Stanley Donen’s Charade (1963) is from the “They don’t make them like they used to anymore” era. The crime caper stars Cary Grant in one of his final film roles and Audrey Hepburn at the peak of her career.
Perhaps only George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the present can match these older movie stars in making romance look so easy, so believable and so sexy – but then Clooney and Roberts don’t have writers and directors of that calibre to channel their chemistry, as is evident from the recently released Ticket to Paradise.
Chemistry is present in spades in Charade, which is available on the subscription-based streamers MUBI and AppleTV+ and for free on MX Player. The opening music and title track, composed by Henry Mancini, will be deeply familiar to Hindi films fans as the inspiration of the song Gumnaam Hai Koi from Gumnaam (1965).
Peter Stone’s screenplay is equal parts screwball comedy and Hitchcockian suspense thriller. Donen sprinkles the confection with French-style amour and a dash of Givenchy couture.
Regina (Hepburn) runs into Peter (Grant) in Switzerland during a vacation. On the verge of divorcing her husband Charles, Regina is instantly attracted to the greying hunk.
Back at her home in Paris, Regina finds Charles dead and three men, including one with a steel hook for an arm, after her. A quarter million dollar-stash is missing. Charles isn’t who he claims he was. Can Peter, who reappears out of nowhere, be trusted too?
The frisson between Regina and Peter unfolds alongside excellently paced rat-a-tat exchanges, numerous twists, and a few dastardly killings. The cast includes Walter Matthau as an American government official who’s also after the money and Jacques Marin as a French police inspector who’s deeply upset at the number of pyjama-wearing murder victims.
The leads sparkle together and individually. Hepburn is delightful in the light comedy moments, while Grant is his suave self as the older man trying hard to resist Regina’s charms. Romance, comedy, suspense, sex appeal – Charade has it all. Hollywood truly doesn’t make these kinds of films anymore.