Charade (1963) Directed by Stanley Donen. With Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass and Walter Matthau.
Charm. That is what’s for sale in Stanley Donen’s screwball, romantic mystery film, Charade, which trades in A-list charisma for our viewing pleasure. Coming just one year after Sean Connery wooed the world with his characterisation of James Bond, this cheerful outing, with themes of murder, theft and deceit, has the initial feel of Terence Young’s iconic 007 debut, in its colourful, yet cartoon-ish opening credits sequence.
Henry Mancini’s music helps in setting an early mischievous tone that reverberates throughout the entire film. Audrey Hepburn is introduced, framed in a suitably beautiful looking ski resort, with an enjoyably playful early scene between herself and Cary Grant. It’s a sharp, funny scene that assures a certain comical impetus.
After this, the main thrust of the plot kicks in, which rotates around a web of secret identities and bubbly flirtatiousness. The film does occasionally cross genres over to being that of a thriller. One rooftop fight scene between Cary Grant and the ever burly George Kennedy, could easily be mistaken for one of 007’s more exciting exploits. Furthermore, there are some surprisingly visual glimpses of the aftermath of murder, which given the established, lighter tone, might catch you off guard.
The real draw here though, is the repartee between Hepburn and Grant. As Regina Lampert, Hepburn carries over her kooky charm from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with another quick witted display that see’s the film through some of its more silly, screwball sections. Likewise, Cary Grant, although reportedly insecure about the age difference between himself and his co-star on set, cuts a relaxed presence, making for some delightful interplay between the actors.
Charade is pure, old school Hollywood charm. If anything, the plot is little more than a vehicle for the fun and games that Hepburn and Grant enjoy. If you try and see it as anything other than a little bit of light fun, you’ve got yourself a case of mistaken identity. 3.5/5