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Film / How to Steal a Million

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A 1966 heist film (with romantic comedy elements) directed by William Wyler, starring Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn.

After discovering Simon Dermott (O'Toole) attempting to steal a Van Gogh from her home, Nicole Bonnet (Hepburn) enlists his aid in stealing her family's Cellini sculpture from a gallery in Paris before anyone realises it is a fake, made by her grandfather. Things complicate when wealthy art dealer Davis Leland (Eli Wallach) wants to buy the statue for himself.

The score was done by a young composer named John Williams, billed here as "Johnny Williams".

Contains examples of:

  • Afraid of Blood: After Dermott shows Nicole the blood on the arm where she shot him, she faints.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The movie ends with Dermott and Nicole driving off to have a relaxing day out. Her father is taking up with business associates, which Dermott suspects of being more fraud.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Dermott pulling the old "surprise inspection" routine on the guards to find out about the cleaning rota.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Nicole and Dermott, considering he spends most of the film playing up his bad boy Gentleman Thief persona trying to woo her, and she can barely stand him for exactly that reason despite being obviously attracted to him.
  • Betty and Veronica: We have Nicole (Archie), Davis (Betty) and Dermott (Veronica).
  • Betty and Veronica Switch: It turns out, however, that Davis is a little sleazy and tries to propose to Nicole while ignoring her protests. He is fine with the "stolen" Cellini statue as a consolation prize. Meanwhile, Dermott is revealed to be a painting inspector and was trying to catch Nicole's father in the act of fraud. He lets her and her father off the hook, on the condition that her father retires.
  • The Caper: After the introduction, several characters set out to steal the Cellini sculpture from the fictitious "Kléber-Lafayette" museum.
  • Caper Rationalization: The sculpture being stolen is a forgery, and by stealing it before the museum can have it authenticated, the museum (and its insurance company) won't even be on the hook for its supposed value.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The boomerangs that Dermott purchased are used to trip the alarms without leaving a trace. His blustering into the security guards' office and accidentally trying to leave via the wrong door is him scouting out an escape route.
  • Cool Car: Nicole's car is a Autobianchi Bianchina Special Cabriolet (basically an upmarket Fiat 'Sport' 500). Dermott's car is an E-type Jaguar.
  • Costume Porn: Almost inevitable, given the combination of Audrey Hepburn, Paris and Heist Film. Nicole Bonnet wears a succession of incredibly chic, expensive outfits by Givenchy in the course of the film. Lamp Shaded by Dermott at one point:
    Nicole [asked to change into much less glamorous attire]: What good does this do?
    Dermott: Well, for one thing, it gives Givenchy a night off.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dermott has his moments (see Costume Porn and Gentleman Thief).
    Nicole: I can't drive a stolen car!
    Dermott: Same principle : four gears forward, one reverse.
  • Embarrassing Statue: Nicole's family heirloom, a "priceless" Cellini sculpture, is actually a forgery created by her grandfather when he was younger, using her grandmother as a model. Nicole bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother at that age. Nicole finds this embarrassing because the statue is nude. She is also well aware that if anyone notices the resemblance the forgery could easily come to light.
  • Enormous Engagement Ring: Nicole Bonnet yells at the sight of the gigantic diamond ring Mr. Leland gives her when he proposes.
  • Fainting: Nicole Bonnet after she accidentally shoots Dermott in the arm. Justified in that she is established to be extremely nervous and have strong "dizzy spells" whenever stressed (such as her father's forgeries), and she just caught a burglar trying to steal one of her father's forged paintings while she was home alone before accidentally shooting him.
  • False False Alarm: The protagonists hide in the museum during the night and repeatedly triggered the alarm. Eventually (and just as anticipated), the museum officials are tired of being woken up by false alarms and order the alarm system shut off.
  • Gentleman Thief: Dermott isn't actually a thief, but when he sneaks into the Bonnet house, he wears a tuxedo:
    Dermott: I'm a society burglar. I don't expect people to rush around shooting me.
  • Girly Run: Davis does the "Wallach frolic" when he is rushing about trying to meet Nicole after Dermott gives him advice.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Invoked. The alarm is set off on purpose several times in order to persuade the guards and police that it's on the fritz. Dermott also dresses in a guard's uniform as Nicole makes her part of the escape.
  • Identical Granddaughter: Dermott can't help noticing the resemblance between Nicole, and the (nude) statuette. Nicole's grandmother modeled for it. She's forced to admit the truth.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Nicole's part of the job.
  • Leg Focus: The camera lingers on Nicole's legs in at least two shots.
  • Love at First Sight: Davis decides he wants to marry Nicole the night after he met her.
  • Meet Cute: One of the more violent examples.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Nicole meets Dermott when he's broken into her home to inspect the paintings on the walls as frauds. Understandably, she assumes he's a burglar that doesn't know the paintings are forgeries. He protests that it was a failed burglary, so she lets him go, after shooting him in the arm by accident, dressing the wound, and taking him home. He only reveals the truth at the end to convince her father to retire from the business.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Head of Security when he gets an angry phone call from the French President across the street. Then there's the guard when he sees that the statue has actually been stolen while the alarm was deactivated...and surreptitiously replaced with his own wine bottle.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Nicole says so verbatim when Dermott tries to complain about the injury.
    Nicole: Don't be such a baby, it's just a flesh wound.
    Dermott: Well, it's my flesh.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Keeping four loaded antique pistols as wall decorations. It does provide a convenient weapon for Nicole while establishing her as gun-illiterate. The way Nicole handles the pistol — but it's entirely justified. The part Dermott does right is treating the unknown gun as loaded.
  • The Reveal:
    • Dermott knew all along the statue was a fake, but agreed to steal it to be close to Nicole.
    • Dermott isn't a burglar, he's a private detective who specialises in investigating art forgery.
  • Right Under Their Noses: "When the alarm goes off, there'll be guards everywhere... except the guard room."
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Dermott pretends to be a burglar because the truth would be more awkward for Nicole.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Nicole isn't thrilled that forgery is the family business. She tells off her dad for it because they'll get caught sooner or later. She's right. When the museum wants to authenticate the Cellini, however, she reluctantly calls on Dermott for help in robbing it because the minute they realize it's a fake, it's over.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Bonnet and his daughter Nicole.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Dermott isn't a burglar; he's a painting inspector. The reason why he was in the house was to identify the paintings inside as forgeries and has been working a case on her father. With that said, he helps Nicole steal back the Cellini statue understanding that no one would care as long as money wasn't involved, and he tries to convince her father to retire from the business.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Dermott only reveals a portion of Nicole's part prior to the heist. She, and the audience by extension, become aware of the other portions as the plan is being executed.