Spotlight on Charade
Back when I was in high school my best friend and I went to see Mission: Impossible and we left the theater all atwitter about the various twists and turns of the plot. So many twists and turns and good guys that turned out to be bad guys and vice versa! We couldn’t believe the complexity! Of course, with our limited film knowledge we didn’t realize that plot twists had been around a long time and Mission: Impossible wasn’t the first film to successfully deploy them. Now I’m older and have seen many, many films that use twists and turns, red herrings and mistaken identity to varying degrees of success and sometimes I’m frustrated by them and sometimes I’m delighted. One film that delights me is Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn and it’s my entry for the It Takes a Thief Blogathon hosted by Moon in Gemini.
In Charade there’s not one thief but several led by international charlatan, Adam Canfield, played by Cary Grant. Or are they? And is he? We’re first introduced to Grant in the Swiss alps where he, posing as a man named Peter Joshua, comforts an unhappily married Reggie Lampert played by Audrey Hepburn. Soon their lives become entangled after her husband is mysteriously murdered and she discovers he was not the man she thought he was. Through the ensuing mystery she falls in love with Grant though he changes from a total stranger to a grieving brother to an international thief to a….well I don’t want to give anymore away.
That’s the thing about Charade – it’s best enjoyed while knowing as little as possible about what’s going on. Just know there’s a huge theft and a band of misfits out to retrieve it. An innocent women is caught up in it all and a debonair man is, too. He may be bad or he may be good and it’s a lot of fun finding out the truth.
Charade is an all star production both in front of the camera and behind it. Hepburn and Grant lead a cast that includes Walter Matthau, George Kennedy and James Coburn all at their scene stealing best. Stanley Donen, the wunderkind of MGM musicals, directs and Henry Mancini provides the score which includes the infectious hit, Charade (with lyrics by Johnny Mercer). And, of course, Givenchy provides Hepburn’s stylish ensembles.
Charade is thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, I would argue it’s a comedy with some thrills thrown in. Hepburn and Grant ham it up in their May/December romance and seem to be having the time of their lives. And speaking of that romance, normally it would bug me there’s a 25 year age difference between the leads, but with a wink and a nod it’s continually acknowledged. And Hepburn’s husband’s funeral scene is one of the funniest committed to film.
Charade is a delightful film that is as enjoyable to watch today as it was over 50 years ago. With its convoluted plot and meta humor it’s a true original that deserves the popularity it retains to this day.