“What is he doing?” my wife exclaimed, as we watched Cary Grant take a shower in a (no doubt) designer suit in Charade.
He was being charming, of course.
Charade, this week’s entry in the Kentucky Theatre’s Summer Classics series is a mystery, thriller, and a comedy. But its chief calling card is the charm of leading duo Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
You may actually know Charade better for the forlorn Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer theme song that recurs throughout the movie, like the duo’s Moon River recurred in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).
The story starts with a seemingly chance meeting between Regina (Hepburn) and Peter (Grant’s first alias) at a ski resort. After some flirtatious repartee, Regina returns to Paris to find her posh apartment emptied out, her husband has been murdered, and she’s supposed to be in possession of $250,000 (more like $2 million in today’s clams) her late hubby stole. Three guys — and maybe more — are interested in it.
The three guys include a very young George Kennedy and James Coburn, and Walter Matthau is an American Embassy official also interested in Reggie’s situation. Director Stanley Donen, primarily known for musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain (1952), took on the project to put his mark on Hitchcock-like fare (fare you will actually be seeing next week in one of Hitch’s greats, Rear Window). And Charade has Hitchcock hallmarks including beautiful locales, big stars, witty banter and some exciting scenes such as Grant and Kennedy’s fight on a hotel roof and the final showdown, with a clever resolution.
But there is a scant sense of real danger, as the emphasis is on comedy — the travails of Grant’s suits are a recurring joke — and Hepburn and Grant’s May-December romance (he was pushing 60 and she was in her mid-30s when the movie was made). And this is a movie that shows regardless of how flimsy or unfulfilling the story may be, movie stars are movie stars in many cases because they are fun to watch … and charming.