movie review: charade

(This post was written for the May The 4th Be With Audrey Hepburn Blogathon.)

After Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) falls for the dashing Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) on a skiing holiday in the French Alps, she discovers upon her return to Paris that her husband has been murdered. Soon, she and Peter are giving chase to three of her late husband’s World War II cronies, Tex (James Coburn), Scobie (George Kennedy), and Gideon (Ned Glass), who are after a quarter of a million dollars the quartet stole while behind enemy lines. But why does Peter keep changing his name?

I’ve seen Charade, oh, half a dozen times and it never gets old.  Even though the plot twists aren’t all that twisty anymore (though I do still notice one or two new things each re-watch) there’s some timeless movie magic in the film that makes it worth watching multiple times.  I came across Charade when I was making it a goal to watch every James Coburn movie in the house and it’s definitely in my top fifteen favorite movies now (if not top ten – still haven’t decided that one yet).

Over and over again, Charade has been called ‘the Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made’ (or variations of that phrase) and while I agree in part with that statement, I don’t think it’s entirely true.  For one, there’s much more humor in Charade than most Hitchcock films, so there’s a more lighthearted feel to the whole thing, and I’ve also found that all Hitchcock movies, whether they be famous or little-known, have a particular quality about them.  The Hitchcock stamp, if you will, and Charade doesn’t have that, of course.  But the twisting plot, enigmatic opening, clever camera angles, and the casting of Cary Grant are all similarities in the favor of a comparison.  And I’d say that Charade is just about as genius with the combination of cast, script, music, and visual style as any Hitchcock film.

Anyway.  I didn’t come here to write an essay, but to review a film…and review it for an Audrey Hepburn blogathon, no less, so she’s who I’ll talk about next.  I’ve only seen four Hepburn films, I believe, and though this isn’t my favorite role of hers (that would be either Princess Ann or Sabrina) Charade is my favorite Hepburn movie, overall, so far.  Reggie seems a bit spoiled, at least at the beginning of the movie, and I also find that she’s a little annoying in her constant pursuit of Cary Grant’s character (honestly, I don’t know what to call him – he has about five names/identities through the course of the film).  However, I’d watch Audrey play any character, really.  She’s fantastic and I’m so pleased to part of the blogathon honoring her life and work. (Her birthday is today, incidentally.)  Overall, I don’t have much to say about the character of Reggie, except the fact that I did end up liking her by the end of the movie and that she’s a pretty sympathetic character in most respects. (I’d like to see how I would’ve reacted to her had she been played by any other actress.)

Okay, brace yourselves, because I’m about to discuss the rest of the cast and I have a rather shocking announcement to make.

Are you ready?

I don’t like Cary Grant.

Yes, you read that right.  Cary Grant, who everyone swoons over, who everyone thinks is the epitome of old Hollywood class and style and all that jazz…him, I don’t like. *ducks*  I’ve never thought he was particularly handsome or funny or anything, really.  I don’t dislike seeing him in movies like I do with some actors (*cough*RichardBurton&CharltonHeston*cough*) but he’s never impressed me.  I’ve never fangirled over him. *sigh*  I like him perfectly fine in Charade (and I do happen to really like him in Notorious) but that’s about it.  He does play an extremely interesting character, though – you can never be entirely sure of his identity, even up to the last minutes of the film. (It’s crazy.)

Other cast members: I came to the this movie for James Coburn and he played a great villain.  Thoroughly enjoyed seeing him on-screen (though his attempt at a Texas accent was less than convincing).  The other three villains (counting, you know, the fifth member of the treasure hunters) were all well-played, too.  Other characters include Reggie’s best friend (and her little boy) and the police inspector.  Good casting all around.

One thing that really sells the movie for me is the music.  Henry Mancini did a fantastic job as usual (he might be my favorite composer, actually) capturing all the emotions and moods of the film, from wistfulness and longing, to high-spirited romance, fun, danger…his score is everything that a movie soundtrack should be.  If you don’t believe, well, go listen to this.  Just the main title theme alone is enough to put me in the mood of an exciting, suspenseful (and fun!) mystery.  And while I wouldn’t say that Bernard Hermann and Henry Mancini’s music is completely alike, Mancini definitely dictated the tone of the film – at least to some extent – the same way that Hermann did with so many Hitchcock movies.

Well, that’s about it.  I don’t want to say anything about the plot for fear of giving away something important.  Watch this movie with no spoilers, please.  You owe it to yourself, and that’s all I can say.  And just remember…nothing is as it seems.



40 thoughts on “movie review: charade


    Okay but I thought this one was bad…? My sister heard that an Audrey Hepburn movie had sensual scenes or something and I thought it was this one.

    And I don’t really like Cary Grant, either, so. : D


    1. Eowyn, nope, this one is clean — it’s probably “Two for the Road” your sister heard about. I haven’t watched it, myself, as a result of what I’ve heard about it.

      (Unless they were thinking about the orange dance scene, which I suppose could be suggestive, but is just hilariously silly…)


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  3. Ahhhhh, I love this movie. It’s just downright fun! And I love the music — Henry Mancini is one of my favorites too!

    I actually don’t love Cary Grant either. But I like him a lot, especially in particular movies (this, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, Arsenic and Old Lace…), but I don’t tend to watch movies just for him.


    1. Mom really likes Cary Grant and the first movie of his that she showed me was Arsenic and Old Lace which is NOT my kind of humor (at least, it wasn’t back then – time for a re-watch?) so right off the bat, I didn’t like him. However, I don’t mind him in To Catch a Thief or Notorious (like I mentioned) or even in Charade…I guess I don’t really dislike him, it’s just that I’m not all that impressed by him in comparison to other actors that I really love.


      1. I can never like Notorious as much as I feel I ought to. I forgot to mention Monkey Business, though — he’s hilarious in that one. And Father Goose. Never mind, maybe I do love Cary Grant. Oh, Indiscreet and The Grass is Greener and That Touch of Mink and An Affair to Remember too…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, Notorious is probably my favorite Hitchcock film…there’s just something about it that really grips me. Have you watched Suspicion yet?


      3. Yeah, I saw Suspicion a while ago and was just kind of meh about it. IIRC, it frustrated me. I liked it about as well as Vertigo.

        I’ll give Notorious a try again sometime, to see if it’s improved at all 😉


      4. Vertigo weirded me out, and not in a good way. 😛

        By the way, speaking of Hitchcock films…you’ve seen Shadow of a Doubt, right? ‘Cause I’d like to know your opinion of Joseph Cotten since I’ve been liking him more and more ever since watching Citizen Kane.


      5. Yeah, Vertigo is creepy.

        What do I think of Joseph Cotten? I think he’s sweet and loveable, almost as much as my Alan Ladd. I had a total spring fling with him about 6 years ago, and am still so fond of him! In fact, I “cast” him as Horatio opposite Alan Ladd as Hamlet when I imagined up a noir version of Hamlet a couple years ago. (Which was before I fell fast and hard for Ladd, isn’t that funny?)

        Shadow of a Doubt is excellent, but you’ll like him way better in Gaslight and The Third Man. I hear he’s great in Since You Went Away and The Magnificent Abersons too, but I haven’t gotten my grubby little paws on those yet. He’s pretty nice in Duel in the Sun, but I DO NOT recommend that movie, overall. And Niagara is depressing.


  4. Great article! This film is so much fun! You don’t like Cary Grant? I forgive you lol 😉
    I’m curious to know what is the 4th Audrey Hepburn’s film you saw so far I can identity Charade, Roman Holiday and Sabrina. Audrey Hepburn is my favourite actress, so if you need any suggestions…

    I invite you to read my article for the blogathon as well! If you haven’t seen this film yet (How to Steal a Million), you’ll be glad to know that I don’t reveal spoilers. So I hope it will make you want to see it!


    1. The fourth Audrey movie I’ve seen is Paris When It Sizzles – I really like that one. 🙂

      Several people have recommended How To Steal A Million to me so I’ll have to see if I can watch it sometime soon. (By the way, your ‘Three Enchanting Ladies’ are my top three favorite actresses.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so sad that I saw this film with an ancient and extremely quiet dubbing which made it quite impossible to enjoy it. You wrote you were able to watch it multiple times, maybe I should do so, in English this time. I loved Walter Matthau in his role, by the way, it was a special role so to say 🙂 I wrote about Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the blogathon, I’d be glad if you cared to check it out!


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  7. Cary Grant is my favorite actor so I’ll just try to forget your unkind words about him. 😉 I love Charade so much though…. it’s definitely in my top ten!


    1. James Coburn is pretty awesome, in my opinion. 🙂 Have you seen him in The Magnificent Seven or The Great Escape?

      I’d like to watch Love in the Afternoon sometime!


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