Film Fest 2: 'Charade'(1963)

Film Still from Charade (Stanley Donen, USA, 1963)

Film Still from Charade (Stanley Donen, USA, 1963)

By: Mercedes Weidmer

When Violet asked me to write this article, I confess I was torn. She has a tendency to ask monstrously big questions. Too big really.  “…Of all time…” sort of questions: “favourite food OF ALL TIME”, “favourite song OF ALL TIME”, “favourite place OF ALL TIME”.  So naturally it was only a matter of time before she moved onto films. Being a film student, and a film-lover since Disney Princesses were, not only my my sisters in action, but role models and singing-coaches (my singing career still hasn’t panned out but I’m confident Ariel will pull through eventually), I find it PAINFULLY difficult to pick just one film. So here is my best shot… 

In my early teens, I was introduced to Audrey Hepburn.  Within an embarrassingly short amount of time I had binged all the films I could get my hands on and read her biography.  Some would say I was obsessed,  I prefer to call it admiration.  One thing about Audrey Hepburn which makes her so like-able (let be honest here, LOVE-able) is her diverse career. She has played everything.  She has gone from nun to call girl, from intellectual-turned-model to blind crime victim, Marian (as in Robin Hood’s babe) to God.  Now, I would like to make very clear that despite Violet’s insistence and the prompt of this article, I am not picking an ALL TIME FAVOURITE here. No, instead I am picking a favourite of the moment: Charade from 1963. 

Film Still from Charade (Stanley Donen, USA, 1963)

Film Still from Charade (Stanley Donen, USA, 1963)

This film, starring Cary Grant and the wonderful Audrey is a sort of crime-mystery-romantic-comedy. Something for everyone you could say… With Henry Mancini providing the soundtrack (yes yes, the composer of her famous Moon River) and none other than a dear friend Givenchy to provide her clothes, what more can one ask for in a film? 

  Film Still from Charade (Stanley Donen, USA, 1963)

The plot centres around Regina Lampert, who upon returning to her Paris residence from a skiing holiday finds her husband murdered and her home burgled.  She is now being chased by three of her husband’s WWII friends for money (a quarter of a million dollars!).  The dashing Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) becomes her guardian/love interest - but can she trust him too?  

I would like to argue one issue that is often raised when looking at this wonderful-brilliant-fabulous film, that’s the age difference of the two romantic leads. It is true, Cary Grant was 59 to Audrey’s 34. HOWEVER, this age difference was not unusual in her career, or unusual to romantic leads then and now.  Audrey was paired with Fred Astaire, Cary Cooper, her husband Mel Ferrer and numerous others, all at least a decade older than her. The ‘expiration date’ for male actors was and is massively later than it is for women, but that’s another argument. Cary Grant was extremely conscious of this when offered the part, so much so that he (being the absolute doll that he is) refused to do the film unless it was worked into the script that he was older, and that Regina Lampert was more keen for him than he was for her.  This makes for a riotously entertaining chemistry between the two, and if I do say so myself, quality banter.   

What makes it one of my favourite films of the moment can be boiled down to three simple things:
•    Script: this film has a script whose humour and intelligence is rare, and which drives the film along with a steady but suspenseful build. When delivered by such actors as Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, I would go as far to say it is inspired, but, admittedly, I am the obsessed one. 

•     Feminist leanings: I am not one to look for a feminist aspect to every film I watch, but I must say I was pleased when I came across one. Especially in a film from the 1960s! Audrey’s Regina Lampert is independent, funny, and flirtatious, while retaining that smooth elegance which so defines her. With lines like “Stop treating me like a child!” and “I don’t bite you know… unless it’s called for”, Regina Lampert is a refreshing mix of independence, humour and romance which makes her stand out in the cannon of feminist heroines of film we admire. 

•    Feel-Good Quality! : Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the serious and thoughtful Oscar films as much as the next girl, but I equally love a great, feel-good film. This is one such film. With actors you love, clothes you envy, and a mystery you are dying to work out, this is the perfect film for you and your friends over a glass (or bottle) of wine. 

So as you have read, I cannot recommend this film enough – even to those who aren’t known geeks for Audrey Hepburn. Give it a go! 

ST.ART Magazine