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Sunday, July 31, 2016

HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966)

Running for cover after her Oscar® snub on MY FAIR LADY/’64, Audrey Hepburn waited a year before returning in a comic caper, splitting the difference between CHARADE/’63 and the up-coming GAMBIT/’66 on this reasonable facsimile of the form. Though not especially well received, it’s really rather pleasant in its deliberate way, with director William Wyler gamely trying to keep the over-produced whimsy airborne. It does have a good gimmick working for it: Audrey’s desperate to steal a fake antique statue her dad (Hugh Griffith) loaned to a museum. Why? Well, he’s a master art forger and the insurance inspection would do them in. Enter Peter O’Toole, immensely charming in a sort of road-not-taken leading man perf (very Cary Grant) as accomplice. Strongly cast (though more spoken French would have been nice) and gorgeously shot (both people & locations) by Charles Lang, you even get a chance to hear composer John Williams (picking up on CHARADE) make like Henry Mancini. And if we can’t recreate the plush atmosphere this must have generated back when it opened at Radio City Music Hall, the film’s ultra-smooth style has it’s own cushy comforts.

DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, CHARADE and GAMBIT, with the first about as good as these things get.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Except for THE BIG COUNTRY/’58 and THE CHILDREN’S HOUR/’61, all of William Wyler’s late films seem specifically chosen to tackle some genre he’d missed since starting out in the ‘20s with dozens of little silent Westerns for Universal. In BEN-HUR/’59, he’d out DeMille DeMille! THE COLLECTOR/’65 with two new stars in a sexually perverse two-hander. STEAL a classy comic caper. FUNNY GIRL/’68 his first musical and another new-born star. Finally, the underrated LIBERATION OF L. B. JONES/’70, a Black Power drama.

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