Wait Until Dark (1967): Thriller, Starring Audrey Hepburn in Fifth and Last Oscar Nomination

Directed by Terence Young, Wait Until Dark is well-made thriller, based on the Broadway hit play by Frederick Knott (who wrote Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder,” which has a similar narrative).

Audrey Hepburn received her fifth (and last) Best Actress nomination for playing Susy Hendrix, a blind woman whose husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) has unwittingly come in possession of a doll filled with heroin. While Sam is away, villains Roat (Alan Arkin) and Carlino (Richard Crenna) try to get into her apartment and find the treasure. They impersonate different kinds of sadistic tormentors: Carlino by posing as a nice guy, and Roat as a downright thug.

Director Young uses successfully all the tricks in the book to arouse the audience with kicks and thrills. More importantly, he gets a strong, realistic performance from Hepburn, as a sympathetic victim, and memorable turns from Arkin and Crenna.

Reportedly, in preparation for her part, Audrey Hepburn worked closely with blind women from the Lighthouse for the Blind School. She asked director Young for two weeks of rehearsals, during which she wore a patch over her eyes, relying only on a cane. This exercise sharpen her other senses and make her appreciate the feel and sound of every object in her apartment.

Oscar Alert

This was Audrey Hepburn’s last film before a nine-year-hiatus from screen to do charity and humanitarian work for UNICEF. In 1967, Audrey lost the Oscar to another Hepburn, Katharine, who won her third Oscar for the comedy “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” Audrey returned to the screen in 1976 for “Robin and Marian,” but made only three movies after that, none memorable.

Play’s Lasting Power

The original Broadway production was directed by no other than filmmaker Arthur Penn (before he made “Bonnie and Clyde”).

The play continues to be done, most recently in a Broadway production in which Marisa Tomei played the Hepburn part and director Quentin Tarantino the Arkin’s role. Both got bad reviews.

Of Smilar Interest

Though she doesn’t play a blind woman, Jodie Foster enacted a similar role in David Fincher’s thriller “Panic Room” (2002), which was largely confined to a single space, Foster’s invaded apartment. (See Review).