Charade (1963 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stanley Donen|
|Produced by||Stanley Donen|
|Screenplay by||Peter Stone|
|Based on||The Unsuspecting Wife |
1961 short story
by Peter Stone
|Starring||Cary Grant |
|Music by||Henry Mancini|
|Edited by||Jim Clark|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$13.4 million|
Charade is a 1963 American romantic comedy mystery film directed by Stanley Donen, 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.
The film is notable for its screenplay, especially the repartee between Grant and Hepburn; for having been filmed on location in Paris; for Henry Mancini's score and theme song, and for the animated titles by Maurice Binder. Charade has received generally positive reviews from critics. It has been described as "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made".
While on a skiing holiday in the French Alps, expatriate American simultaneous interpreter Regina "Reggie" Lampert tells her friend Sylvie that she has decided to divorce her husband Charles. She also meets a charming American stranger, Peter Joshua. On her return to Paris, she finds her apartment stripped bare. A police inspector notifies her that Charles sold off their belongings, then was murdered while trying to leave Paris. The money is missing. Reggie is given her husband's travel bag, containing a letter addressed to her, a ship ticket to Venezuela, four passports in multiple names and nationalities, and other items. At Charles' sparsely attended wake, three men show up to view the body—and to ensure that he is dead.
Reggie is summoned to meet CIA administrator Hamilton Bartholomew at the Embassy of the United States. She learns that the three men at the wake are Herman Scobie, Leopold W. Gideon, and Tex Panthollow. During World War II, they, Charles, and Carson Dyle went on an OSS operation to deliver $250,000 ($3.6 million in current dollar terms) in gold to the French Resistance, but instead, they stole it for themselves. Carson was fatally wounded in a German ambush, and Charles double-crossed the others and took all the gold. The three survivors are after the missing money, as is the U.S. government. Hamilton insists that Reggie has it, even if she does not know where it is—and that she is likely in great danger.
Peter locates Reggie and helps her move into a hotel. The three criminals separately threaten her, each convinced that she knows where the money is. Herman then shocks Reggie by claiming that Peter is in league with them, after which Peter confesses to her that he is really Carson Dyle's brother Alexander, intent on bringing the other men to justice because he believes they murdered Carson.
As the hunt for the money continues, first Herman is found murdered, then Leopold. Then Hamilton informs Reggie that Carson Dyle had no brother. When she confronts him, Peter admits he is actually Adam Canfield, a professional thief. Although frustrated by his dishonesty, Reggie still finds herself trusting him.
Reggie and Adam (alias Peter) go to the location of Charles's last appointment and find an outdoor market. When they spot Tex there, Adam follows him. At the sight of stamp-selling booths, Adam and Tex each realize that Charles must have bought several extremely rare and valuable stamps and affixed them to an envelope that was in plain sight in his travel bag. Both men race back to Reggie's hotel room, only to realize that Reggie has given the stamps to Sylvie's son Jean-Louis for his collection. Meanwhile, Reggie is also at the outdoor market where she also realizes the envelope's significance. She learns that Jean-Louis sold the stamps to a trader, who gave the boy 10 francs' worth of stamps in return. The trader admits that the valuable stamps are worth $250,000 in total and happily returns them to her.
Back at the hotel, Reggie finds Tex's body with the name "Dyle" scrawled next to it. Convinced that Adam is the murderer after all, a frightened Reggie telephones Hamilton, who tells her to meet him at the Colonnade at the Palais-Royal. Adam spots her leaving the hotel and gives chase. At the Colonnade, Reggie is caught out in the open between the two men. Adam tells her that Hamilton is really Carson Dyle: he survived the German ambush and became obsessed with exacting revenge on his ex-comrades and reclaiming the treasure. After another chase that ends in an empty theater, Reggie hides unsuccessfully in the prompt box. Carson is about to shoot her when Adam activates a trapdoor and Carson falls through it to his death.
The next day, Reggie and Adam go to the embassy to turn over the stamps, but Adam refuses to go in. Inside, Reggie discovers that Adam is really Brian Cruikshank, the government official responsible for recovering stolen property. Now that his true identity is revealed, he proposes marriage.
The film ends with a split-screen grid showing flashback shots of Brian's four identities (Peter, Adam, Alexander, Brian), while Reggie says she hopes that they have a lot of boys, so they can name them all after him.
- Cary Grant as Brian Cruikshank (alias Peter Joshua) (alias Alexander Dyle) (alias Adam Canfield)
- Audrey Hepburn as Regina "Reggie" Lampert
- Walter Matthau as Carson Dyle (alias Hamilton Bartholomew)
- James Coburn as Tex Panthollow
- George Kennedy as Herman Scobie
- Dominique Minot as Sylvie Gaudel
- Ned Glass as Leopold W. Gideon
- Jacques Marin as Inspector Edouard Grandpierre
- Paul Bonifas as Mr. Felix, the stamp dealer
- Thomas Chelimsky as Jean-Louis Gaudel
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 also serialized in Redbook magazine, as many novels were at the time. In Redbook it 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 stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, with Behm receiving story co-credit.
Hepburn shot the film in the fall of 1962, immediately after Paris When It Sizzles, which she shot that summer in a number of the same locations in Paris, but production difficulties with that film caused it to be released four months after Charade.
When the film was released at Christmas, 1963, Audrey Hepburn's line, "at any moment we could be assassinated", was dubbed over to become "at any moment we could be eliminated" due to the recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The dubbed word stood out quite clearly and all 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.
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 this made him uncomfortable with the romantic interplay between them. To satisfy his concerns, the filmmakers agreed to add several lines of dialogue in which Grant's character comments on his age and Regina — Hepburn's character — is portrayed as the pursuer.
The screenwriter, Peter Stone, and the director, Stanley Donen, have an unusual joint cameo role in the film. When Reggie goes to the U.S. Embassy to meet Bartholomew, two men get on the elevator as she gets off. The man who says, "I bluffed the old man out of the last pot — with a pair of deuces" is Stone, but the voice is Donen's. Stone's voice is later used for the U.S. Marine who is guarding the Embassy at the film's ending.
Charade has received generally positive reviews from critics, receiving a 94% approval rating based on 47 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8.46 out of 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." On Metacritic the film has a score of 83% based on reviews from 16 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
In a review published January 6, 1964, in The New York Times by Bosley Crowther, the film was criticized for its "grisly touches" and "gruesome violence" despite receiving praise 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, said to be halfway between a 1930s screwball comedy and North by Northwest by Alfred Hitchcock, which also starred Cary Grant.
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". While reviewing the blu-ray DVD version of the film, Chris Cabin of Slant Magazine gave the film a positive three-and-a-half out of five rating, calling it a "high-end, kitschy whodunit" 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". '
|Academy Awards||Best Original Song ("Charade")||Henry Mancini
|BAFTA Awards||Best Foreign Actor||Cary Grant||Nominated|
|Best British Actress||Audrey Hepburn||Won|
|David di Donatello||Golden Plate||Won|
|Edgar Award||Best Motion Picture||Peter Stone||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Musical or Comedy||Cary Grant||Nominated|
|Best Actress – 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")||Henry Mancini||5th place|
American Film Institute list nominations
- 2000 AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs
- 2001 AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills
- 2002 AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions
- 2005 AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores
Public domain status
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 "©". At the time (before 1978), U.S. law required works to include the word, abbreviation, or symbol in order to be copyrighted. Because Universal put no proper copyright notice on Charade, the film entered public domain in the United States immediately upon its release. Copies from film prints of varying quality have been available on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray based on its status in the public domain. The film is also available for free download at the Internet Archive. However, while the film itself is public domain, the original music remains under copyright if outside of the context of the film.
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