Usually I tell people my favorite movie is Back to the Future. And why not? It’s a fantastic movie which does pretty much everything right. But I have to admit, there is another movie I love maybe more than that film. A film that was made in 1963 and starred Hollywood legends Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Of course I am talking about Charade!
This movie is so cool it fits several genres. Romantic comedy, action, mystery, and thriller all in one. I guess it’s fitting that I am talking about this now, since this year is the 50th anniversary of the film. I watched this as a kid and something about it just clicked. Was it the chemistry between Grant and Hepburn? Was it the plot which has a very surprising twist,or was it the fantastic cast which included Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, and James Coburn? I have no idea but I simply adored this movie and have watched it more times than I care to count. I tried to get my wife to watch once, but she insisted she hated old movies. Even though she loved The Wizard of Oz and that was made in 1939! But I digressâ€¦..
The plot is pretty cool. Audrey Hepburn plays a woman named Reggie who is on holiday when we first meet her. She soon returns home to Paris and discovers that her apartment has been cleared out, and then she discovers her husband Charles is dead. All he left her was a duffle bag containing assorted items. She is called in by a CIA admin named Hamilton Batholemew played by Walter Matthau who informs her that her husband stole $250,000 during the war along with four other men. One of the men named Carson Dyle didn’t survive but the other three did. Her husband double crossed them and took all of the money and now they want that money backÂ But of course the U.S. also wants it since it is rightfullt there’s. Cary Grant plays a man named Peter Joshua who seems to want to help Reggie. But Reggie learns that Peter Joshua is not who he pretends to be. He appears to be in league with the three men and then reveals he was Dyle’s brother, except that Dyle never had a brother. No one can find the money and the hunt is on. Then the other three men who were double-crossed suddenly start getting killed off one by one. Reggie started falling for Peter, nowc alled Alex, but at the same remains suspicious of his real motives.
And that’s about all I can tell you without spoiling the ending, which I will do in a minute.
Besides the mystery and action one of the big drives in this movie is the romantic chemistry between Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.Throughout the film Reggie is falling for him, but then gets suspicious of him when something comes up which shows he is not as honest as he appears. Audrey Hepburn does a great job with this, being interested in him one minute then scared to death of him the next. She is always convincing, and this movie is a reminder of what amazing actress Audrey Hepburn was. Cary Grant is, well, Cary Grant. So cool thathe can pull anything off. Actually not only is Reggie not sure of Alexâ€™s motives but we arenâ€™t either. We get surprised right along with her as he goes through no less than four different aliasâ€™s in the movie. Only Cary Grant could make a character we should at the vert least be untrusting of into someone we really like!
I decided I couldn’t talk about this movie without discussing the twist ending. I figure I am safe since the movie is 50 years old. But just in case, if you really want to see the movie and be surprised, stop now because I’m gonna spoil it.
The twist ending was awesome. The whole plot is based on the fact that the stolen money is missing and all they have is what was inside a duffle bag Reggieâ€™s husband had with him. The bag contains simple items. A can of baby powder, a letter to his wife, a ticket to Venezuela, passports in multiple names, a comb, and other random things. There is one awesome moment when Reggie and Alex go through the bag and lay the items out, and Alex says that themoney is there somewhere, they are looking right at it but still have no idea where or what it is.Â Later at an outdoor market that they determine Charles had visited, everyone sees a booth selling rare stamps. Then everyone realizes what happened, Charles purchased rare stamps and then put them on the letter to his wife! By the way, this reveal is handled BEAUTIFULLY!!! Then the chase is on to get the letter first.Â But then it gets better. Reggie runs from Alex, believing he is the killer and wants to kill her to. She calls the CIA agent she talked to in the beginning, and it turns out that Hamilton Bartholomew is a different person! The CIA agent she has been talking to through the whole movie is Carson Dyle, the fifth man everyone believed was dead. Well, anyway the film ends with Dyle cornering Reggie in a theatre. Alex uses a trap door cause Dyle to fall down to his death.Â And Alex? Turns out he was a CIA agent undercover the whole time.
Of course I am glossing over lots of stuff. Great comedy bits, including one with Cary Grant showering while fully dressed, and strong character interactions. Some may say that there is some gruesome violence in this movie. True, the way the three are killed off is a little gruesome but when compared to movies that are made today it really isn’t that bad. It’s just a well written screenplay and really keeps you guessing until the end. In fact itâ€™s been called the greatest Alfred Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made.Right from the start we can tell the tone of the movie, as the very first scenewe see a gun being aimed at Reggie. It ends up being a simple water gun fired by a child who plays a role in the movie which I have totally ignored.
This movie also does a great job with the character of Reggie. Yeah she screams and is scared but also doesnâ€™t just stand around like the classic damsel in distress. She is proactive like when she suspects Alex at one point she actually goes out and follows him to find out what is going on. Thatâ€™s pretty good for a movie made in 1963. There is another scene with a stamp dealer which is a surprise because the guy turns out to be an honest person. He is the one who identifies the stamps and their value after he gets ahold of them,and returns them realizing there was some mistake. Nice to see honest people in movies once in a while!
The villains are very memorable of course. George Kennedy plays Scobie who has a metal hand. James Coburn plays Tex who is very charming while also being downright nasty. And if you donâ€™t believe Walter Matthau could handle drama check this movie out. Though he does offer a few laughs with that trademark wit, at the end there is no doubt what an evil bastard this guy is.And the scene at the end with the reveal that Cary Grantâ€™s character was a government agent is a great moment. By the way the film was shot in Paris which looks really beautiful in many shots.
The reason this movie is so great isn’t the plot, as good as it is, or the action but the characters. They all really work well together.The story flows and isn’t so complicated you have no idea what is going on but at the same time it is a solid mystery with some very good twists.It’s the kind of smart and sophisticated caper movie that you just don’t see anymore.Â I have seen this movie many many times and love it more and more each time. If youâ€™ve neve rseen it, check it out. And yes there have been remakes over the years, sort of, but they have been disappointments.
There you have it, a movie I just loved and it was made twenty years before I was born!