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Charade is a 1963 film directed by Stanley Donen, written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It also features Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Dominique Minot, Ned Glass, and Jacques Marin. It spans three genres: suspense thriller, romance, and comedy.
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 been referred to as "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made."
Regina "Reggie" Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) meets a charming stranger calling himself Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) on a skiing holiday in Megève. She returns to Paris, planning to ask husband Charles for a divorce, but finds all of their possessions gone. The police notify her that Charles has been murdered, thrown from a train. They give Regina her husband's travel bag. At the funeral, Regina is struck by the odd characters who show up to view the body, including one who sticks the corpse with a pin to verify he is dead.
She is summoned to the U.S. Embassy, where she meets CIA agent Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau). He informs her Charles was involved in a theft during World War II. As part of the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA), he, "Tex" Panthollow (James Coburn), Herman Scobie (George Kennedy), Leopold W. Gideon (Ned Glass) and Carson Dyle were parachuted behind enemy lines to deliver $250,000 in gold to the French Resistance. Instead, they buried it, but were then ambushed by a German patrol. Dyle was badly wounded and left to die; the rest got away. Charles doublecrossed them, digging up the gold and selling it. He was killed but the money remained missing – and the U.S. government also wants the money back. Reggie recognizes the oddballs from the funeral in pictures shown to her by Bartholomew. He insists she has the money, even if she doesn't know where it is.
Peter appears and offers to help her figure out what to do. Reggie becomes attracted to him, even though he keeps changing his name (simultaneously amusing and confusing her) and unabashedly admits he's after her late husband's money as well. The dead man's partners in crime assume Reggie knows where the money is and demand their share. Unbeknownst to her, Peter is in league with them (under the pseudonym Alexander Dyle - Carson's alleged brother), though none of the men trust each other.
They begin turning up dead — first Scobie is drowned in an overflowing bathtub, then Gideon has his throat slit while coughing in an elevator. Reggie and Peter go to the location of Charles' last appointment and find an outdoor market. They also spot Tex there. Reggie and Peter split up, with Peter following Tex.
It is Tex who finally figures out where the money is hidden, when he sees several booths selling stamps; Charles had purchased rare stamps and stuck them on an envelope in plain sight just before he boarded his fateful train ride. Peter realizes the same thing and races Tex back to Reggie's hotel room, where Charles' travel-kit possessions are kept. However, they come up empty. The stamps have been cut off the letter.
Reggie had given them to her friend's son for his stamp collection. By chance, she runs into them at the market, only to learn that the little boy has traded them away. Fortunately, the stamp seller is honest and is satisfied just to have been in possession of the stamps, if only briefly; he gives them back to Reggie. He describes the stamps as a Swedish orange 4 shilling of 1854 worth $85,000, a 3 cent blue Hawaiian stamp of 1851 worth $65,000, and a 82 para blue "Gazette Moldave" on blue paper of 1858 worth $100,000.She returns to the hotel and finds Tex's bound body. Before he died, he was able to spell out in the dust the name of his killer: "Dyle."
Figuring Tex meant Alexander Dyle, a frightened Reggie telephones Bartholomew, who arranges to meet her. When she leaves the hotel, Peter spots her and gives chase.
Peter tracks her to the rendezvous and Reggie is caught out in the open between the two men. Peter tells her that the man she thought was Bartholomew is really Carson Dyle and that he was the one who killed the others. Another chase ensues, ending with Dyle's (literal) downfall.
Reggie insists on turning the stamps over to the proper authorities. Peter refuses to accompany her inside the office of the U.S. embassy official she is there to see, but when she goes to see the appropriate bureaucrat, Brian Cruikshank, she is shocked to find Peter sitting behind the desk. After convincing her that he is actually a government official (by buzzing his secretary), he dispels her irritation at being deceived by promising to marry her...after she gives him the stamps. The movie ends with a split-screen grid showing flashback shots of all his different identities (Peter Joshua, Alexander Dyle, Adam Canfield, and Brian Cruikshank), with Reggie hoping that they have lots of boys, so she can name them all after him.
- Cary Grant as Brian Cruikshank (Peter Joshua, Alexander Dyle, Adam Canfield)
- Audrey Hepburn as Regina "Reggie" Lampert
- Walter Matthau as Carson Dyle (Hamilton Bartholemew)
- James Coburn as Tex Panthollow
- George Kennedy as Herman Scobie
- Dominique Minot as Sylvie Gaudel
- Ned Glass as Leopold W. Gideon
- Jacques Marin as Insp. Edouard Grandpierre
- Paul Bonifas as Mr. Felix - Stamp Dealer
- Thomas Chelimsky as Jean-Louis Gaudel
Audrey Hepburn's line, "at any moment we could be assassinated", was dubbed over to become "at any moment we could be eliminated" due to the recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Subsequent versions of the film have restored the original dialogue.
Cary Grant was sensitive about the age difference between him and Audrey Hepburn, and this made him uncomfortable with the romantic interplay between them. To satisfy his concerns, the filmmakers agreed to add several lines of dialogue in which Grant's character comments on his age and Regina -not Grant's character- is portrayed as the pursuer.
The screenwriter, Peter Stone, and the director, Stanley Donen, have an unusual joint cameo role in the film. When Reggie goes to the U.S. Embassy to meet with Bartholomew, two men get on the elevator as she gets off. The man who says, "I bluffed the Old Man out of the last pot — with a pair of deuces" is Stone, but the voice is Donen's. Stone's voice is later used for the U.S. Marine who is guarding the Embassy at the end of the film.
Grant and Hepburn were nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical/Comedy and Best Motion Picture Actress in Musical/Comedy. Screenwriter Stone received a 1964 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. Hepburn won the BAFTA Award as Best Actress.
The movie was remade in 2002 as The Truth About Charlie starring Thandie Newton and Mark Wahlberg, and directed by Jonathan Demme. The Hindi movie, Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne (2003) (starring Esha Deol and Zayed Khan) is an adaptation of Charade, as is the Bengali movie, "Kokhono Megh" starring Uttam Kumar and Anjana Bhowmik.