https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2022/08/guest-post-emina-melonic-on-charade.php

Emina Melonic offers us a bonus piece with a look back at the glory days of Hollywood when Hepburn and Grant ruled the scene:

Nothing says style and charm more than Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Hepburn is known for her beauty and kindness, and Grant for his humor and suave looks, which is why their pairing in Stanley Donen’s 1963 “Charade” is absolute perfection. It’s a film that exudes the 1960s style and playfulness, not to mention all that Hubert de Givenchy haute couture that was especially created for Hepburn herself.

“Charade” is both a mystery and comedy with an equal measure of romance. There are “good guys” and “bad guys,” except it’s very difficult to figure out who’s who. This is the awful predicament Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) finds herself in, as she tries to preserve her life.

During her vacation in the French Alps, Reggie decides it’s time to divorce her husband, Charles. It’s a meaningless marriage, it seems, and she doesn’t even know why she’s married to a man who is always absent and about whom she doesn’t know that much anyway. It is at this time that she meets a charming American, Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), who tells her he’d like to keep in touch upon their return to Paris.

Gathering her Louis Vuitton matched luggage to the luxurious Paris apartment, Reggie is confronted with the strangest event: the entire apartment has been pilfered. There is nothing left, not even one shred of clothing. Naturally, she’s beside herself, only to be frightened by a mustached man, who turns out to be Inspector Grandpierre. He informs her that Charles has been found dead with nothing more than one small bag next to him.

It turns out that Charles was a man of many passports and many identities. This is news to Reggie. Things really take a dark turn when she finds out that there is 250,000 dollars missing and that apparently Charles had it with him. But there is nothing more than a few toiletries and a stamped letter to Reggie in Charles’ bag.

Reggie’s life becomes even more complicated when four men, whom she never met demand that she produces the money that Charles left for her. One of them is a CIA administrator, Mr. Bartholomew (Walter Matthau), who tells Reggie that the money belongs to the American government and that it’s imperative that she return it. Except, Reggie has no idea where the money is.

The other three men, who appear to be Charles’ former friends are after the money also and are haunting and taunting Reggie. Peter Joshua is part of the mix, and it’s not clear if he’s a friend or a foe. Needless to say, their meeting in the French Alps was hardly a coincidence. All of this is designed to make Reggie totally insane. She cannot trust anyone, yet she finds herself falling in love with Peter.

Who is right and who is wrong? Who’s the villain? Can Reggie trust anyone beside her friend Sylvie? What is Peter Joshua hiding? This tangled mess gets untangled by the end, and Donen’s direction has created a superb mix of romance and mystery. The film’s stars bring not only their individual charm to the silver screen but the beautiful interplay between Hepburn and Grant is palpable. They are a perfect match, despite the fact that Grant was 25 years older at the time. The writers made a use of the age difference by creating a comedic tension between Hepburn and Grant. In this case, it is Hepburn who pursues Grant. He keeps calling her a “child” but can’t help but fall under the spell of her charm.

Both Hepburn and Grant are known as good and kind people, and during the making of “Charade,” Grant’s goodness became quite apparent. According to Grant’s biographer, Scott Eyman, Hepburn was very nervous about meeting Grant, and upon their first meeting, she spilled a bottle of wine on his suit. Hepburn, in general, suffered greatly from anxiety and nervousness, but Grant did not contribute to it. On the contrary, he made her feel welcomed and at ease. “Don’t be nervous for goodness sake. I’m thrilled to know you,” he said.

Hepburn recalled that not many people liked Grant’s reserved nature and a need for privacy but she understood it since she desired the very same thing for herself. “I think because he was a vulnerable man, he recognized my vulnerability,” said Hepburn. “He had more wisdom than I to help me with it. He said something very important to me one day when I was probably twitching and nervous. We were sitting next to each other waiting for the next shot. And he laid his hand on my two hands and said, “You’ve got to learn to like yourself a little more.””

Often, the stories of “on the set” fights and animosities render the movie less powerful because the reality trumps the aesthetic illusion. But in this case, it makes “Charade” even sweeter. In a world of so many unimaginative films, “Charade” is something we can go back to, even momentarily, as we experience the charm and beauty that once was possible on the silver screen.

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