Charade – Audrey Hepburn’s Hitchcockian Thriller

03 May

Even Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of this movie. Its a fine, fine, crime thriller and murder mystery that keeps you engaged from the first scene to the last scene. As I had written in my previous post, I saw this movie and liked it.

This movie, made in 1963, does not have a single dull moment. In fact, quite a lot of times when the movie took a comic/romantic turn, a new twist was introduced in the plot. So, although its a great thriller it does have its own funny repartee and romance. Obviously, with Cary Grant and his charisma, there had to be a dose of lovey-dovey scenes. And Audrey Hepburn, as a vulnerable Mrs.Regina Lampbert, really looked the part. Her costume was done by Givenchy, that was a nice fashion statement as she was seen in wonderful dresses in a movie set in the fashion capital of the world, Paris.

charadeThe first scene of the movie is a train sequence where a man is pushed off a running train, and then the credit rolls. The movie begins with Mrs.Lampbert on a skiing vacation where she meets Cary Grant who introduces himself as Peter Joshua. When Regina returns home, she is in a state of shock as her house is in shambles. There is not a single furniture, wardrobes are empty and the house is totally bare. She is told by the police that her husband, Charles Lampbert, is no more and she has to visit the morgue for final identifications. This leaves Regina all the more bemused as she does not know whats going on. After the identification process, she is handed a bag which was found with her husband at the time of his death and four passports of four different nationalities. The bag contains a toothbrush, tooth-powder, a stamped envelope with a letter in it and a few other articles. Also, the police informs her that Mr.Lampbert auctioned off all the furnitures and was probably trying to make away with the fortune.

Regina is sorrowful, but definitely not teary-eyed; she was considering a divorce anyways. She conducts a funeral and three strange people make it to the venue, and Regina hasn’t seen them before. She is later summoned by the US Embassy in connection with her husband’s death. She meets Bartholomew at the embassy, who surprises her by revealing that her husband was a CIA agent. He shows her an old photograph which has 4 men posing for it, and she recognises all the three men who had come to the funeral and 4th being her deceased husband Charles. Here’s the story about his past, which is explained by Bartholomew. Charles, Tex, Herman and Leopold were to deliver gold worth $250000 to French militray services. But instead of delivering the gold they buried it. They were soon ambushed by Germans, and Charles double-crossed them and made away with the gold. So, now the US is trying to claim back their $250000 and they have reason to believe that Regina might be in possession of the money/gold.

Peter, whom Regina had met while holidaying, gets to know of her grief through the newspaper and comes to meet and offer her help. At a time when she is getting chased down by the 3 guys, she feels secure with Peter. But Peter is hand-in-glove with the other 3 guys, and she gets informed of this by Herman who is suspicious that Dyle, who calls himself Peter, may get the money out of her and escape. She confronts Peter with this reality and he does confide that he is Dyle and he is on her side so he can avenge Charles’ death.

Regina informs Bartholomew at the US Embassy about this new development and then learns that there were 5 guys on the mission, the last one being Carson Dyle who was killed in the operation. This comes as another shocker to Regina that if Dyle is dead then who is this guy posing as Dyle. Peter again changes his previous statement and says that he is Dyle’s brother Alexander Dyle and is here to get his brother’s share of the wealth. But the truth is that Dyle had no siblings.

The plot gets more convoluted when Herman is drowned in his own bath-tub. Peter is neither Carson Dyle nor Alexander Dyle. and now calls himself Adam Canfield, a petty thief; and he is in this to help Regina because he has started liking her. Just when Regina starts trusting Adam once more, Leopold is found dead in an elevator with his throat slit. After this, can Regina trust Peter/Dyle/Adam anymore? Whose life is in danger, who is next to get eliminated? Is Adam his real name or will he change his identity again? And lastly, who has the money? If nobody has pocketed the money then where is the money hidden? What happens of Tex? And will the US Embassy help Regina save her life and get back the money?

The movie is brilliantly directed by Stanley Donen. He keeps the mystery alive till the last moment and never loses grip of the main plot. All credit to him, he brings out the best in all the characters. In fact, Donen has directed many other good movies like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers(1954), Kiss Them For Me(1957), Bedazzled(1967) and Blame It On Rio(1984). Cary Grant, in his usual charismatic best, is tremendous in the movie. Sadly, this was the only movie starring Cary and Audrey; wish they had made more movies together. Cary has acted in lots of Hitchcock movies like Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest, so the thriller genre is not new to him. But to get directed in a suspense movie like this, by someone other than Hitchcock, may have been a different experience.

Audrey Hepburn was fantastic as the widow who was indifferent, a woman in need of arms that can take care of her and make her feel safe and secure, and of course as a ‘spy’ who has great instinct/intuition and can sense danger. She was a superb actress and never let her beauty come in the way, I mean, she never made a movie which required her to be beautiful. She always experimented, took risks and made movies which were different. Her filmography has some fine movies in there, this movie being one of them.

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Posted by on May 3, 2009 in hollywood, movies


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