Summer Under the Stars: Charade (1963)

TCM’s star of the day is Audrey Hepburn, and my film pick for the actress is Charade, which airs today at 12:00 A.M. (EST).

In this Hitchcockian, romantic thriller, Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) returns to her Parisian apartment after a holiday in the French Alps, only to find it stripped bare. The police inform her that her husband, who she was planning to divorce, had sold off their belongings and was then murdered while trying to leave Paris. Regina is soon pursued by three men because they believe she knows the whereabouts of the quarter of a million dollars they and her late husband stole behind enemy lines during World War II. As she tries to elude everyone on her tail, she’s helped by a charming but mysterious man named Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), who has ulterior motives of his own.

As mentioned in my synopsis for the film, Charade shares many similarities to Alfred Hitchcock’s films of the era, from the suspense to the frequent plot twists, and even the inclusion of one of the director’s most frequent collaborators, actor Cary Grant. Because of the overlapping style with the Master of Suspense, Stanley Donen’s film is often referred to as “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made”. But the film is much more than what could be perceived as a Hitchcock imitation and has a personality of its own, thanks to Donen’s sharp direction, a clever, dialogue-driven script, a great, Oscar-nominated score by Henry Mancini, and a superb cast headlined by two of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Before Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant co-starred for the first and only time in Charade, there had been a few opportunities to get the two together in a movie. Billy Wilder had sought out Grant to play the romantic lead in the two films he made with Hepburn, Sabrina and Love in the Afternoon. But Grant turned down both offers because of the 25-year age difference, so the roles instead went to Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper, respectively, though both actors were a few years older than him. Grant was still sensitive to the age gap between him and Hepburn after they were cast, so the script was changed to portray her character as the pursuer instead of his. Despite his concerns, Grant had a wonderful experience working with the actress, later saying “All I want for Christmas is another picture with Audrey Hepburn.” Unfortunately, it never came to be, though Grant was soon after offered the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady before Rex Harrison was chosen to reprise his stage role. And Grant had requested Hepburn to be his co-star in Father Goose, but the role instead went to Leslie Caron. Still, Charade serves as a perfect pairing for the two charismatic stars as they bounce off each other so well in both the film’s funnier moments and much more tense scenes. Hepburn and Grant both had great chemistry with several of their co-stars throughout their careers, but the one they share with each other here is definitely among their best. Both stars earned Golden Globe nominations for their work in the film, and Hepburn won her third BAFTA for her performance.

Audrey Hepburn was in high-demand when she made Charade. In 1962, she had earned the fourth of her five Academy Award nominations in what became her most iconic role for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and later that summer, she filmed Paris When It Sizzles, which reunited her with Sabrina co-star William Holden. That fall, production began for Charade, with some locations even overlapping with the ones she had just filmed for Paris When It Sizzles. While this film marked the only time she worked with Cary Grant, this was the second of three films the actress made with Stanley Donen, who previously directed her in Funny Face and would later direct her in Two for the Road; though Hepburn worked with a few other directors multiple times throughout her career to great success, it’s her collaboration with Donen that remains my favorite. Charade is probably not the first film that comes to mind when considering Hepburn’s illustrious filmography, but it’s a film that encompasses so many of the on-screen qualities she was known for, from her charm and style (with a wardrobe created by her frequent partner and close friend Hubert de Givenchy) to her talents in both comedy and drama. It’s one of my very favorite of her films as she gives yet another delightful performance, and anyone who’s a fan of hers is sure to enjoy this fun mystery movie.

I wrote this as a part of the 2019 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon, where bloggers are celebrating the channel’s honorees and movies playing throughout the month. Click the image below to read more posts!

One thought on “Summer Under the Stars: Charade (1963)

  1. Yes, this is indeed a fun one, and those two really make it worth a watch. I’m looking forward to watching the Blu-ray – which I picked up a few months back – to see how all those locations and colors look.

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