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Charade (February 2, 2012)

Screenwriters Peter Stone and Marc Behm wrote a script and submitted it to several Hollywood studios. It found no takers. Stone turned the script into a novel and sold it to a publisher. The novel was serialized in Redbook magazine. Then the studios started to notice it, and it was purchased by producer/director Stanley Donen. Stone wrote the script, and Behm received a co-credit on the story.

The film was made in the summer of 1962 in the French Alps and in Paris. It was released in December, 1963. Interestingly, Universal, the distributor, failed to put the needed copyright information on the film, with the result that the film has always been in the public domain since its release.
Cary Grant made two more films after this one, and this is his last romantic role. He was fifty-nine years old at the time. He was a very big box office star in those years, but thought twice about filming a romance with Audrey Hepburn, twenty-five years younger than he. Reportedly the problem was solved by moving the lines indicating interest and pursuit from Grant’s character to Hepburn’s, and the script makes several references to the difference in their ages.

The only Oscar nomination this film received was for the title song by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. Of course Hubert de Givenchy designed Hepburn’s costumes. The film itself was an attempt by Donen to merge several film genres in a project with two very bankable stars. It tried to be like Hitchcock’s suspense thrillers, absolutely perfectly received at the box office at that time, and it also tried to be a romantic comedy. The thriller plot elements might very well seem unconvincing. Is it a thriller or a spoof of a Hitchcock thriller? But it is useful to remember that a film like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, with Grant in the lead three years earlier, had many implausible elements that make it almost a spoof as well. The film is notable for the introduction of several character actors – Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy (he’s the one with the hook). If it wasn’t the first film for any of them, it at least was the first film where each got noticed, and moved them on to much bigger careers to follow. The British reviewer Leslie Hallowell calls it “smoothly satisfying sub-Hitchcock nonsense, effective both as black romantic comedy and macabre farce.” Bruce Eder, in his notes for the Criterion DVD, says, “The real mystery to the viewer is how the twisting, turning plot will allow a love affair between (Hepburn’s and Grant’s characters).” I hope you enjoy watching Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade.