this tongue-in-cheek romantic thriller, directed by Stanley Donen from a script by Peter Stone, forms a bridge between Cary Grant's work in Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST and co-star Audrey Hepburn's subsequent work in the Broadway-spawned success WAIT UNTIL DARK. In a manner not yet much explored by Hollywood, but recently done by Mario Bava in THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (LA RAGAZZA CHE SAPEVA TROPPO, 1962), the film dabbles in international murder and danger, but always dances one step ahead of seriousness.
Hepburn is the widow of a man involved with others in the theft of $250,000 who, after his dead body is discovered thrown from a train, is expected by the others (including James Coburn, George Kennedy and Ned Glass) to know the whereabouts of the missing quarter-million. Walter Matthau is a CIA man equally insistent about the return of the stolen money, and Grant is a greying, doting acquaintence, accidentally met at a Swiss ski lodge, who reconnects with Hepburn in the wake of her husband's murder and determines to help and protect her, though his assortment of aliases suggest he may have other goals in mind. Who is he really, and is he truly her friend, or is he allied with the fortune-hunters? -- a question that only increases in urgency as she finds herself falling in love with him.
Attractively lensed on mostly French locations by Charles Lang (whose roster of credits ranges from PETER IBBETSON to SOME LIKE IT HOT and beyond) and lavished with one of Henry Mancini's most lavish and complementary scores, CHARADE is a shade too bubbly and spontaneous to be Hitchcockian (when Hepburn asks Grant "How do you shave in there?" while peering into his chin cleft, it feels ad-libbed) and it appeared early enough to avoid the trap of seeming Bondian. It's a charming diversion in its own right.
Viewed via Criterion DVD.