Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Peter Stone (screenplay and story), and Mark Behm (story)
Starring Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass
Stanley Donen is an extremely underrated director. Partly this is because his best work is with musicals, which are passe as a film form. He directed several classics – On the Town, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, and, of course, one of the greatest films of all time, Singin’ in the Rain.* By the 1960s, he seemed to grow tired of musicals and he switched to one of the best of all Hitchcock pastiches – Charade.
Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) is an American living in Europe, having a final lone vacation before she divorces her husband. She runs into the suave stranger Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), but when the returns to her home in Paris, her husband is dead, leaving her only a few trivial items. But three sinister men – Tex Panthollow (James Coburn), Herman Scobie (George Kennedy), and Leopold Gideon (Ned Glass) show up at the funeral. The CIA gets into the act: the administrator Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau) reveals what’s going on. The three men and her husband were part of a group who stole gold from the French resistance. And there is a fourth man, Carson Dyle, and Peter Joshua (who keeps popping up to help out Regina) might just be Dyle.
The movie is full of double crosses and plot twists. It’s clear the Cary Grant** is having a lot of fun playing the mysterious Mr. Joshua. Hepburn also seems to like the light romance.
Coburn, Kennedy, and Glass are familiar film heavies of the time, and also make the most of their roles. Walter Matthau is also especially effective.
The movie was a big hit at the time, and was well regarded for the way it managed to be both Hitchcockian and original. Donen continued to direct, with quite a few successes, including the brilliant Movie Movie.
*Co-directed with Gene Kelly
**If you’re doing a Hitchcock pastiche, why not use one of his favorite actors.