Some people call Charade
(1963) "the best Alfred Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made." I can see why -- it's got so many of the same ingredients of classic Hitchcock suspense films. Exotic European locales? Check. Confused, innocent person pursued by hitherto unknown Bad Guys? Check. Beautiful woman in danger? Check. Chic costumes? Wry humor? Cary Grant? Check, check, checkity check.
But I love Charade
far more than any of Hitchcock's movies. In fact, there are no Hitch films on my top 100 list
, but Charade
is firmly there. I think that's because there's one key difference between Charade
and even my favorite Hitchcock films
: I believe the happiness of its ending. With all of Hitch's films, with the possible exception of The Trouble with Harry
(1955), there's always this lingering... off
feeling at the end. Will the hero and heroine live in peace and happiness now that they're through whatever harrowing ordeal we've watched them survive? In Hitchcock's movies, the answer is usually 'maybe.' But with Charade
, at least for me, the answer is a total 'yes.'
Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) is suddenly, violently widowed when her husband falls from a train... or is pushed. At his funeral, some very weird characters (played by James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass) show up and behave fairly weirdly near the coffin.
Then, they start threatening Regina. They claim her husband had a lot more money than she knew about, and they insist he stole it from them. The trouble is, no one can find the money.
A handsome, helpful man called Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) helps her out of a couple of jams, protecting and rescuing her from the three weirdos several times. Peter and Regina had met before, just before her husband died, and she's all to happy to have him around giving her advice and shielding her from harm.
However, things keep getting stranger and stranger. It's as if Regina is trapped in a kaleidoscope that a little kid keeps turning. Names, identities, stories, and situations shift without warning, keeping her constantly off-balance. Without Peter Joshua there to steady her, she would surely lose her footing completely.
Watching Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant together is pure magic. Grant didn't initially want to make the movie because he felt the 25-year age gap between himself and Hepburn made the film's romance too ridiculous. The screenwriters added a lot of little jokes about it to appease him, and he agreed to make the movie after all. Thanks to those jokes, what might have been a slightly weird love story turns into a quirky and charming one, all because the characters acknowledge their age difference and accept it, so we do too. Completely brilliant.
(Oh, and Regina was planning to get a divorce before her husband suddenly died, so that neatly eliminates any weirdness about her falling in love right after her husband's funeral. For me, anyway.)
I watched this with my best friend a week or so ago. I love this movie and have seen it many times, but she had only seen it once and didn't like it. That made her curious to know why I love it. I decided it mostly boils down to the fabulous dialog that makes me laugh and laugh and laugh, and the fact that I totally love the two main characters. The lovely costumes and exciting story are fun bonuses, but they're not what draw me to the story. I am here for Hepburn and Grant trading snappy, snarky, sassy one-liners and falling in love along the way, and that's all there is to it.
While we watched this together, my best friend commented that she really doesn't understand why Regina keeps trusting Cary Grant's character when his story changes every twenty minutes or so. He's obviously lying to her -- he admits that repeatedly, and tells her new lies. Why does she continue to trust him for so long? I had to think about that for a bit, because it's a good question.
I finally concluded that she trusts him because his words change, but his behavior doesn't. He is always, always there for her, ready to help, rescue, shield, encourage. He cheers her up, makes her laugh, feeds her, comforts her. His truthful actions speak louder than his lying words, and those are what she trusts. Only when she thinks she can't trust his actions anymore does her trust in him waver.
in this paragraph.) Also, here's something I never picked up on while watching it all these times, but did while screencapping it -- Cary Grant is nearly always shot facing toward the right of the frame. That codifies him as being a trustworthy good guy heading in the right direction
. Whenever he and Audrey Hepburn share the screen, he's on the left, looking right, as you can see in my screencaps. That very subtly lets the audience know that yes, he is a good guy doing the right thing. Pretty cool. (It also means that whenever they share the screen, Audrey is looking left and thus signals that she's confused, going backward, or not doing things quite the way she ought, which is also super interesting.) (End spoilage.
Is this movie family friendly? Mostly. There are a couple of instances of taking God's name in vain, and maybe another mild cuss word or two. There's this weird scene with people on a riverboat playing a game where they have to take an orange from the other person without using their hands that gets a little suggestive. And there's a very tense and menacing scene where someone is threatened while getting burning matches dropped on them. There's a gunfight and some hand-to-hand fighting, all sixties-style and non-gory.
This is my contribution to the Distraction Blogathon
hosted by Taking Up Room. The money in Charade
is a MacGuffin because no one in the audience actually cares about it, it's just a reason to have a bunch of guys chase Audrey Hepburn while she trades sparkly quips with Cary Grant. If you like classic cat-and-mouse movies, but you haven't seen Charade
(or haven't seen it recently), it's FREE on Amazon Prime right now! And it's not expensive on DVD either.