For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Hitchcockian Films, here’s a review of Charade (1963) by Michael Eddy
Thanks again to Michael Eddy for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Vinnie of Vinnie H. and it is Historical True Story Films.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of February by sending them to email@example.com
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Vinnie!
Let’s see what Michael thought of this movie:
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or homage. Or theft. All in the eye of the beholder. I once got in a fight with Brian DePalma in a film class over his “Hitchcock homage” (according to him) “Sisters”. I asked him about a scene where (IMO) he outright cheated and lied to the audience to mislead them by use of lighting – to make you think that there were 2 people in a room when there was only one. He took umbrage. But that’s a tale for another day.
There are directors who with the right piece of material, are able to produce something akin to Hitchcock at his best. With the same sort of flare as some of his better works. On of them is Stanley Donen – a choreographer turned director (who co-directed “Singin’ In The Rain” and “On The Town” with Gene Kelly) who did a reasonable facsimile of some vintage Hitchcock work not once but twice – with both Arabesque (starring Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck) and a gem I will review here – “Charade”.
Featuring a wonderful screenplay by Peter Stone, a score and title song by Henry Mancini (who was fired by Alfred Hitchcock from “Frenzy” – who told him that if he wanted a score by Bernard Hermann, he would’ve hired Bernard Hermann) and a Hitchcock favorite – Cary Grant – matched up with the exquisite Audrey Hepburn and a terrific cast including future Oscar winners Walter Matthau, James Coburn and George Kennedy (along with Ned Glass) – it is, IMO, probably the best of the genre I like to call – “Hitchcock films NOT directed by Hitchcock”.
The story: Regina Lampert (Hepburn) is married to a man she no longer loves, she doesn’t really know all teat well, whose secretive life has her esconced in a beautiful Paris apartment, but not at all happy. She’s decided to divorce him, but before she’s able to tell him, Charles is tossed from a high speed train to his death. At his funeral – she meets a trio of nefarious men (Coburn, Kennedy and Glass) who all served with her husband during the war. They want their shares of something that Charles has – or had – and was not planning to give them – as he was heading for South America with a quarter million in loot – stemming from gold stolen during WWII while he served in the OSS (the precursur of today’s CIA). They are not a group to cross paths with. Regina goes home to find her apartment cleaned out. Nothing. No clothes, no jewelry, not a stick of furniture. Arriving as the shock begins to set in, is none other than Mr. Grant – who she met on the ski slopes where she was planning to walk away from her marriage (telling him that she wasn’t looking for any new friends. She had quite enough and until one died, no openings on the list). Grant comes to her aid and comfort – but he may not be what he seems either – as we learn that the 3 crazies from the funeral parlor – who all knew Charles and want what’s theirs – know Grant as well.
Matthau is Hamilton Bartholemew, a CIA agent in Paris, who finds it hard to believe that Mrs. Lampert seems not only clueless about who her husband really was, but has no idea where the $250,000 is – since it was not in his possessions aboard the train from which he was tossed, nor anywhere in their now empty apartment. She trusts Grant to help her – even as her pursuers seem to be dropping like flies. It is all beautifully constructed – Grant (as charming and light on his feet as he was in “North By Northwest”) and Hepburn (even with their marked age difference) make a stunning couple – the bad guys are all pretty scary – the plotting is meticulous and surprising – and the movie has one of my all-time favorite last lines of dialogue.
Donen has a light touch but still manages to convey a sense of serious danger for Ms. Hepburn. The stakes are high, it is life and death, you won’t find 2 better actors than Grant and Hepburn at delivering the goods. There’s a wonderful chase near the end (on foot, no cars necessary) from a subway to the Colonnades and into an empty theater that is a classic – all set to that Mancini score. This is one of those films (that I’ve seen a lot – and would be on my list of desert island movies) – that ends – and I want to start all over and watch it again.