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Charade (1963 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byStanley Donen
Screenplay byPeter Stone
Story byPeter Stone
Marc Behm[1]
Based onThe Unsuspecting Wife
1961 short story[2]
by Peter Stone
with Marc Behm
Produced byStanley Donen
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byJames Clark
Music byHenry Mancini
Henry Mancini (music)
Johnny Mercer (lyrics)
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • September 24, 1963 (1963-09-24) (DC)
  • December 5, 1963 (1963-12-05) (NYC)
  • December 25, 1963 (1963-12-25) (LA)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[3]
Box office$13.4 million[4]

Charade is a 1963 American romantic comedy[1] mystery film produced and directed by Stanley Donen,[5] written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The cast also features Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Dominique Minot, Ned Glass, and Jacques Marin. It spans three genres, suspense thriller, romance and comedy.

Charade was praised by critics for its screenplay and the chemistry between Grant and Hepburn.[6] It has been called "the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made".[7] It was filmed on location in Paris and contains animated titles by Maurice Binder. Henry Mancini's score features the popular theme song, "Charade".

In 2022, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[8]


While on holiday in the French Alps, Regina "Reggie" Lampert, an expatriate American working as a simultaneous interpreter, tells her friend Sylvie that she is divorcing her husband, Charles. She also meets Peter Joshua, a charming American.

On her return to Paris, she finds her apartment stripped bare. A police inspector says Charles auctioned off their belongings, then was murdered after leaving Paris. Reggie is given Charles's small travel bag, containing a letter addressed to her, a ship ticket to Venezuela, four passports in multiple names and nationalities, and miscellaneous personal items. At Charles's sparsely attended funeral, three men show up to view the body. One sticks a pin into the corpse to confirm Charles is really dead.

Reggie is summoned to meet CIA administrator Hamilton Bartholomew at the American Embassy. She learns that the three men are Herman Scobie, Leopold W. Gideon, and Tex Panthollow. During World War II, they, Charles, and Carson Dyle were assigned by the OSS to deliver $250,000 ($4.3 million in current dollars) in gold to the French Resistance, but instead stole it. Carson was wounded in a German ambush and left behind. Charles double-crossed the others, taking all the gold. The three survivors are after the missing money, as is the U.S. government. Hamilton insists Reggie has it, even if she does not know what or where it is—and that she is in great danger.

Peter finds Reggie and helps her move into a hotel. The three criminals separately threaten her, each convinced she knows where the money is. Herman then shocks her by claiming that Peter is in league with them, after which Peter says he is Carson Dyle's brother, Alexander, and is trying to bring the others to justice, believing they killed Carson. As the hunt for the money continues, Herman and Leopold are murdered. Hamilton tells Reggie that Carson Dyle had no brother. When she confronts Alexander, he says he is actually Adam Canfield, a professional thief. Although frustrated by his dishonesty, Reggie still trusts him.

Reggie and Adam go to an outdoor market, the location of Charles's last known appointment. Spotting Tex, Adam follows him. At the stamp-selling booths, Adam and Tex each realize that Charles bought some extremely valuable stamps and affixed them to the envelope in his travel bag. Both men race back to Reggie's hotel room, only to discover the stamps missing from the envelope. Reggie, who gave the stamps to Sylvie's young son, Jean-Louis, suddenly realizes their significance. She and Sylvie find Jean-Louis, but he has already traded the stamps to a dealer. They find the dealer, who says the rare stamps are worth $250,000; he returns them to Reggie.

Reggie trapped in the prompt box

Reggie returns to the hotel and finds Tex's body; Tex managed to write the name "Dyle" on the floor before dying. Convinced Adam is the murderer, Reggie telephones Hamilton, who says to meet him at the Colonnade at the Palais-Royal. Adam sees her and gives chase. At the Colonnade, Reggie is caught out in the open between the two men. Adam claims Hamilton is really Carson Dyle: surviving the German ambush, he became obsessed with revenge and reclaiming the treasure. Reggie runs into an empty theater and hides in the prompt box. Carson is about to shoot her, but Adam activates a trapdoor under him, sending him crashing to the floor far beneath him.

The next day, Reggie and Adam go to the embassy to turn over the stamps, but Adam declines to go in. Inside, Reggie discovers that Adam is really Brian Cruikshank, a U.S. Treasury agent responsible for recovering stolen government property. With his true identity now revealed, he proposes marriage to Reggie. The film ends with a split-screen grid showing flashback shots of Cruikshank's four identities; Reggie says she hopes they have lots of boys, so they can name them all after him.


Grant and Hepburn at the Théâtre du vrai Guignolet


Grant and Hepburn

Writing and casting[edit]

When screenwriters Peter Stone and Marc Behm submitted their script The Unsuspecting Wife around Hollywood, they were unable to sell it. Stone then turned it into a novel, retitled Charade, which found a publisher and was serialized in Redbook magazine. The serial caught the attention of the same Hollywood companies that had passed on it earlier. The film rights were quickly sold to producer/director Stanley Donen. Stone then wrote the final shooting script, tailored to Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, with Behm receiving story co-credit.

At the end of the film, Hepburn lists Grant's aliases, concluding, “I hope we have a lot of boys and we can name them all after you.” In the Criterion Collection's 1999 commentary, Stone laments the fact that the music swells to mask his “best closing line”. Donen tells him he can say it now and get his own back.[9]

Cary Grant, who turned 59 during filming, was sensitive about the 25-year age difference between Audrey Hepburn (33 at the time of filming) and himself, and was uncomfortable with their romantic interplay. To address his concerns, the filmmakers agreed to add dialogue that has Grant's character comment on his age, and Regina — Hepburn's character — being portrayed as the pursuer.[10]


Production began in Paris on October 22, 1962. About half the film was shot on location, with interiors being filmed at Studios de Boulogne. The scenes where Grant and Hepburn first meet were shot in January 1963 in a ski resort in Megève, in the French Alps.[1] Hepburn had just filmed Paris When It Sizzles that summer in a number of the same locations in Paris, but difficulties with the earlier production caused it to be released four months after Charade.

When the film was released at Christmas time, 1963, Audrey Hepburn's line, "at any moment we could be assassinated", was dubbed over with "at any moment we could be eliminated" due to the recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The dubbed word stood out quite clearly, so official video releases of the film have since restored the original dialogue, though some public domain videos taken from original release prints still carry the redubbed line.


All locations are in Paris save the railway and ski resort.

Studio scenes filmed at the Billancourt Studios.


The film was slated for a Christmas release, but Universal consented to a one-time advance showing at the Palace Theatre in Washington, D.C., which was a benefit to raise money to help low-income children stay in school. Singer Ella Fitzgerald performed, and, according to Jet magazine, $50,000 was raised,[1] equivalent to almost a half-million dollars in 2023 money.


Hepburn publicity photo

Charade receives generally positive reviews, from 21st-century critics as well as contemporaries. The film has a 94% approval rating based on 54 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8.50/10 and the consensus: "A globetrotting caper that prizes its idiosyncratic pieces over the general puzzle, Charade is a delightful romp with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn's sparkling chemistry at the center of some perfectly orchestrated mayhem."[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 83% based on reviews from 16 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[11]

The movie premiered at the Radio City Music Hall, and in a review published January 6, 1964, in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther criticized the film for its "grisly touches" and "gruesome violence", but also praised it for its screenplay with regard to its "sudden twists, shocking gags, eccentric arrangements and occasionally bright and brittle lines" as well as Donen's direction,[12] said to be halfway between a 1930s screwball comedy and North by Northwest by Alfred Hitchcock, which also starred Grant.[12]

In a Time Out review, the film was rated positively, with the assertion that it is a "mammoth audience teaser [...] Grant imparts his ineffable charm, Kennedy (with metal hand) provides comic brutality, while Hepburn is elegantly fraught".[13] While reviewing the blu-ray DVD version of the film, Chris Cabin of Slant Magazine gave the film a three-and-a-half out of five rating, calling it a "high-end, kitschy whodunit"[14] and writing that it is a "riotous and chaotic take on the spy thriller, essentially, but it structurally resembles Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None as well as describing it as "some sort of miraculous entertainment".[14]

Awards and honors[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[15] Best Song "Charade"
Music by Henry Mancini
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
British Academy Film Awards[16] Best Foreign Actor Cary Grant Nominated
Best British Actress Audrey Hepburn Won
David di Donatello Awards Golden Plate Won
Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Motion Picture Screenplay Peter Stone Won
Golden Globe Awards[17] Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Cary Grant Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Audrey Hepburn Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Comedy 3rd Place
Top Male Comedy Performance Cary Grant 2nd Place
Top Female Comedy Performance Audrey Hepburn 3rd Place
Top Song "Charade"
Music by Henry Mancini
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
5th Place
Writers Guild of America Awards[18] Best Written American Comedy Peter Stone Nominated

Public-domain status[edit]

Charade (full film)

The film includes a notice reading "MCMLXIII BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES COMPANY, INC. and STANLEY DONEN FILMS, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED" but omitting the word "Copyright", "Copr." or the symbol "©". Before 1978, U.S. law required works to include such a word or symbol in order to be copyrighted.[19][20][21] Because Universal failed to properly display the copyright notice, the film entered into the public domain in the United States immediately upon its release.[22] As a result, copies from film prints of varying quality have been widely available on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray in addition to official releases of the film from Universal themselves as well as The Criterion Collection. The film is also available for free viewing on YouTube and free download at the Internet Archive.[23] However, while the film itself is in the public domain, the original music remains under copyright if outside the context of the film.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Charade at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  2. ^ Hawtree, Christopher (October 30, 2007). "Obituary: Marc Behm". The Guardian. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  3. ^ Walker, Alexander (1974). Hollywood, England. Stein and Day. p. 341.
  4. ^ "Movie: Charade". The Numbers. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  5. ^ "Charade". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Charade". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  7. ^ Greydanus, Steven D. "Charade". Decent Films. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Ulaby, Neda (December 14, 2022). "'Iron Man,' 'Super Fly' and 'Carrie' are inducted into the National Film Registry". NPR. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  9. ^ "Charade: The Spy in Givenchy". The Criterion Collection. September 21, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  10. ^ Eastman, John (1989). Retakes: Behind the Scenes of 500 Classic Movies. Ballantine Books. pp. 57–58. ISBN 0-345-35399-4.
  11. ^ "Charade". Metacritic. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley (December 6, 1963). "Audrey Hepburn and Grant in 'Charade': Comedy-Melodrama is at the Music Hall Production Abounds in Ghoulish Humor". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  13. ^ "Charade". Time Out. London. August 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Cabin, Chris (September 21, 2010). "Charade - Blu-ray Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  15. ^ "The 36th Academy Awards (1964) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on November 2, 2017. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  16. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1965". BAFTA. 1965. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  17. ^ "Charade – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  18. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  19. ^ Yu, Peter K. (2007). Intellectual Property and Information Wealth: Copyright and related rights. Greenwood Publishing Group Inc. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-275-98883-8.
  20. ^ Pierce, David (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal. 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. JSTOR 25165419. OCLC 15122313. S2CID 191633078.
  21. ^ "Charade". Internet Archive. December 5, 1963. Retrieved February 1, 2011.

External links[edit]