Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Treat yourself. Ignore that abomination of a remake, The Truth About Charlie, and find this one on the classics shelf. Maybe the best comedy-thriller ever made.

Somebody once described this movie as “The best film Alfred Hitchcock never made.” You can easily see why. It’s a terrific blend of old screwball comedy with periods of high tension. It was something rather new on the scene: a romantic comedy thriller. Audrey Hepburn’s husband is murdered, thrown from a train while fleeing some very bad men who are after him. She returns home to find her luxurious apartment stripped to the bare walls. Now four men—James Coburn as “Tex,” George Kennedy as a man with a hook hand, Ned Glass, and Cary Grant, whose real identity isn’t established until the last two minutes—are after her, convinced she has a quarter of a million dollars they stole from the wartime OSS. It was gold bullion then, but there’s no telling what it is now, except that the money is a Maguffin, that is, as defined by Hitchcock, the thing everybody wants, which drives the plot. Audrey can’t find it, Cary can’t find it, and yet it’s right in front of us all the time. So the two of them go running all over Paris, chased by the three thugs … and possibly by Cary. Audrey falls in love with Cary at least three times, as his various aliases are exposed. It is all good, lighthearted fun … punctuated by gruesome murders. It’s one of my favorite romances. All the actors are first-rate, especially Coburn, who manages to be more menacing than the in-your-face hatred of the man with the hook. It’s all greatly enhanced by one of the best film scores ever, by Henry Mancini

There is one very odd fact about this movie, almost impossible to believe, but true. Somehow, some way, someone (who I imagine didn’t work at that studio or any studio ever again) forgot to put the proper copyright notice on it. Forgot! .As a result, it went into the public domain instantly. Anybody could broadcast it on TV. When home video technology came along anyone could release it on tape. So there are literally dozens of different versions of it out there. I think I got one of the unauthorized DVDs, but it is perfectly watchable.

Another interesting story: Cary Grant had become uncomfortable being the leading man at 59 or so to much younger women. (Hepburn was 34.) The screenplay had him pursuing the girl, romancing her. He felt he was pressuring her, almost stalking her. He nearly passed on this, until the screenwriter did a little doctoring. How did he do this? In the romantic scenes he simply gave all of Cary’s lines to Audrey, and vice versa. Now she was pursuing him, which fit with her character as her dead husband would have been the same age as Cary. Clearly, she liked older men.

BTW: This film has been remade four times, twice in English. Whatever you to, do not watch The Truth About Charlie, which is just awful.