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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Great Last Scenes: Charade

Year: 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
Great Because...: Well, for one thing you can't go wrong with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn - two of the most effortlessly charming actors ever to grace the screen. For another, it contains one of my favourite last lines ever. After discovering (finally) Grant's real identity, Hepburn exclaims: "Oh I love you, Adam, Alex, Peter, Brian, whatever your name is! I love you! I hope we have a lot of boys so we can name them all after you!"

Reggie Lampert is in a whole mess of trouble. Her husband has just turned up dead, several nefarious characters are after her for some money her husband supposedly had, and a tall, dark and handsome man who is not what he seems has recently entered her life. At first this man claims to be Peter Joshua, later Alexander Dyle, Adam Canfield, and finally Brian Crookshank (Regina: "Serves me right if that's the one I'm stuck with"). All Regina knows for sure is that there's a Mrs. Joshua/Dyle/Canfield but they're divorced (but then again, maybe there isn't or maybe they aren't).

In the midst of all the turmoil in her life, there's no one that Reggie can really trust or turn to. Certainly she probably shouldn't trust the man with the ever shifting persona and yet she does, even as she's questioning his motives, even as she's questioning whether or not he's responsible for the dead bodies that have started to pile up. As she peels away layer upon layer of his identity, she's vindicated in the trust she has for him - it's the trust she places in someone else that nearly gets her killed.

If there was ever any doubt before, the final scene lays bare the fact that the plot is really secondary to giving two charismatic actors a chance to play off each other. The question of how it is that the bad guy was able to pose so successfully as a good guy is dismissed with a pretty lame explanation (it basically comes down to an embassy building with such lax security that someone could waltz in and take over an office while everyone else is ouut to lunch) and the film quickly moves on to what is really important: getting Grant and Hepburn together. The scene plays out with romance and humor (love the face Grant makes when Hepburn see him sitting behind the desk), giving two delightful characters an ending they absolutely deserve, with the added bonus that the scene is still able to incorporate the "is there a Mrs.?... but we're divorced" running gag into it. It's the perfect ending for an uncommonly charming thriller.


Univarn said...

I really enjoy this movie. Cary Grant is definitely one of my favorite actors, alongside Jack Lemmon, to watch because they're just so entertaining. And of course Audrey Hepburn, any straight male regardless of age has to be mesmerized by her on screen presence.

Norma Desmond said...

Love Cary Grant, love Audrey Hepburn. Movie stars just aren't what they used to be.