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CHARADE (director: Stanley Donen; screenwriter: story by Peter Stone & Marc Behm/Peter Stone; cinematographer: Charles Lang Jr.; editor: James Clark; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Cary Grant (Peter Joshua/Alexander Dyle/Adam Canfield/Brian Cruikshank), Audrey Hepburn (Regina ‘Reggie’ Lampert), Walter Matthau (Hamilton Bartholemew), James Coburn (Tex Panthollow), George Kennedy (Herman Scobie), Dominique Minot (Sylvie Gaudel), Ned Glass (Leopold W. Gideon), Thomas Chelimsky (Jean-Louis Gaudel), Paul Bonifas (Mr. Felix, stamp dealer), Jacques Marin (Insp. Edouard Grandpierre); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Stanley Donen; Universal Pictures; 1963)
“A smart Hitchcockian thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Noted musical director Stanley Donen (“On the Town (1949)”/”Singin’ in the Rain (1952)”/” It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)”/”The Pajama Game (1957)”) this time helms a smart Hitchcockian thriller based on the brilliant screenplay by Peter Stone; Mr. Stone also co-authored the short story with Marc Behm. The twisty plot follows along the path of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935). The film hums along in a breezy entertaining way with plenty of charm and a great repartee from the sharp effortless performances by the stars–the always elegant 32-year-old Audrey Hepburn and the always charismatic 60-year-old Cary Grant.

While back in Paris from a skiing vacation at the jet set resort of Mont d’ Arbois in Megeve, Switzerland, Reggie Lambert (Audrey Hepburn) discovers her husband, Charles, murdered. The handsome Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), a pickup acquaintance from her vacation, comforts and assists her in finding a hotel room when he discovers she was left penniless with only a Lufthansa bag containing a few of her husband’s few ordinary possessions. Reggie is stunned by the news and realizes she knows little about her husband, even his last name is not the same one he gave her. The funeral is attended by only three mysterious brutish Americans, Herman Scobie (George Kennedy), with a steel claw for a right hand, Tex Panthollow (James Coburn) and Leopold W. Gideon (Ned Glass). After the funeral Reggie is asked to come to the U. S. Embassy, where she is informed by supposed C.I.A. desk-jockey Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau) that her husband and four of his army buddies (the above mentioned trio and a deceased Carson Dyle) had stolen $250,000 in gold destined for the French Resistance during World War II and the C.I.A. is seeking its return. She’s requested to cooperate with the agency in the search for the loot, as Bartholomew scares her into thinking she’s in danger. After Reggie swears she knows nothing about the loot, she’s threatened at home by the trio and seeks the protection of Peter. But even though she can’t help loving Peter, she finds it odd that he keeps doing strange things (from taking a shower with his clothes on-one way to hide your age-to dropping a series of lies on her) and then finding she has to call him by a different name such as Alexander Dyle, the deceased’s heart stricken brother, later as professional thief Adam Canfield, and still later as Brian Cruikshank. The gullible Reggie can’t help being befuddled. Things soon get bloody and the only one left who Reggie thinks she can trust is Bartholomew, but don’t count Peter/Alexander/Adam/Brian out just yet.

It plays out as a slick, stylish comedy thriller, with great on location shots of a beautiful autumn in Paris and a chic Henry Mancini score. The charade of using multiple identities proves to be fun. Since there’s no law against stealing another film’s successful formula, this film should not have a guilty conscience for such a clever theft from Hitchcock.

Its only Academy Award nomination was for Best Song, by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer (lyrics).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”