Stanley Donen’s stylishly elegant, largely charming comedy-romance-thriller teams stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn for the first and only time in their careers. (What a shame; they enjoy a terrific chemistry)
For some, the movie, intelligently scripted by Peter Stone, is Donen’s homage to Hitchcock. But for me, the movie represents Hollywood at its most entertaining—and the last great movie that Cary Grant made before retiring three years later.
It was also the last movie in which Cary Grant plays Cary Grant the urbane, polished romantic lover who doesn’t need to take himself seriously because the girl (Audrey Hepburn) will. His performance in this picture was a career-summation, reflecting seamless calmness, elegant smoothness, summing up performance, based on the strong resonance of his presence.
Reggie Lambert (Hepburn) returns to Paris from a ski trip in the French Alps to find her house ransacked and her husband dead. At his funeral, she notices three strange thugs (played by James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass), who, for some reason, want to make sure that her hubby is really dead.
Peter (Grant) offers his assistance to Reggie, as does CIA man Bartholomew (Walter Matthau). She is shocked to find out that her husband was part of a gang, which, during WW II, stole a huge amount of money.
Reggie becomes a suspect, as people assume she knows the whereabouts of the loot. For her part, though falling in love with Peter, she suspects that he too is after the money, especially given his fondness for aliases; he goes by the names of Peter Joshua, Alexander Dyle, Adam Canfield, Brian Cruickshank. Soon it becomes difficult for Reggie (and for us in the audience) to decide who are the good guys and who are the bad ones.
A supremely mounted thriller, based on a clever plot, “Charade” benefits immensely from the radiant charisma of its two stars, then at the peak of their respective careers.
The melodic, Oscar-nominated theme song by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer was very popular.
On location shooting in Paris lends the film a stylish and elegant look, and some stunning scenes, one of which is a rooftop fight between Grant and Kennedy.
Song: “Charade,” Music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Oscar Awards: None
The winner of the Best Song Oscar was “Call Me Irresponsible,” by James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, from “Papa’s Delicate Condition.”