Filmsite Movie Review
Charade (1963)
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Background

Charade (1963) is a classic cat-and-mouse, "Hitchcockian" romantic comedy and enigmatic thriller all in one, from director Stanley Donen - known more for his musicals such as On the Town (1949), Singin' in the Rain (1952), It's Always Fair Weather (1955), and The Pajama Game (1957). The plot twisting, witty, and suspenseful film (similar to Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935), and the entries in the James Bond series), shot on sets and on-location in Paris, is a sophisticated, yet off-balanced combination of thrills and comedy, from screenwriter Peter Stone's first film screenplay.

Its sole Academy Award nomination was for Best Song, by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer (lyrics). The film's mood was captured in the film's tagline displayed on posters: "You can expect the unexpected when they play..." Jonathan Demme's stylish The Truth About Charlie (2002) was a remake with numerous French New Wave references, starring Thandie Newton and Mark Wahlberg in the lead roles.

The Story

In glittering Paris, lovely Regina ("Reggie") Lambert's (Audrey Hepburn) learns that her husband Charles (who she was planning to divorce) has been brutally murdered, by being thrown from a train. The penniless young widow attempts to untangle the mystery, but she is left with only a Lufthansa bag containing some of her husband's few existing possessions.

A suave, well-meaning, and handsome Peter Joshua (almost 60 year old Cary Grant, in one of his last romantic lead roles, and in his sole teaming with Hepburn) offers to help, but so do many other men who begin to harrass her. Are the beguiling Joshua's motives honest and above reproach, or is he hiding secrets from her, and not disclosing his true identity? Are the other men (James Coburn, Ned Glass, George Kennedy) interested in her - or in her late husband's business and hidden fortune that is left behind? She becomes extremely vulnerable and apprehensive after learning that her husband stole government money during the war, and his double-crossed victims (all Army war buddies) want to locate the lost treasure worth $250,000.

The many memorable twists and turns in the plot, and bizarre and violent situations include a classic, suspenseful and scary fight scene, progressing from a hotel room to the slippery rooftop of the Parisian office of American Express, between Peter and thug Herman Scobie (George Kennedy) with an artificial arm.

The growing romance between the two main characters includes suggestive lines of dialogue. And also memorable are the chase sequences, notably her stalking of him through the streets of Paris, and his pursuit of her through the subways.

The closing scene involves their relationship and the revelation that Peter works for the Treasury Department as Mr. Brian Cruikshank. It also reveals the hidden fortune - the stamps, that were earlier graciously surrendered by an elderly stamp collector ("For a few moments, they were mine. That is enough"):

Reggie: ...Marriage license. Did you say marriage license?
Cruikshank: Now don't change the subject. Just give me the stamps.
Reggie: Oh, I love you, Adam...Alex...Peter...Brian...Whatever your name is. Oh, I love you. I hope we have a lot of boys and we can name them all after you.
Cruikshank: But before we start that, may I have the stamps?

They kiss.