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REVIEWS
"Charade"


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Character's Name: 
Peter Joshua / Alexander Dyle / Adam Canfield / Brian Cruikshank
Release Date:  December 25, 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
Studio:  Universal-International
Running Time: 113 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (Peter Joshua), Audrey Hepburn (Regina Lampert), Walter Matthau (Hamilton Bartholomew), James Coburn (Tex Panthollow), George Kennedy (Herman Scobie), Ned Glass (Leopold Gideon), Jacques Marin (Grandpierre), Paul Bonifas (Felix), Donminique Monot (Sylvie), Thomas Chelimisky (Jean-Louis)


Plot:
- by ZoŽ Shaw

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.

Review: 
- 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 movie!"

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.

VARIETY 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 further threatened.

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 her.

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 his suit.

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 cellophane bag.

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.

Review
Click here to read Susanna's review of "Charade"

Review
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