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Film / Charade

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A 1963 Comedy Thriller directed by Stanley Donen, starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant and featuring Walter Matthau, George Kennedy and James Coburn.

Regina "Reggie" Lampert (Hepburn) is getting ready for life as a divorcee when she finds out that her husband is dead. When the police question her she finds that he has multiple passports each with different aliases, and that he was holding on to $250,000 note  which is unaccounted for. During the funeral, three suspicious people she's never seen before come to visit the body. She is then called to the embassy, where she finds out that during World War II her husband was part of a group of soldiers chosen to deliver some gold across enemy lines. However, instead of delivering the gold to La Résistance as planned, the soldiers hid it somewhere, with plans to come back after the war and have it for themselves. Her husband, however, got greedy and came back early, taking all the gold for himself. Now the other three soldiers will do anything to get it back.


While this is happening, Reggie also has a chance meeting with a man who calls himself Peter Joshua (Grant), whom she enters into a romance with. However, Peter is not who he appears to be, and their meeting wasn't random at all...

Remade in 2002 by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) as The Truth About Charlie, with Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton. No connection to the 1984 animated short Charade.


This film provides examples of:

  • After Action Patchup: Regina treats Peter's back after his fight with Scobie.
  • Balcony Escape: Cary Grant's character follows Scobie out the window and across a few balconies.
  • Big Eater: Reggie orders food and/or is eating food in most of her scenes and is commented on it by others.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Scobie (big), Tex (thin), and Gideon (short).
  • Chekhov's Gun: The letter from Charles Lampert. When the policeman hands it over to Reggie, he describes it: "one letter, stamped but unsealed, addressed to you." Much later, we hear that the stamps on it are worth $250,000.
  • Cold Open: The very first scene of the movie features a man's body (later identified as Reggie's murdered husband) getting thrown off of a train.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Just when Cary Grant's character and Tex have understood that the stamps are worth $250,000 and they have noticed that Reggie removed them from the envelope, Jean-Louis is exchanging them at the stamp market.
  • Creator Cameo: The young man in the elevator talking about a poker game is two cameos at once: played by screenwriter Peter Stone with the dubbed voice of Stanley Donen.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cary Grant, of course. Endlessly. For example, when Regina points out he's used the "divorce" line about his "Peter Joshua" identity, he quips, "I'm just as difficult to live with."
  • Dies Wide Open: Scobie and Tex.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Cary Grant's character constantly seems to change sides, turning from The Mole to Reverse Mole to Double Agent and eventually to Double Reverse Quadruple Agent.
  • Driving a Desk: Scenes of Reggie and Cary Grant's character riding cars and a boat have rear-projection effects. When they ride the boat through tunnels, their dialogue has an echo effect added for realism.
  • Dude Magnet: Reggie claims to be this when teasing Cary Grant in the "shower" sequence.
  • Dwindling Party: Scobie, Gideon and Tex are killed off one by one. Scobie is drowned in a bathtub, Gideon has his throat slit in an elevator, and Tex has a plastic bag placed over his head, where he suffocates.
  • Dying Clue: Tex writes "Dyle" on the carpet before he suffocates. Currently, it provides the Trope Image.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Famous monuments of Paris are showed: Notre-Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: It happens offscreen, but Dyle takes control of Gideon's elevator, then enters and slashes Gideon's throat.
  • Eureka Moment: Tex and then Peter have one upon realizing the missing money has been converted to the stamps.
  • Evil Is Petty: Scobie, whose impatience to seize the money lead him to get in a fight with Cary Grant's character. He calls up Regina and blabs about Cary Grant's identity in order to spite him and set him back despite the fact that they technically share goals.
  • Facepalm: When Regina asks if Cary Grant's character is married the second time, and he says yes...she does this, as if knowing darn well the punch line's coming.
  • Fanservice: Reggie's intense propositioning of Cary Grant's character. Seriously, how many men dream of Audrey Hepburn throwing herself at them like that?—which Audrey herself lampshades:note 
    Reggie: (Leaning back against the door) This is a ludicrous situation—I can think of a dozen men who are just LONGING to use my shower....
    Cary Grant: So ask one of them.
    Reggie: (Eyes twinkling) I dare you...!
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Played for laughs. Reggie and Peter are going through her late husband's luggage to see if they can find something valuable enough for him to have been murdered for. They find a tin of what appears to be tooth powder, but she suspects might be heroin; at her urging, he does the test... and concludes that either it's peppermint-flavoured heroin or it really is tooth powder.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: As Reggie and Peter finish sharing their first conversation, Reggie asks, "...wasn't it Shakespeare who said, 'When strangers do meet, they should ere long see one another again'?" Peter replies that he can tell that's not a real Shakespeare quote because, "It's terrible."
  • Follow That Car: Exploited by Reggie. She is followed by Cary Grant's character. When she gets out of the hotel, she asks a taxi to go anywhere, but she does not get in and she hides in the shadow. When Cary Grant's character arrives, he sees the taxi leaving, so he hails another taxi and asks him to follow that car.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Or is it fourth identity marriage?
  • Gotta Kill Them All: Combined with Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Carson Dyle killing off the members of his squad who'd left him to be captured by Germans after he'd been shot.
  • Graceful Loser: When the stamp collector realizes that a child has given him the most valuable stamps in the world, he realizes there's been a mistake, sends him off with several sheets of stamps, and holds the real stamps until Reggie arrives, when he graciously explains the mistake and hands them over, happy to have held them for even a short while.
  • Happily Ever After: In the end, Brian Cruikshank implicitly proposes to Reggie (he talks about a marriage license). Reggie does not realizes immediately, then goes wild with joy.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The $250,000 turned out to be a set of antique stamps on a letter that had been among Charles Lampert's possessions.
  • Hook Hand: Scobie, who is not shy about using it to intimidate and attack the heroes. He even has a spare one in his suitcase.
  • I Have Many Names: The government agent pursuing the thieves variously gives his name as Peter Joshua, Alexander Dyle, Adam Canfield, and finally Brian Cruikshank.
  • Insistent Terminology: Played with. Whenever Reggie makes reference to "spies", Bartholomew corrects her with "agents". But at the same time, whenever Bartholomew says "spies", Reggie corrects him with "agents". Bartholomew's inconsistency hints at him not having anything to do with CIA.
  • Jerkass: Herman Scobie's profession.
  • Last Disrespects/Lonely Funeral: Virtually the only people to attend the late Charles Lampert's funeral besides his widow are his three former partners in crime, who are mainly attending to see if he's Faking the Deadnote  and are more disgusted than sorry for his death.
  • May–December Romance: Cary Grant was 59 when he made the film, 25 years older than Audrey Hepburn. He only took the role after the writer gave all the romantically aggressive lines to Hepburn's character, so he wouldn't look like a predator. Frequently lampshaded in the movie.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • After the Cold Open and the Artistic Title, the movie begins with Reggie having lunch at a ski resort, unaware of someone pointing a pistol at her. The wielder shoots at her...with water. An irritated Reggie lifts her head up, and sees a Bratty Half-Pint holding a squirt gun.
    • Every time Reggie gets close to Cary Grant's character or shares a pleasant scene with him, she gets word of his false identity, often accompanied by a low-key Scare Chord.
  • Motive Rant: In the Palais-Royal, after trying in vain to convince Reggie that Cary Grant's character is a con man, Carson Dyle threatens to shoot Reggie down and he tells her who is really is and his motive.
  • Mr. Exposition: This is the role Bartholomew carries for most of the film, at least until the reveal shows him to be the Big Bad.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: The police informs Reggie that her late husband had many passports from different countries, which reveals that he was a shady person.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: After Charles Lampert's death, the police searches his personal effects and hand them over to Reggie. The multiple passports he had reveals that he was a shady person.
  • Pet the Dog: Tex showing off his Gun Twirling skills to entertain Jean-Louis.
  • Plot Device: The stamps.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The plot is set in motion by the death of Charles Lampert, Reggie's husband.
  • Posthumous Character: Carson Dyle. Subverted.
  • Power Trio: of the villainous variety:
    • Id: Scobie, the impatient and violent one.
    • Ego: Tex, the one who's in-between.
    • Superego: Gideon, the only one who suggests a dead man be returned to his bed.
  • The Power of Trust: Averted. Most of the cast is pointedly either of dubious identity or dubious intent.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Subverted when Regina accuses Peter of not needing the reading glasses he puts on. She pulls them from his face and dons them herself — then gets a shocked expression and quickly hands them back, saying quietly, "You need them." The degree of correction in those lenses must've been something fierce.
  • Quick Nip: When Bartholomew is introduced, he is rubbing dry-cleaning solution into his tie as he talks to Reggie. When he finishes, he gives the rag a quick sniff, stuffs it in his pocket, and keeps talking as though nothing had happened.
  • The Reveal: Mr. Bartholomew turns out to be Carson Dyle, and has been killing off his former comrades one by one. Also, Cary Grant's character turns out to actually work at the American embassy as a member of the Treasury Dept.
  • Running Gag:
    • Grant's character constantly changing names.
    • And when he produces a new name, Reggie asks, "Is there a Mrs. __?" and he replies, "Yes, but we're divorced." By the third time, she's saying it along with him.
    • Reggie or Bartholomew saying "spies" and the other correcting "agents."
    • Every suit Cary Grant's character seems to wear gets damaged in some way.
  • Running Gag Stumbles: At the end of the movie, Reggie asks Grant's character again if there's a Mrs. (his latest name), and he says "Yes," but leaves out the "but we're divorced" part. Turns out there is a Mrs. Cruikshank, but she's his mother!
  • Secret Identity: Threefold. Her husband, the real Dyle and Cary Grant's character manage to hide their true identity from Reggie. It's not until the last few minutes that Reggie (and the audience) know every character's true identity.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Cary Grant's character says he's really a thief named Adam Canfield, he repeatedly asks Reggie if she's willing to take the money instead of returning it to the government, but she refuses to be dishonest. Lucky for her, because "Canfield" is actually U.S. Treasury agent Brian Cruikshank, and if Reggie had tried to steal the money he probably would have betrayed her to the authorities.
  • Shout-Out: As she talks with Cary Grant's character, Reggie mentions An American in Paris (she mentions the way Gene Kelly dances by the Seine) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (she asks Cary Grant if he would save the woman he loves like the hunchback).
  • Show Within a Show: Reggie and Grant's character watch Guignol puppet show on the Champs-Élysées.
  • Slashed Throat: Gideon's fate.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant are gloriously sassy with each other throughout the movie.
  • Split Screen: In the last scene, displaying Grant's character's four identities.
  • Trap Door: Plays a major role in the climax. Carson Dyle is stalking the stage of a theater, trying to kill Reggie. Cary Grant's character is hiding under the stage, and when Dyle finally stands in just the right spot, Grant pulls the appropriate lever and Dyle falls to his death.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Yes, it was a dumb move, Herman. What is the matter with you?"
    • "You killed all three of them for nothing." Ultimately subverted, as Grant's character didn't kill any of them and Tex just incorrectly assumed he did.
    • "Reggie, wait! That man is Carson Dyle!"
  • Wham Shot:
    • Throughout the movie, Reggie's been getting help from CIA agent Hamilton Bartholomew from the American embassy. Late in the film, she tries to call him at the embassy only to be told by the operator that Mr. Bartholomew is at a reception. She asks the operator to give him a message at the reception. We then see at the reception the phone getting picked up by a middle-aged man we've never seen before. And upon hearing Reggie's message, it's clear that this Hamilton Bartholomew has no clue what's going on. "Well, who does she think I am, the CIA?"
    • At the end, Reggie is told at the embassy that the man to see about the recovery of stolen property is Brian Cruikshank. She goes to his office only to see Cary Grant's character, whom she's already known by three different aliases, seated at Cruikshank's desk, revealing that this is his real identity.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Carson Dyle was abandoned by his comrades after being horribly wounded, and spent months as a prisoner of war with nothing to help the pain. It's no wonder he's so bitter toward them, and decides to Pay Evil unto Evil by going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. He's almost a Sympathetic Murderer, but he crosses the Moral Event Horizon when he states that he's willing to kill the innocent Reggie to get the money.


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