Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963, USA)

               Charade is one of the last great films of Hollywood’s Golden Age, directed by a legendary director of that era (Stanley Donen), and featuring two leads who were icons at the time – Cary Grant as Peter Joshua, and Audrey Hepburn as Regina Lampert. This was Grant’s final notable role (his latter two films, Father Goose and Walk, Don’t Run, have been largely forgotten). He would leave acting in 1966 for an almost two-decade retirement. Likewise, following Charade, Audrey Hepburn would have a mostly sporadic career – with the exception of her role in My Fair Lady in 1964. This gives Charade something of an elegiac quality, even though it is filled largely with humor and mischief.
               While the plot and milieu of the film echoes many films from the era – from James Bond to The Pink PantherCharade is notable in making a female the center of the action. Regina Lampert is the victim of the titular “charade” from start to finish, and we share in her experience and confusion. Far beyond the script, which is nothing exceptional, Charade is an exercise in pure style. From Hepburn’s incredible Givenchy costumes, to the sumptuous Parisian setting, every frame is loaded with playful color and detail.
               The heart of the film, however, is the romance that blossoms between Grant and Hepburn’s characters. The chemistry between them is palpable, a dance of Mid-Atlantic accents that is antiquated but very charming. Despite being 60 at the time of filming Charade, Grant comes across convincingly as a charming and attractive leading man. The Hitchcock-inspired narrative takes a backseat to the dance between them, as well as Henry Mancini’s delightful score – featuring one of the best theme songs of all time. Charade is a pleasurable two-hour escape into the past.



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