When her husband is murdered, not that she was too keen on him, Regina Lampert finds herself alone in Paris without a penny to her name and stalked by various men who seem to think she knows the location of a stolen WWII payroll. Only the charming Peter Joshua seems to be on her side, but he does keep changing his name.
This is what happens when the director of Singin’ In The Rain chances his skillful arm at a Hitchcockian thriller. It’s glossy, charming, silly, and far too self-aware to be at all thrilling. If he’d added songs it would have been magnificent, as it stands it’s a slight piece of star-caressed capering.
Everything seems too playful, there is no peril, even for the waifish Audrey Hepburn bobbing about on a sea of deception after her no-good husband goes and gets himself murdered. With this tone set, the film’s procession of murders and rigorous twists are delivered with a breezy nonchalance, punchlines to giddy jokes. It would be macabre, if Donen didn’t shoot Paris like an elegant dream. This film is so light it borders on the featherbrained, but the writing is witty and if you have Cary Grant you might as well make full use of him.
Grant was never as fully Grant as in this picture, his dented swagger, his pursed look of wounded pride, his teasing sense of being able to get exactly what he wants if he could just spare the effort. When one particular hoodlum, out of a flock of such thugs, forces him to the roof of a Parisian office block with the aim of teaching him to fly, Grant just shrugs: “All right, but the view better be worth it.” He’s magnificent, but stoppers up the plot like a champagne bottle, no fizz escapes past his prankish grin.
Hepburn is a good match, all jerks and sighs, carrying the sort of exasperated why-me candour of an Earthbound Barbarella, although she’s far more chaste. The best thing about the movie is watching them fall in love, a process that would be greatly sped up if he could figure out which side he’s on. There is a muddle of secrets and lies to work themselves out, and the whereabouts of a cache of cash her late husband seems to have stolen from his friends (played with offhand callousness by James Coburn, George Kennedy and Ned Glass). But the plot is just motions, it’s the wilting of Hepburn’s distrust that counts, and the mooring of Grant’s waywardness. Just drink in the smooth romance of the movie’s most famous line, as a drunk Regina splits open her heart: “Do you know what’s wrong with you?” she asks of Peter. “Nothing.”
Perhaps the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made.
Reviewed by Ian Nathan