Wednesday 15 April 2020

Charade - 1963 film review

Charade is a film made by an accomplished director, Stanley Donen, who was here venturing into Hitchcock territory with a light thriller starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The movie was a commercial success and boasted a theme song by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. When I first saw it, the mix of crime with romance and comedy slightly underwhelmed me, and the same was true (as I said on this blog twelve years ago) when I took another look.

But time passes and views change and on a recent third viewing - intended as light relief in the lockdown era - I enjoyed it more. It's a well-crafted confection of highly commercial if highly derivative ingredients although not in the same league as, say, Hitchcock's North by North West, which is by far my favourite Cary Grant film.

The source material was a short story called "The Unsuspecting Wife", written by Peter Stone. He and Marc Behm (best known as author of The Eye of the Beholder) turned it into a screenplay. When this didn't sell, Stone turned the story into a novel, Charade, which did. Donen secured a high-calibre cast, including Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy.

Hepburn plays Regina, whose marriage is on the rocks at the start of the film. She's not too heartbroken to learn of the death of her husband Charles or to meet a charming man (Grant) who calls himself Peter Joshua. When it turns out that Charles was a crook who nicked a quarter of a million dollars that assorted villains want for themselves, Regina finds herself in danger. Peter comes to her aid - but what's his real game?

There are some good set-piece scenes and I enjoyed George Kennedy's steel claw, which reminded me of Major Whitlow in Mortmain Hall, not to mention Louis Crandell, the inspiration for my character! The Parisian backdrop adds to the movie's charm and overall it ranks as an agreeable piece of escapism. Very suitable at the moment!


Val said...

It's always been one of my favorites I think at least in part because of the chemistry between Hepburn and Grant.
Long ago I found one of the murder methods quite disturbing and thinking now you know I still do. Nevertheless it's still a very enjoyable escapist romp that deserves a rewatch.
It never occurred to me it was based on a novel Thanks! ...I'll have to look out for a copy.

MaityVictor said...

One of my favourites ... Along with Wait until dark ..