Starring: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn
Directed and produced by: Stanley Donen
Screenplay by: Peter Stone
Charade is interesting to look at in terms of film history because it shows the transition from the Golden Age of Hollywood to New Hollywood. It was released in 1963, a kind of awkward in between period where films were beginning to drift away from the Classic Hollywood formula and were less strict about following the Hays code. Three years earlier, Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho, which may seem tame by today’s standards, but shocked viewers in 1960 with its depictions of sexuality and violence.
Funnily enough, many people think that Charade is a Hitchcock film, when in reality it was directed by Stanley Donen – most well known for famous musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain and Funny Face. It does share many similarities with a lot of Hitchcock films – you can see why people would assume a spy thriller starring Cary Grant with untrustworthy characters and witty, suggestive dialogue would be a Hitchcock picture. Because of this, it is often referred to as ‘the greatest Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed.’
The film starts with Regina Lampert (Hepburn) on a skiing holiday, telling her friend Sylvie that she plans to divorce her husband. We are also introduced to Peter Joshua (Grant), when he and Regina have a short but flirtatious conversation. Regina returns to her home in Paris and is told the news that her husband has been murdered. She begins to realise that her husband was not who he said he was, and that she is being threatened by three men who believes she has $250,000 that her late husband owes the US government. Regina is soon visited by Peter Joshua, the man she met while on holiday. He offers to help her and protect her from the three men that are threatening her. But Peter isn’t exactly who he says he is either, and the film takes us through a series of twists and turns that keeps you on edge wondering whose side he is really on.
Charade definitely has a distinct style and very true sixties feel to it. When most people think of Audrey Hepburn, they probably remember her black Givenchy dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or her classic blouse and skirt combo in Roman Holiday, but her clothes and makeup in this film are worth noting too. They show how her style developed as she grew older, as well as how trends were changing in general with the rise of the sixties mod style and the shift away from the ultra feminine, more conservative looks that were popular in the 1950’s.
Although he was almost sixty years old when filming Charade, Cary Grant is just as charming and good-looking as he was when he was younger. Despite their large age gap, the two actors have fantastic chemistry and make a gorgeous on screen couple. Their romance is an important part of the plot, but it isn’t overbearing – there are no prolonged declarations of love or cheesy romantic lines to make you roll your eyes. Regina and Peter are fun and lighthearted, they tease each other, but you can also tell they care for one another.
Charade is a fast-paced mix of comedy and suspense, with wonderful performances from two classic, well-loved actors. If you would like to watch the film, it is in the public domain and therefore available to watch free of charge on the Internet Archive.
Overall, I would rate this film an 8/10.