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Charade is a 1963 American film directed by Stanley Donen, written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The movie also features Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Dominique Minot, Ned Glass, and Jacques Marin. It spans four genres: suspense thriller, romance, chick flick and comedy. Because Universal Pictures published the movie with an invalid copyright notice, the film entered the public domain in the United States immediately upon its release. The film is notable for its screenplay, especially the repartee between Grant and Hepburn, for having been filmed on location in Paris, for Henry Mancini's score and theme song, and for the animated titles by Maurice Binder. Charade has received generally positive reviews from critics, and was additionally noted to contain influences of genres such as whodunit, screwball and spy thriller; it has also been referred to as "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made." Regina "Reggie" Lampert meets a charming stranger, Peter Joshua, on a skiing holiday in Megève. She returns to Paris, planning to ask her husband Charles for a divorce, but finds all of their possessions gone.
Jonathan Demme remade Charade in 2002 as The Truth About Charlie, starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton. I haven't seen Charlie and though I've enjoyed Demme's past work, I'm in no rush to see it. The casting confuses the hell out of me. Wahlberg either gives you befuddled naivety, which he's now too old for, or reserved cool, which comes across as sheer boredom. Just check out The Italian Job. And when did Thandie Newton become the heir to Audrey Hepburn? Was I out sick that day?
Watch Charade and you'll understand where my anger comes from. Regina (Hepburn) is living the high life in Paris, but everything crashes when her husband, Charles, is murdered. It turns out that this man of mystery made quite a few enemies along the way, namely a group of former WWII army buddies (which include old pros George Kennedy and James Coburn) who believe Regina now has the money that her husband supposedly stole years ago. Regina is stupefied.
Grant, whose character's name changes throughout the movie, rushes to Regina's aid, though they know each other on only the flimsiest of terms. With no other allies and fear surrounding her, Regina turns to this other mystery man for help. Soon, she's alternately doubting and falling in love with him as their pursuers -- one by one -- turn up dead.
What's so neat about Charade is its unconventionality. Neither relentlessly dark nor smothered in hipster irony, like so many of today's action/suspense movies, Donen masterly weaves romance and scares to create an original and entertaining treat. The combination of two distinct, different elements never feels forced. Credit must be given to the two stars, who roll with the material, their charm and bravado in tact.
Now out on Criterion DVD, Charade shows off its strengths with a crisp transfer, plus a commentary track from Donen and writer Peter Stone. Other minor extras round out an exceptional disc.