How to Steal a Million

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How to Steal a Million
Howtostealamillion.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byWilliam Wyler
Screenplay byHarry Kurnitz
Based onVenus Rising
1962 story in Practise to Deceive
by George Bradshaw
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byRobert Swink
Music byJohn Williams
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 13, 1966 (1966-07-13) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$6.4 million[1]
Box office$4.4 million (rentals)[2]

How to Steal a Million is a 1966 American heist comedy film directed by William Wyler and starring Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Eli Wallach, Hugh Griffith and Charles Boyer. The film is set and was filmed in France, though the characters speak entirely in English. Hepburn's clothes were designed by Givenchy.

Plot[edit]

Prominent Paris art collector Charles Bonnet forges and sells famous artists' paintings. His disapproving daughter, Nicole, constantly fears that he will be caught. Late one night at their mansion, Nicole encounters a burglar, Simon Dermott, holding her father's forged "Van Gogh". She threatens him with an antique gun that accidentally fires, slightly wounding his arm. Wanting to avoid an investigation that would uncover her father's fake masterpieces, Nicole does not contact the police, and instead takes the charming Simon to his posh hotel, driving him in his expensive sports car.

For an important exhibition in Paris, Charles is lending to the Kléber-Lafayette Museum his renowned "Cellini" Venus statuette that was actually sculpted by his father. Charles has never sold it because scientific testing would reveal that the "million-dollar" artwork is fake, and his entire collection would then be suspected. Charles signs the museum's standard insurance policy, then learns it includes his consent to just such a forensic examination. But withdrawing the Venus from the exhibition would also raise suspicions. Desperate to protect her father, Nicole seeks out Simon and asks him to steal the Venus before the examination. Unknown to Nicole, Simon is actually an expert consultant and investigator hired by major art galleries to enhance security and detect forgeries. He was investigating Charles' art collection when Nicole first encountered him. He agrees to help Nicole, though he initially believes that it is impossible to steal the Venus in any case.

American tycoon Davis Leland, an avid art collector, becomes obsessed with owning the Venus. He meets Nicole solely to purchase the statue, but instantly falls in love with her. At their second meeting, he proposes marriage, but Nicole must rush off to the museum for the "heist", so she accepts his ring.

Nicole and Simon hide in a utility closet until closing time. After observing the guards' routine, Simon repeatedly sets off the security alarm until the "faulty" system is finally disabled. Simon notices Nicole's resemblance to the Venus, and she admits that her grandfather sculpted the statuette and that her grandmother was the model. Simon steals the Venus, and Nicole, disguised as a cleaning woman, hides it in a bucket. When the Venus is discovered missing, they escape in the ensuing chaos.

Following the robbery, Leland seeks to acquire the Venus by any means. Simon connives to "sell" it to him on condition that it never be displayed to anyone and that he never contact the Bonnet family again; Leland should expect to eventually be asked for payment. Simon secretly adds Nicole's engagement ring to the package.

Nicole meets Simon to celebrate their success. Simon says the Cellini Venus was his first heist too, reveals his true occupation of exposing forgeries, and declares his love for Nicole. He then meets Charles and assures him that the statue will be safely out of the country. Charles is so relieved that he is only momentarily disappointed when Simon says that the purchase price was zero dollars (and because the statuette was never authenticated, there is no insurance). Simon tells Charles that one of them must retire, and Charles agrees to give up forgery.

As Nicole and Simon prepare to elope, a collector who had earlier admired Charles's new "Van Gogh" arrives at the Bonnet residence and is warmly welcomed by the wily forger. Nicole says the man is a "cousin". Simon admires her newfound flair for lying.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

In a New York Times review, critic Bosley Crowther called the plot "preposterous" but added: "It is still a delightful lot of flummery while it is going on, especially the major, central business of burglarizing the museum".[3]

As of 2021, the film scores 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with an audience rating of 88%.[4]

Box office[edit]

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $12 million in rentals to break even and made $10.45 million, meaning it made a loss.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. ^ Solomon, p. 230. See also "Big Rental Pictures of 1966". Variety. 4 January 1967. p. 8.
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1966-07-15). "Screen: 'How to Steal a Million' Opens at Music Hall". The New York Times. p. 34.
  4. ^ "How to Steal a Million". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  5. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (1988). The Fox that got away: The last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 325.
  6. ^ "Va va Voom". Archived from the original on 2015-10-05.
  7. ^ "Review of Loafer". Shankar's Weekly. 25 (2). 1972.
  8. ^ "Loafer – movie review". Planet Bollywood.
  9. ^ Sen, Raja (12 December 2014). "Review: Lingaa is buffoonery at its most old-school". Rediff. Retrieved 22 January 2016.

External links[edit]