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Wayback Wednesday: Charade (1963)

The amount of fabulous coats is truly staggering. 

Audrey Hepburn is my girl. Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954) and of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) are classics. No, scratch that. They’re iconic. And that’s not a word I throw around lightly. I love Audrey and have made it my unofficial mission to see as many of her movies as I possibly can. Now, Cary Grant is my guy. He has been since I first watched Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) as a little kid, and my admiration for him has only grown after watching movies like To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). So you can imagine how loudly I screamed when my mom told me about a rather famous romantic comedy thriller starring Hepburn and Grant that I had never seen before. Last weekend I watched Charade (1963) and I loved every second of it.

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Credit: / Universal Pictures

In Charade Hepburn plays Regina “Reggie” Lampert, a woman who becomes entangled in a murder-mystery after her husband is killed by a gang of men he stole $250,000 from. Pursued by money-hungry criminals, she partners up with Peter Joshua, played by Grant, a stranger who is seemingly on her side. However, in Charade, not everyone is who they say they are.

I’m not wasting any time. I need to talk about Audrey fucking Hepburn right now. As soon as she popped up onscreen, I instantly thought, “God, she’s just so damn fashionable and cool.” The fashion comes from her long-time friendship with Givenchy, who dressed her for this movie, and the coolness I think is pure Audrey. There’s something about the way she carries herself, delivers her lines, and plays off other actors, that instantly adheres you to her. “Enchanting” is really the best word to describe Hepburn. As the feisty and determined Regina, everything Hepburn does is captivating. Whether she’s chasing down clues or dropping one-liners, she sells everything with an effortless charm, simultaneously keeping you laughing, and on your toes. I’m more familiar with Hepburn’s romantic comedies, roles in which she’s purely jovial, so to see her dip her feet into the thriller genre was nothing short of revolutionary for me. It’s so interesting to see her play a role that while still glamorous, is one that lets her get her hands dirtier than usual. Still managing to diffuse any tense situation with her signature brand of subtle humour, Hepburn takes to suspense as strongly as she does romance, proving that there’s been no better CIA agent put to film than Audrey fucking Hepburn. I love her so damn much.

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Credit: / Universal Pictures

The only difference in watching Cary Grant in Charade and watching him in a movie from the 40s, is that his hair has faded to grey instead of being its usual jet-black. Other than that, he looks exactly the same! It was so jarring! Grant is obviously more at home in the thriller genre than Hepburn and he proves it in spades. Suave, sophisticated, and the ultimate leading man, Grant shines because of his ability to fully commit to the silliness going on around him. Showering in his suit? Yep, he’ll do it. Goofy expressions? He’s got a bunch of ’em. Spilling ice cream on himself? The more the merrier. That’s what I love about Grant. He’s able to so easily shift between drama and comedy, remaining the most charming man in the world the whole time. Charade is a mystery with a lot of moving parts that will genuinely keep you guessing, but none more so than Grant. His multiple identities, as well as his multiple secrets and lies, only strengthen the story as Charade weaves a sordid tale of deception and comedy.

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Credit: / Universal Pictures

One of the strongest things about Charade is that its pacing never slows. Even scenes that are heavy on dialogue are done so that the movie can gain your trust and pull the rug out from under you later on. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly by any more reveals or surprises, BAM! The movie flips the script and takes a turn you never would have imagined at the beginning of the movie. I personally love when the characters in a mystery or thriller are exposed to not be exactly who they say they are, something that Charade corners the market on. Multiple times I screamed at the TV, “no, don’t trust them!” in response to multiple characters. Look, I can’t have anyone leading Ms. Hepburn astray. Oh my God, can we take a minute and talk about the handful of grisly deaths that occur in this movie? Sure, they’re not as grotesque as what you may see today, but they throw you for a loop after watching Hepburn and Grant playfully bounce jokes off each other. The movie will literally go from Regina and Peter making googgly eyes at each other, fighting their feelings so that they can get to the bottom of the mystery, to a man getting drowned in his own bathtub. It’s macabre, exciting, and I love it. The intersection of crime and comedy reminds me of one of my favourite movies, Clue (1985). Hey, if your movie resembles Clue in even the slightest way, you get a gold star in my book.

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Credit: / Universal Pictures

When I was watching Charade, it was difficult to take notes because I was so absorbed in the story. Honestly, I expect nothing less of a Hepburn / Grant partnership. Those two are so magnetic, it’s truly indescribable. A murder-mystery that is straightforward in plot but filled with a generous helping of twists and betrayals, Charade is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Normally I’m hesitant about watching a mystery story twice. More often that not, the intrigue and mystique are lost as you already know the shocks and surprises. It’s never fun when you know the “who” in “whodunnit?” That being said, I would gladly watch Charade again any day of the week. Stylish, fun, and a real head-scratcher, Hepburn and Grant deliver a movie that solidifies them as my two favourite Golden-Age leading actors.

Have you seen Charade? Are you a fan of Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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