Release Date:  December 5, 1963

 Stanley Donen succeeds brilliantly in combining mystery with stylish comic undertones in his 1963 thriller, Charade. The clever plot by writer Peter Stone is perfectly suited for  suave Cary Grant (Peter Joshua) and stylish Audrey Hepburn (Regina 'Reggie'  Lampert). The latter  plays the role of a vulnerable, wealthy widow whose husband cleverly hid a stolen fortune before he died. When his war buddies,  Tex Panthollow (James Coburn),  Herman Scobie (George Kennedy) and Ned Glass (Leopold Gideon) come looking for their share of the money, Reggie is warned by  phony CIA agent Carson Dial (Walter Mattheau) that her life is in danger. One by one the money seekers are murdered in unique circumstances.  Donen scrupulously places details of the mystery before our eyes, yet only near the end of the story do the pieces fall together.  Why does Peter Joshua have so many identities? Who is the real villain?  Where is the money?  It is pure enjoyment going along for the ride in this mystery: whether we watch Grant and Hepburn stroll  through  the streets and markets of Paris,  enjoy their romantic banter during a nighttime cruise along the Seine, or follow their chases with increasing excitement through the underground and a columned palace courtyard. The trapdoor finale in the Théâtre du Palais-Royal turns out to be not quite the end of the story.

In my opinion, Charade is one of the finest movies made in 1963, and offers a modernity and timelessness that most films lose as the years pass. Marvel at the Givenchy clothes of Hepburn, laugh at the natural comic abilities of Mattheau,  and enjoy the screen presence of Coburn and Kennedy. Charade won the 1964 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Film; Audrey Hepburn won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for best British actress; and Henry Mancini's theme song was nominated for an Oscar. Incidentally, the opening scene was filmed  in a new French Alps resort owned by the Rothschilds. The resort had its grand opening  shortly after the scenes for Charade were completed.

Copyright: Peter Fokes (2003)
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