Charade (1963) – Stanley Donen

The next title on the What Else to Watch list following the recommendation of Casablanca from The Movie Book, released by DK Canada, is this delightful romp starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

Also featuring turns by Walter Matthau and James Coburn, this romance mystery, with a healthy dose of comedy has a score by legendary Henry Mancini, and is a wonderfully entertaining film that I was happy to settle in for.

Grant is at his most charming, Hepburn is engaging and luminous, and the story is a thrill and laugh a minute.

Hepburn plays Regina Lampert, who is on the verge of divorcing her husband, whom she is convinced is keeping secrets from her. Before she gets the chance, Charles turns up dead, and he has sold off all of their possessions, but the money is now missing.

Romance arrives in the person of Peter Joshua (Grant) who gets drawn into the mystery with her when a CIA agent arrives in Regina’s life. Hamilton Bartholomew (Matthau), the agent, reveals that it was people were after Charles, which was only one alias he used, because during the war, he took off with $250,000 in Nazi gold that were supposed to go to the French.

There are twists, turns, wonderful banter, and some truly funny moments.

Everyone believes that Regina must have the money, including Coburn who plays the menacing Tex Panthollow (what a great name). Soon she and Peter Joshua are on the run, eluding trouble, murder, and falling in love as they do.

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But whose side is Joshua on? Regina finds herself in a web of deception, unsure of who to trust and what to do next. Bodies begin to pile up as the movie is filled with spies (agents), lies, and surprises.

I was surprised at how much I laughed throughout this film, there’s a wonderful chemistry between Grant and Hepburn, and they get to deliver some snappy dialogue.

There is some great moments in this film, and a surprising number of laugh out loud moments. The 2002 update, The Truth About Charlie, lacks the sense of fun, chemistry, reveals, and banter that this film boasts, and on top of that, it’s just so much fun.

The location work in France, paired with studio work in Hollywood, adds a delightful romantic flavour to the film, and you can’t help but to be wrapped up in the film, the performances, and the delightfully crafted cinematic moments.

The film is a wonder, enjoyable, and takes completely unexpected turns. It’s a romantic romp wrapped in a mystery. So much fun.

Watching this, as much as I enjoyed it, I was struck with ta thought. Grant was originally the prime choice to play James Bond in Dr. No. As much as I like Grant, and as much as his style may have worked, his delivery, his tongue-in-cheek banter probably wouldn’t have served the early Bond films very well. He doesn’t have an edge to him.

Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find something amazing to watch tonight.

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