Stanley Donen

It. tit.: Sciarada; Sog.: dal racconto The Unsuspecting Wife di Peter Stone e Marc Behm; Scen.: Peter Stone; F.: Charles Lang; Mo.: Jim Clark; Scgf.: Jean d’Eaubonne; Co.: Herbert de Givenchy; Mu.: Henry Mancini; Int.: Cary Grant (Peter Joshua), Audrey Hepburn (Regina “Reggie” Lambert), Walter Matthau (Hamilton Bartholomew), James Coburn (Tex Penthollow), George Kennedy (Herman Scobie), Ned Glass (Leopold W. Gideon), Dominique Minot (Sylvia Gaudet), Jacques Marin (Isp. Edouard Grandpierre), Paul Bonifas (Felix), Thomas Chelimsky (Jean-Louis Gaudet); Prod.: Stanley Donen per Stanley Donen Production/Universal Pictures; Pri. pro.: 5 dicembre 1963. 35mm. D.: 114’. Col. 


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

‘Charade’, in a figurative sense, indicates an absurd pretence; literally, however, charade means a game of guessing names hidden within other names. Here the name that elusively wiggles and winds its way through the film’s thriller as well romantic story is the real name of Cary Grant’s character. A man shows up out of nowhere and asks Audrey Hepburn, against a snowy Swiss landscape, whether she is married: “I’m getting a divorce.” “Please, not on my account”. He has yet to reveal his first (false) identity to the woman before him, but with thirty years of Hollywood life under his belt he is allowed to be so seductively arrogant. Hollywood celebrates its own tradition in the very place where it takes it apart. As will become more recurrent from the early 60s on, Charade absorbs and dissolves different genres: the criminal plot lines up cadavers, but the real suspense is in the romance story, while a touch of musical surfaces in the choreographic chase scenes and coups de théâtre. The narrative game is Hitchcock hyperbole; if Cary Grant had to live with two identities in North by Northwest, in this film he has to live with four; and Audrey Hepburn’s chase “to catch a thief” quickly turns into a tenacious chase to catch a husband, whoever he is. Whoever? The fragile widow, who has already given hints of sexual initiative, will profess she is willing to love all four identities of her partner; in no other film has the character been such a transparent mask of the person providing his star body for the role; in other words, this woman is willing to love anybody, as long as this anybody is Cary Grant. A setup of rather insignificant murders, a whirlwind of crime around the laughable McGuffin of three stamps, Charade is a game that no one is authorized to take seriously; certainly not when the person pointing the gun is Walter Matthau, a figure guilty of some sordidly irresistible funny scenes. The fabric of the film is a sartorial kaleidoscope, a chromatic parade organized by Donen and sealed by Hepburn’s slightly self-parodic Vogue-image, a polished real life Paris, captured by a moving camera and sharp editing: strolling along the Seine (incidentally reminiscent of Gene Kelly), eating soup at the old Les Halles and taking care of unfinished business among the columns of Palais Royal. The same fabric also contains interesting dissonant moments, in line with the bitterness of American cinema in its new pursuit of violence: James Coburn, then a villain for Siegel and Sturges, moves throughout the film with the limberness of a dancer and ends up suffocated in cellophane. Just a few minutes and meters away, Cary Grant takes a shower with his jacket and tie on. Take note, because this scene involves mischievous fun and theoretical depth: this is, for Cary Grant, the perfect performance of his being one and inseparable from his own suit. And Stanley Donen, who had already worked brilliantly with Grant in Indiscreet, directs here the ultimate test of the comic ability and immortal charm of the greatest actor of American film (“and without competition,” as Luc Moullet wrote).