Welcome back to classic movie month! All through the merry month of May we’ll be looking at films new enough to be in color but old enough that you may not have heard of them. Today’s film features two of the greatest movie stars of any era: Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
Charades is a story of two people who meet in odd circumstances and have to learn to trust one another and somehow work together – or else. Regina Lampert (Hepburn), or Reggie to her friends, is on vacation with a friend and without the husband she’s seriously considering divorcing. But when she gets back to Paris she discovers someone’s saved her the trouble. Charles Lampert has been murdered trying to leave the city.
Thus begins a twisted yarn of murder, treason, theft and impersonations. At the center is Carson Dyle, a man left for dead during the Second World War, and thousands of dollars of gold intended to finance the Underground movement that was stole by it’s couriers. Among those couriers were Lampert and Dyle.
Of course, Reggie didn’t know about any of that. But Charles seems to have done something with the money and the surviving couriers from the theft all want their piece of the pie. Also among them is a dashing stranger (Grant) who she met at the beginning of the movie and she’ll know by a number of names by the time its over. The goal: Find the money and her husband’s killer and get out with her own skin intact.
There’s a lot going on in Charades. As the name implies, not everyone is who they first appear to be, and neither Reggie or the audience is in on who’s who, so the confusion and distress she feels is easily transmitted to the viewers. As you might expect from a tale of greed and revenge not everything that happens here is pleasant, in fact I would not recommend this as a movie to watch with young children. But the story’s not all dark. It does contain great quantities of Cary Grant being Cary Grant and that’s bound to ammuse. In fact, what might otherwise be a drab movie about characters we aren’t particularly invested in is transformed by the skill and charm of the two leading actors.
But no, that’s not true. For all the romantic overtones and moments of humor, Charades is a thriller at heart and from the moment we see the first corpse things start flying. The legacy of the stolen gold and an abandoned man are not going to be settled easily and the movie drags us along the whole story at a breakneck pace. We get only the occasional breather, a moment for a small smile and a romantic interlude before new discoveries are made and the rules change once again. Yet still, what keeps us caring about the outcome is the warmth and humanity of the central characters.
If you like normal people in surprising circumstances, mystery and action mixed together or tales of the past come back for a reckoning, then Charades may be the film for you.