariane sheds a few tears that she blames on the soot. As the train departs Ariane runs along the platform and tells Flannagan, who stands in the coaches door, that she will soon travel with her many lovers. Running faster and faster as the train speeds up, her femme-fatale facade cracks, she frantically repeats "I'll be all right, I'll be all right", and her love shows through. Flannagan changes his mind, sweeps her up in his arms onto the coach, and before kissing her calls her by her name, Ariane.
In voice over, Claude informs us that the couple were married in Cannes and now live together in New York.
The director of Love in the Afternoon Billy Wilder contacted I.A.L.Diamond after reading an article he had written for the Screen Writers Guild monthly magazine. The two men immediately hit it off, and Wilder suggested they collaborate on a project based on a German language film he had co-written in the early 1930s. The script was based on the 1920 Claude Anet novel Ariane, jeune fille russe (Ariane, Young Russian Girl), which had been filmed as Scampolo (1928) and Scampolo, a Child of the Street (1932), the latter with a script co-written by Billy Wilder. Wilder was inspired by a 1931 German adaptation of the novel, Ariane, directed by Paul Czinner.
Love in the Afternoon would become the first of twelve screenplays by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond.
Wilder's first choices for Frank Flannagan were Cary Grant and Yul Brynner. "It was a disappointment to me that [Grant] never said yes to any picture I offered him," Wilder later recalled. "He didn't explain why. He had very strong ideas about what parts he wanted". The director decided to cast Gary Cooper because they shared similar tastes and interests and Wilder knew the actor would be good company during location filming in Paris. "They talked about food and wine and clothes and art", according to co-star Audrey Hepburn, Wilder's only choice for Ariane.
Talent agent Paul Kohner suggested Maurice Chevalier for the role of Claude Chavasse, and when asked if he was interested, the actor replied, "I would give the secret recipe for my grandmother's bouillabaisse to be in a Billy Wilder picture". Love in the Afternoon marked Chevalier's first non-singing role in a film since 1947.
It was Wilder's insistence to shoot the film on location in Paris. Outdoor locations included the Château of Vitry in the Yvelines; the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera; and the Hôtel Ritz Paris. Interior scenes were filmed at the Studios de Boulogne. However, Gary Cooper was reportedly uncomfortable in this, his first filming location outside the United States. To cover over Cooper's performance and also to obscure "the lines and age in Cooper's face", Wilder photographed the actor's face in shadow and with "gauzy filters"; the camera was also often positioned behind Cooper's back.
For the American release of the film, Chevalier recorded an end-of-film narration letting audiences know Ariane and Flannagan had married and were living in New York City. Although Wilder objected to the addition, he was forced to include it to forestall complaints that the relationship between the two was immoral.
Music plays an important role in the film. A four-piece band of musicians called "The Gypsies" entertains Flannagan and his various lovers in his hotel suite, since Frank says he's "not much of a talker" and lets music create the romance. The Gypsies stick with Flannagan through thick and thin, serenading him as he drowns his sorrows in drink while listening to Ariane's recording of her long list of lovers, joining him in a Turkish bath, and following him to the train station.
Much of the prelude to the 1865 Richard Wagner opera Tristan und Isolde is heard during a lengthy sequence set in the Palais Garnier opera house, possibly conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch. Matty Malneck, Wilder's friend from their Paul Whiteman days in Vienna, wrote three songs for the film, including the title tune. Also heard are "C'est si bon" by Henri Betti, "L'ame Des Poètes" by Charles Trenet, and "Fascination", a 1932 song based on a European waltz, which is hummed repeatedly by Ariane.
Malneck later wrote lyrics for "Fascination" and "Hot Paprika". "Fascination" became a popular hit for Chevalier and for many other singers; "C'est si bon" was also recorded by numerous singers and became an international hit.
Jonhy Mercer later wrote lyrics for "Love in the Afternoon". The song became a hit for Jerry Vale and other singers.
Produced at a cost of $2.1 million, the film was plagued by underfinancing. The debt Allied Artists incurred while making Friendly Persuasion prompted the studio to sell the distribution rights of Love in the Afternoon for Europe to gain more financing.
The film had its world premiere in Paris on May 29, 1957. It opened in Los Angeles on June 19, 1957, and in New York on August 23, 1957.
The film was a commercial failure in the United States. It did not resonate with American audiences in part because Gary Cooper looked too old to be having an affair with Hepburn's young character. Wilder himself admitted: "It was a flop. Why? Because I got Coop the week he suddenly got old". Allied Artists re-released the film in 1961 under the new title Fascination. However, in Europe, the film was a major success, released under the title Ariane.