Cary Grant Is Suave Spy in “Charade”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Cary Grant was suave. Suave when being chased by biplanes with Eva Marie Saint in “North By Northwest.” Suave when thwarting spies with Ingrid Bergman in “Notorious.” Suave when driving along the winding roads of the French Riviera with Grace Kelly in “To Catch a Thief.”
That suave manner – once described as “high comedy with polished words” – was the trademark persona of a British vaudeville performer born as Archibald Alexander Leach.
Once when an interviewer observed, “Everybody would like to be Cary Grant,” the actor replied, “So would I.”
Thus it will come as no surprise that Cary Grant is suave in “Charade,” the romantic spy suspense thriller comedy that is this week’s selection for Monday Classic Movies, Mary Sparacio’s weekly series at the Tropic Cinema.
Paired in “Charade” with elegant Audrey Hepburn, Grant is at his comedic best as a double – no, make that quintuple – agent on the trail of stolen gold. Turns out, there are also a number of other shady characters after the same loot. And all of them are plying their duplicitous tradecraft on poor Audrey Hepburn, whose murdered husband supposedly stole the missing fortune.
This pack of are-they-good-or-bad guys includes Walter Matthau, James Coburn, Ned Glass, and George Kennedy.
It’s a cat-and-mouse game that keeps you (and Hepburn) guessing. Who can she trust?
Grant is morally ambiguous up till the end – something he deftly accomplished in an early Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece called “Suspicion.”
“Charade” can certainly be described as Hitchcockian. Although directed by Stanley Donen (“Singin’ In the Rain,” “Two for the Road,” “Arabesque”), it has been referred to as “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made.”
Grant knew how to play Hitchcockian characters, having starred in four movies directed by the Master of Suspense.
Despite Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation for disliking actors, he once remarked that Grant was “the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.”
Peter Stone did the screenplay for “Charade,” liking it so well that he used his own pen name of Peter Joshua as one of Cary Grant’s identities in the film. And when Stone’s original story was later remade as a movie called “The Truth About Charlie,” Mark Wahlberg’s character is called Joshua Peters.
A strong plot, other films have been based on “Charade.” There’s a Hindi movie titled “Chura Liyaa Hai Tumme” that is adapted from Stone’s screenplay, as well as a Bengali movie called “Kokhono Megh.”
But these subsequent remakes pale when compared to Cary Grant’s masterful performance in the original.
Ian Fleming said he partially modeled his fictional spy James Bond on Cary Grant. In fact, Grant turned down the 007 role in “Dr. No,” believing himself too old at 58 to play the character.
The following year when he took the role of the spy in “Charade,” he felt he was too old to play the love interest for Audrey Hepburn, who was 26 years younger than him, insisting that the script be changed to show she was pursuing him and not vice versa. He even added a number of jokes about their difference in age.
Odd that only two years later he married Dyan Cannon, who was 33 years his junior.
When Grant retired the following year, he never worked in movies again, despite valiant attempts by Stanley Kubrick, Howard Hawks, and Billy Wilder to lure him back.
Cary Grant was ranked #2 on The Greatest Screen Legends actor list by the American Film Institute. Bogey got the #1 slot.
But suave? No one has ever done it better.
As director Howard Hawks said, “Grant was so far the best that there isn’t anybody to be compared to him.”
[from Solares Hill]