Monday, March 28, 2011

Charade (1963) Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Story by Peter Stone, Music by Henry Mancini

Genre: Romantic Comedy
This film is as good as it gets in terms of combining a Hitchcock style suspense story with the comic/romantic elements one might expect from a film about two attractive and mature adults who happen to fall in love. You'd think Sir Alfred Hitchcock himself would've directed this one, but its a knock-off from another director (Stanley Donen), obviously inspired by Cary Grant's earlier Hitchcock roles in films like "To Catch a Thief" (1955) with Grace Kelly or the two-hour thrill ride of mistaken identity and Cold War espionage that made "North By Northwest" (1959) a touchstone for many filmmakers like Donen.
(below, the opening scene from the film. Grant and Hepburn meet and you can already see the chemistry will be superb.)

"Charade" is a jewel box of a film with a few brass knuckles in with the Cartier diamonds.

Audrey Hepburn is Regina (Reggie) Lambert, who works as a United Nations translator. She decides to divorce her remote and rather uncaring American husband, Charles Lambert, after a brief marriage. (She decides while on a vacation from him at a Switzerland ski resort.)

What Regina doesn't know is that divorce is just so unnecessary "Chuck" has already been murdered---thrown from a fast-moving passenger train in France during the pre-title sequence to be exact, already freshly dead and in his pajamas. It's so undignified I feel, but its all over very fast so it doesn't hurt the chic Parisian backdrop of the rest of the film.


Back in Paris to bury her husband, Regina finds herself being pursued by at least three men who want to terrify her into revealing where the hundreds of thousands of dollars Charles stole from them years ago while in the super secret OSS branch of the American Army.

Trouble is, Charles never bothered to tell Regina about such trifling sums and where and how they were hidden. Another trouble is.... the bad guys don't believe her. She goes to the American Embassy in Paris for help. They aren't much help either, but a nice fellow in one of the offices there (Walter Matthau) tells her to play along and they will see if they can help later. Frightened, she turns to a seemingly nice man she just met named Peter Joshua (Grant) for help.

But is Peter Joshua his real name? Turns out he has at least three others aliases, suitable for all occasions. . All the more reason not to trust him too much either.

But the trouble is this guy, though better-looking than the thugs who want the money, is apparently in league with said thugs. Or is it other four men? Do I hear five? Well somebody is busy secretly bumping them all off one by one so don't bother to keep count.

Suffice to say this is a film to see again. And if you haven't seen it yet, what a treat!


  1. a musical tribute to "Charade" courtesy of You Tube hostess "aleagria03". The Nat King Cole song is not in the film, but it suits it very well.

  2. I saw this film years ago... and naturally given the leading stars, loved it. I don't remember the full story though so I may have to rewatch it. The 'Oh I hope so' comment at the end of the opening sequence above leaves me wondering if Regina may have put a hit out on Chuck... mmm definitely needs rewatching.

    Thanks for the reminder Doug - Hitchcock, Grant and Hepburn - sounds like a firm of solicitors rather than a route to movie gold.

  3. "Charade" has its share of twists and turns that's for sure. That "oh I hope so" comment Regina makes always seemed strange...maybe I missed something there.

    The stars and other actors are so well cast one can overlook little clues and realize just who did what to whom. ;-)

    So many film fans of a certain age say things like "They don't make movies like that anymore!" In the case of "Charade", it's not fuzzy nostalgia in my view but pure fact.

    Thanks for your comments.

  4. I can't remember ever watching the movie. I will have to see if I can find it at the video store

  5. I don't think you'll be disappointed Fred. :-)