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  How to Steal a Million What's the score, baby?
Year: 1966
Director: William Wyler
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Eli Wallach, Hugh Griffith, Charles Boyer, Fernand Gravey, Marcel Dalio, Jacques Marin, Moustache
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: Wealthy art forger, Charles Bonnet (Hugh Griffith) lends his prized sculpture, the Cellini Venus to a Parisian museum. His daughter Nicole (Audrey Hepburn) fears an insurance investigation will unmask the Venus as a fake, so she hires suave burglar Simon Dermott (Peter O’Toole) to steal it back. Problem is, Simon isn’t a really a burglar. He’s a private detective hired to expose Nicole’s papa as a fraud. Nevertheless, Simon risks committing the crime because, well, Nicole is Audrey Hepburn. Need I say any more? The pair are embroiled in a crazy caper, further complicated when American millionaire David Leland (Eli Wallach) sets his sights on the Cellini Venus and Nicole…

One of those sunny confections guaranteed to brighten up a soggy, Sunday afternoon How to Steal a Million is admittedly lightweight stuff. Less dependent upon plot than the lovability of its leads, the movie scores with a double-barrelled blast of movie star charisma. Peter O’Toole at his most debonair (introduced with a close-up on those famous blue eyes) and Audrey Hepburn, all doe-eyes and designer fashions. She stays stylish, even when wearing nothing but black wellies and a pink nightgown (ooh, baby…) Like other films of its ilk, this is fantasy for the Swinging Sixties set. It papers over the cracks with prettiness, but the familiar ingredients (a glamorous locale, frantic gags, thrills usually revolving around some sort of heist) are stirred by sure-fire director William Wyler. Away from award-winning masterpieces like The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Wyler was an equally dab hand at frothy, fanciful fun. His Roman Holiday (1953) is arguably the greatest fairytale romance ever and won Hepburn a best actress Oscar. Wyler’s third collaboration with his favourite actress offers less substance than Hepburn’s best romantic vehicles, but remains playful, self-aware and effortlessly chic.

In-jokes abound, from Nicole wide-eyed over a Hitchcock anthology (Hitchcock’s planned team-up with Hepburn, No Bail for the Judge, never came to be), to O’Toole’s improvised quip about her cleaning lady disguise (“It gives Givenchy the night off!”). The script is less concerned with the intricacies of an elaborate heist than it is with witty banter, but Simon’s boomerang, wire and magnet trick is a delightful bit of movie land ingenuity. Eli Wallach was brought on board as a substitution for George C. Scott (fired after one day of shooting). Though better suited to grittier roles, he fits nicely here and the film offers engaging cameos from French comedian Moustache (the big museum guard who keeps taking a swig of wine) and old smoothie, Charles Boyer.

The restaurant rendezvous remains a crack-up, not least because of O’Toole doing his best Bogie imitation (“What’s the score, baby?”). It’s the key scene, where Simon and Nicole are each playing a part, underlining what this movie is all about: watching two attractive, film stars at play. Though overlong, this holds the interest as a beguiling escapist fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to whiz around Paris in an E-type Jag with Audrey Hepburn on their arm?
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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