Sunday, April 12, 2015


I neglected to do a post on the 1963 film Charade the last time it aired. It's coming up again this afternoon at 4:00 PM on TCM, so now's your chance to get it.

Audrey Hepburn plays Regina Lampert, a French woman married to an American who's in the business of business, or something. She doesn't really know what her husband does, except that it provides her with a living that keeps her in all that Givenchy and going to fashionable places in the alps to spend her holidays with her friend Sylvie and Sylvie's son Jean-Louis. That's where Regina meets Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). He's walking along the breakfast terrace of one of those places, when Jean-Louis comes up and... shoots him with a water pistol! Peter and Regina strike up a converstaion, playing it a bit coy and Regina thinking nothing of it.

She'll have more time to think when she gets back to Paris. She returns to find that her apartment has been emptied, and her husband murdered, thrown off a moving train! It's some small consolation that Peter has somehow made it to Paris too, and is there to comfort the grieving widow. But if Regina thinks the shock is big, she ain't seen nothing yet. When she goes to the funeral, three strange men show up to pay their respects: Tex (James Coburn), Herman (George Kennedy), and Leopold (Ned Glass); all three of them show up briefly, do something strange, and then leave. And not long after the funeral, Regina gets a letter stating that she is to appear at the American embassy and meet officer Hamilton Bartholomew.

He's got an even bigger shock. Those three men were three of her late husband's four accomplices in the theft of $250,000 in gold that the five of them stole during World War II. One of the other men was believed already dead, and none of the remaining four had been able to get their hands on the hidden gold, apparetnly until now, with Mr. Lampert presumably having done so which would explain why the other three were trying to track down Lampert and get to him. They wanted their share. Regina, for her part, is completely innocent, having no idea that her husband was involved in anything like this and no idea where the quarter million could possibly be. A search of her husband's traveling back yields no clues.

And what does Peter Joshua have to do with this? He's passing himself off as a man who could be Regina's friend, and the one person she can trust in Paris while these other three guys are coming after her for the money, thinking that she's holding out on them. But as the movie goes on it's clear that Peter is keeping secrets from Regina, even as the two of them and the three obvious crooks wind up at the same run-down hotel in their search for the money and their attempts to keep their eyes on each other. Who among the various characters are the real criminals, and where is the money?

Charade is a movie with an excellent story, and one that's told exceedingly well. But, it's a movie that's got one small problem, and that's in the casting. Specifically, the casting of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Both of them are fine actors, Grant doing well playing the suave older gentleman and Hepburn being an elegant damsel in distress. But it's Grant and Hepburn. Both of them had reputations, and already 20 years earlier when Grant made Suspicion it was clear that producers hated the idea of him being an unalloyed villain and how audiences would respond to that. In the intervening 20 years, especially the decade or so leading up to Charade, Grant had become a man playing characters you knew where going to be the good guy regardless of what the story was trying to tell you. You can't help but expect that to happen in Charade too, and that's the one thing that works to the movie's ddetriment. Other than that, though, the movie is a winner in every way. It's lovely to look at, and there's a good mix of dramatic thriller elements and comic relief to break up the dark proceedings.

Charade is listed as being available from the TCM shop, but courtesy of the Criterion Collection, which means more pricey.

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