- by ZoŽ
Regina returns to Paris,
after a holiday in the Alps, to find her home stripped of furnishings and
her husband murdered. Peter, whom she met in the Alps, offers to help her
solve the mystery. Her husband had hidden lots of money, and his ex-cronies
want it. It becomes apparent that Peter is a member of the gang. The gang
members are killed one by one, and suspicion is pointed at everybody. Regina
is saved from being killed by Peter.
- by Jeff Lang
While many might write this one off as a rip-off of many of
Hitchcock's films, one can only think, "So what if it is, it's still a dang good
Audrey Hepburn is Reggie Lampert, a new widow who has just
found out that everything she believed to be true was false. She finds out that her
husband is believed to have stolen 250,000 dollars from the US Government along with four
other friends. After one of the friends is killed, he takes off with the money leaving the
surviving three to fend for themselves. After her husband "dies," the other men
come to find their "share" of the take. Cary is Peter Joshua, along with Walter
Matthau as CIA agent Hamilton Bartholomew, are the only people she can trust, or can she?
If you like a good mystery, that is just that, a mystery,
then this is definitely your movie. Cary and Audrey are great together. While he was
worried about the big age difference (about thirty years), you won't even notice as the
wonderful plot unfolds. Who can you trust? Find out when you go play Charade.
Film Review - September 25, 1963
- by "Robe"
- submitted by Barry Martin
The guessing game suggested by the title refers to the many plot
twists in Stanley Donen's "black comedy," not to its
boxoffice prospects. "Charade," as the saying
goes, has it made.
Completed some months ago,
Universal wisely sat on this deluxe package until releasing time
and temper were ideal. Already strong in the comedy market,
studio reasoned delayed exposure could enhance its potential,
indicating pic's strength by booking it as Christmas film in
Radio City Music Hall. "Charade" has all the
ingredients of success, some in spades, blended into a tasty dish
that spells ticket-selling ambrosia.
Firsttime teaming of Cary Grant and
Audrey Hepburn, a natural, gives the sophisticated romantic caper
an international appeal, plus the selling points of adventure,
suspense and superb comedy.
Director Donen and scripter Peter
Stone, obviously "inspired" by the handiwork of other filmmakers
who have worked successfully in this genre, may not have the most
original of plots or even treatments, but they can be proud of
their final handiwork.
Basically a suspenser or
"chase" film, "Charade" has several moments of
violence but they are leavened with a generous helping of spoofery.
Donen plays the taut tale against a colorful background of witty
dialogue, humorous situations and scenic beauty - a style that has
become known as "black comedy." Stone sometimes
changes a plot situation with a single line of dialogue (as in
some of Grant's exposures), which necessitates concentration on
the part of viewers.
While vacationing at a French Alps
ski resort, Audrey Hepburn meets Cary Grant casually.
Returning to Paris, she fins herself a widow, her husband having
been murdered. Aware that her own life may be in danger, she
appeals for help to the U.S. Embassy. There she learns that
former World War II associates of her husband (about whom she
knows amazingly little, one of the plot's weaker points), and his
accomplices in the theft of $250,000 in gold, believe that she
knows the money's whereabouts. Walter Matthau, her
informant, advises her, for her own safety, to find the money
(property of the U.S. government) and turn it over to him.
He also tells her to contact him, day or night, should she be
Grant, who has followed her to
Paris, offers to help but turns out to be a member of the gang,
albeit as much of a mystery to them as to her. Each time
Miss Hepburn confronts him, with irregularities in his story, he
diverts, but never completely allays, her suspicions with another
"charade," or change of identity. This, plus
growing romantic appeal he has for her, both attracts and confuses
The associates, one by one, come to
grisly ends and the search narrows down to her and Grant.
One plot twist is the early disclosure of an important clue to the
money but one that will probably elude most viewers.
The ending, as in every
self-respecting suspenser, is a dramatic surprise, with the real
villain's denouement (it's is not the butler), and continues to
trick comedy fadeout. Grant, suave master of romantic
banter, makes a choice mate for the always delightful Miss
Hepburn. The two stars carry the film effortlessly, with the
only acting competition coming form the versatile Matthau.
James Coburn, Ned Glass and George Kennedy make an effective trio
of villainous cutthroats. Kennedy's fight with Grant on a
slippery rooftop is a real gasper.
Fast-paced, from the pre-title shot
of a body tossed from a train to the finale under a theatre stage,
"Charade" seldom falters (amazing, considering its
almost two hour running time). Violent incidents used are
necessary to the plot, not merely inserted to accent the
action. In the same manner, humor, while abundant, is never
forced. Repartee between the two stars is sometimes subtle,
sometimes suggestive, sometimes satirical but always witty.
The occasional use of broader comedy includes one hilarious bit
when the heroine tries to disrobe the hero so that she can search
Charles Lang Jr.'s Technicolor
photography captures the charm of photogenic Paris (and some
beautiful opening shots of Megeve, in the French Alps). He
keeps the camera-work generally low-keyed as much of the action is
interiors or occurs at night. James Clark's editing, brisk
and economical, is responsible for much of the excellent pace.
Biggest disappointment for femme
viewers, used to the fabulous costumes Givenchy usually provides
Miss Hepburn, is the wardrobe he has provided for
"Charade." Other than the "haut couture"
promise of her opening-sequence ski suit, there's little evidence
of the high style so suitable to the star. Her gowns are
attractive but ...
Henry Mancini's score, as tunefully
brittle as the dialog (he uses a combination of English
"jangle-box", an accordion and guitar for some of the
offbeat effects), helps.
NEW YORK TIMES
Film Review - November 29, 1963
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
Seekers of Christmas entertainment, might do well to think twice
about "Charade," the major item on the holiday program
that hurried into the Music Hall yesterday. For this
romantic comedy melodrama, in which Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant
skitter and scoot around Paris as participants in a
cheating-cheaters chase, has so many grisly touches in it and runs
to violence so many times the people bringing their youngsters to
see the annual Nativity pageant and the Christmas stage show may
blanch in horror when it comes on.
Right off, before the main title,
it starts with a corpse thrown off a train and landing, all
battered and gory in Technicolor, right at the camera's
feet. Then, a few minutes later, Miss Hepburn as the widow
of said deceased is compelled to visit the morgue, where the
business of viewing the body for purposes of identification is
made a morbid joke.
Next there's a scene in a funeral
parlor, with the body in a coffin well exposed so that various
mysterious characters, supposedly comedians, may come up and use
it for gags. The first one, quite nervous, sneezes on it
(this proves him allergic, someone notes). The second,
disgusted, holds a mirror to its nose to see if it breathes.
The third, a truculent fellow, sticks it with a pin, then stalks
away contented when it doesn't jump.
Sit tight. That's just the
beginning. As the fable moves along, with Miss Hepburn and
Mr. Grant locked in contention with these three characters, all
seeking to find the $250,000 the deceased is supposed to have left
behind, there are further such bits of ghoulish humor and
chuckle-some morbidities. The sneezer ends up with his
throat slashed, indubitably, right before your eyes. The
pin-sticker turns out to be wearing a metal prosthetic
"hand" with which he tries, in one brutal sequence, to
skewer Mr. Grant and fling him off a roof. (That sequence,
incidentally, is loaded with juicy agonies.) And the
unpleasant fellow with the mirror is last seen trussed up and
smothered, looking more ghastly than foolish, with his head in a
I tell you, this lightt-hearted
picture is full of such gruesome violence.
That much explained, however,
there's a lot to be said for it as a fast-moving, urbane
entertainment in the comedy-mystery vein. Peter Stone, a new
chap, has written a screenplay that is packed with sudden twists,
shocking gags, eccentric arrangements and occasionally bright and
brittle lines. And Stanley Donen has diligently directed in
a style that is somewhere between that of the screwball comedy of
the nineteen-thirties and that of Alfred Hitchcock on a
"North by Northwest" course.
The players, too, have at it in a
glib, polished, nonchalant way that clearly betrays their
awareness of the film's howling implausibility. Miss Hepburn
is cheerfully committed to a mood of how-nuts-can-you-be in an obviously
comforting assortment of expensive Givenchy costumes, and Mr.
Grant does everything from taking a shower without removing his
suit to fighting with thugs, all with the blandness and the boredom
of an old screwball comedy hand.
Walter Matthau is tiredly amusing
as a fellow at the American Embassy, and Ned Glass, George Kennedy
and James Coburn are thoroughly disagreeable as the thugs.
An interesting element in the
picture is Henry Mancini's off-beat score, which makes the music a
sardonic commentator. I'll go along with what it says.
Click here to read
Susanna's review of "Charade"
Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot
Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine
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