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Two by Stanley Donen


slaytonf
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The airing of Charade and Arabesque Sunday night afford an interesting study in contrast.  Both are by the same fine director, and in the suspense/thriller genre, but are distinctly different.  One is well-executed, and engaging, while the other is--well, who talks about Arabesque in either Gregory Peck's, or Sophia Loren's filmographies?  Although you can see similar techniques Stanley Donen used in both as part of his directorial style, it seems in Arabesque he makes more of an overt effort to provide visual interest.  As if he were aware it was necessary to compensate for shortcomings in other aspects of the movie.  I'm definitely looking forward to Charade.  It's been a major omission in retrospectives of both Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.  Although it's available to watch in a number of different places on the Internet, none of them have good prints, and a lot of what Stanley Donen does is obscured by grainy, dim, and blurry images.  Let's hope TCM was able to secure a good one.

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The airing of Charade and Arabesque Sunday night afford an interesting study in contrast.  Both are by the same fine director, and in the suspense/thriller genre, but are distinctly different.  One is well-executed, and engaging, while the other is--well, who talks about Arabesque in either Gregory Peck's, or Sophia Loren's filmographies?  Although you can see similar techniques Stanley Donen used in both as part of his directorial style, it seems in Arabesque he makes more of an overt effort to provide visual interest.  As if he were aware it was necessary to compensate for shortcomings in other aspects of the movie.  I'm definitely looking forward to Charade.  It's been a major omission in retrospectives of both Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.  Although it's available to watch in a number of different places on the Internet, none of them have good prints, and a lot of what Stanley Donen does is obscured by grainy, dim, and blurry images.  Let's hope TCM was able to secure a good one.

Sophia Loren provides enough "visual interest" for Donen not to have to provide any more.

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SPOILER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN CHARADE!!!

This thriller has one of the most unbelievable story twists ever:

the treasure that the villains are looking for is an envelope with three rare stamps FROM THREE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, ONE OF THEM THE KINGDOM OF HAWAII--and yet through the entire film nobody notices the implausibility of one envelope being stamped with stamps from three different countries, one of which stopped issuing its own postage back in 1898 because it is no longer independent!

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SPOILER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN CHARADE!!!

This thriller has one of the most unbelievable story twists ever:

the treasure that the villains are looking for is an envelope with three rare stamps FROM THREE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, ONE OF THEM THE KINGDOM OF HAWAII--and yet through the entire film nobody notices the implausibility of one envelope being stamped with stamps from three different countries, one of which stopped issuing its own postage back in 1898 because it is no longer independent!

 

A good example of people not seeing what they're not looking for.  The ingenuity of Lampert's scheme was that he hit on a way of converting his money into a form no one would expect, thus hiding it in plain sight.  Even if they looked at the stamps, they would not understand their value.  Poe used a similar tactic in his short story The Purloined Letter.

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The airing of Charade and Arabesque Sunday night afford an interesting study in contrast.  Both are by the same fine director, and in the suspense/thriller genre, but are distinctly different.  One is well-executed, and engaging, while the other is--well, who talks about Arabesque in either Gregory Peck's, or Sophia Loren's filmographies?  Although you can see similar techniques Stanley Donen used in both as part of his directorial style, it seems in Arabesque he makes more of an overt effort to provide visual interest.  As if he were aware it was necessary to compensate for shortcomings in other aspects of the movie.  I'm definitely looking forward to Charade.  It's been a major omission in retrospectives of both Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.  Although it's available to watch in a number of different places on the Internet, none of them have good prints, and a lot of what Stanley Donen does is obscured by grainy, dim, and blurry images.  Let's hope TCM was able to secure a good one.

 

After watching both of these films tonight and thus being able to "study the contrasts" you mentioned here slayton, I have to say I think you did indeed "nail it" here.

 

In fact, and while I usually like Greg Peck in most things, the thought that Grant would have been much better in his line readings in Arabesque kept crossing my mind while watching that one, and especially with most of the "snappy off-the-cuff" lines Peck was given to say in it.

 

(...but yeah, Sophia NEVER looked better!!!)

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After watching both of these films tonight and thus being able to "study the contrasts" you mentioned here slayton, I have to say I think you did indeed "nail it" here.

 

In fact, and while I usually like Greg Peck in most things, the thought that Grant would have been much better in his line readings in Arabesque kept crossing my mind while watching that one, and especially with most of the "snappy off-the-cuff" lines Peck was given to say in it.

 

(...but yeah, Sophia NEVER looked better!!!)

Great as Sophia looks, she doesn't quite have the light comic touch that Audrey does.

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The airing of Charade and Arabesque Sunday night afford an interesting study in contrast.  Both are by the same fine director, and in the suspense/thriller genre, but are distinctly different.  One is well-executed, and engaging, while the other is--well, who talks about Arabesque in either Gregory Peck's, or Sophia Loren's filmographies?  Although you can see similar techniques Stanley Donen used in both as part of his directorial style, it seems in Arabesque he makes more of an overt effort to provide visual interest.  As if he were aware it was necessary to compensate for shortcomings in other aspects of the movie.  I'm definitely looking forward to Charade.  It's been a major omission in retrospectives of both Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.  Although it's available to watch in a number of different places on the Internet, none of them have good prints, and a lot of what Stanley Donen does is obscured by grainy, dim, and blurry images.  Let's hope TCM was able to secure a good one.

 

 

I agree. Charade is the better film. Arabesque's plot is confusing and very hard to follow. Sophia and her over the top wardrobe does provide visual interest to compensate for awhile. Charade does have some plot holes, too, but is better executed............

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SPOILER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN CHARADE!!!

This thriller has one of the most unbelievable story twists ever:

the treasure that the villains are looking for is an envelope with three rare stamps FROM THREE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, ONE OF THEM THE KINGDOM OF HAWAII--and yet through the entire film nobody notices the implausibility of one envelope being stamped with stamps from three different countries, one of which stopped issuing its own postage back in 1898 because it is no longer independent!

 

 

Yes, that is a bit hard to swallow. and SPOILER ALERT:

 

Also the lack of security at the embassy that would allow the Matthau character to pull off his interview............

 

And of course the Opera House having some open doors allowing anyone to walk in (Public bldgs in films are never locked! LOL.)....

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Great as Sophia looks, she doesn't quite have the light comic touch that Audrey does.

 

 

True. And her character has so many personality/character changes in the plot, it strains credibility............

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Yesterday was "nostalgia day" for me, anyway.

 

I remember going to "the show" to see four films on yesterday.

 

The Birdman Of Alcatraz---went to see it on a Saturday matinee....along with Hell Is For Heroes.  Me and my buddies, also sort of fans of that "new" comic, Bob Newhart, loved that they let him do his famopus "phone call" schtick in the movie!

 

I also remember as a young boy with newly awakening hormones going with my folks to see THE MIRACLE WORKER, and falling for that cute Patty Duke chick! :)

 

AND I wound up at one time sitting in the cool air conditioning of the Park Theater in Lincoln Park and watching CHARADE.  Also remember reading the MAD MAGAZINE parody of it!

 

But some of us 15 year olds, remembering her from EL CID, went to the show to see ARABESQUE just to see LOREN.  Plus, we sorta liked Gregory Peck as an actor.

 

But remembering all that while watching these movies sort of made me feel warm inside.  I seem to need all that I can get lately.  It IS kind of what makes watching old movies fun.

 

Too bad, though......since ALL of them were made AFTER 1960, they WEREN'T "classics"!  ;)

 

 

Sepiatone

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The Birdman Of Alcatraz---went to see it on a Saturday matinee....along with Hell Is For Heroes.  Me and my buddies, also sort of fans of that "new" comic, Bob Newhart, loved that they let him do his famopus "phone call" schtick in the movie!

 

 

 

You might already know this Sepia, but word is that Don Siegel the director of "Hell Is For Heroes" wasn't at all pleased that Newhart did his classic telephone comedy routine in that film, as repostedly he felt Newhart had been foisted upon him by the producers of this movie and that his routine distracted his film from the more dour feel he was after about warfare.

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The airing of Charade and Arabesque Sunday night afford an interesting study in contrast.  Both are by the same fine director, and in the suspense/thriller genre, but are distinctly different.  One is well-executed, and engaging, while the other is--well, who talks about Arabesque in either Gregory Peck's, or Sophia Loren's filmographies?  Although you can see similar techniques Stanley Donen used in both as part of his directorial style, it seems in Arabesque he makes more of an overt effort to provide visual interest.  As if he were aware it was necessary to compensate for shortcomings in other aspects of the movie.  I'm definitely looking forward to Charade.  It's been a major omission in retrospectives of both Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.  Although it's available to watch in a number of different places on the Internet, none of them have good prints, and a lot of what Stanley Donen does is obscured by grainy, dim, and blurry images.  Let's hope TCM was able to secure a good one.

 

Well said.   Yea,  Arabesque is a movie where Perk's stoic (wooded), persona works against the film.    Even Loren and what she brings to the film (mostly her looks),  can't add enough interest to carry that film.

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Yes, that is a bit hard to swallow. and SPOILER ALERT:

 

Also the lack of security at the embassy that would allow the Matthau character to pull off his interview............

 

And of course the Opera House having some open doors allowing anyone to walk in (Public bldgs in films are never locked! LOL.)....

 

Aww, c'mon, don't take the movie so seriously.  It's a souffle.  Just sit back and savor it.  True, there are holes in the plot.  Very few movies of this type don't have them.  But they don't obtrude too much.  Even if the plot were as finely tailored as one by Le Carré, it would not be a much better movie.  The appeal of it comes from the performances of the two lead actors, particularly Audrey Hepburn, who was as charming and adorable as she ever was.  They were unexcelled at combining powerful dramatic moments with a light comic touch.  They were also helped with a solid supporting cast, James Coburn, I think doing the best of them.  And Stanley Donen gave the movie a slick, polished look, never allowing it to stall, and injecting not a small amount of playfulness and wit into the imagery.

 

The most disappointing part of the movie for me is the ending.  But very few movies have good endings, so I don't let it ruin it for me.

 

Oh, and there's killer music by Mancini.

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I watched all of CHARADE, which I had seen only once before, a number of years back during 31 Days of Oscar, and about the first 45 minutes of ARABESQUE, at which point, I was too sleepy to continue, and frankly, the later film wasn't presenting me with much of an argument to try to stay awake.

 

I pretty much agree with slaytonf's assessment of CHARADE. It sure ain't Graham Greene, and it's probably not even Hitchcock's lesser efforts. If you focus on plot nuances, you'll probably think it's a really stupid movie. More than once, I found myself baffled at Hepburn's complete nonchalance about the gravity of her situation. For example, almost immediately after being informed her late husband stole a quarter million dollars from the government, and people are almost certainly going to try to kill her if she doesn't find and turn over that money, the only thing on her mind is going out to a club and playing sexy adult party games involving an orange with Mr. Grant et al. In fact, her character prior to the beginning of the film is a complete cypher - she admits complete ignorance on virtually all counts to any knowledge of her just-murdered husband, not even the most rudimentary knowledge a wife would presumably have. She is by turns as dictated by the plot, both a sophisticated tease and utter child - she playfully and seductively traps Grant in her room so he must shower there, but then immediately appears prudishly horrified at the possibility he might actually remove his clothes. Her repeated rote acceptance of his various identities, always punctuated by the inevitable question is there a Mrs. Whoever was mildly amusing the first time but tiresome by the end of the film.

 

And yet I still find it mostly charming, for the likability of the two leads, for posh and sophisticated locales (thrillers always seem to have more impact for me when set in Europe - maybe I'm a snob), for great supporting performances by Matthau, Kennedy and Coburn and for Mancini's music.

 

ARABESQUE is obviously similar in tone in many respects, but I just couldn't hang with it, despite never having seen it before (and I did make an effort - who knows when TCM will show back-to-back '60s Universals again). It felt like Peck's part was written with Grant in mind, and Peck gives it a game effort, but it felt like an odd fit to me between actor and character. But as convoluted as the plot of CHARADE was, I found myself even less interested in what that inscription in ARABESQUE was all about and why everyone was so interested in it.

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Aww, c'mon, don't take the movie so seriously.  It's a souffle.  Just sit back and savor it.  True, there are holes in the plot.  Very few movies of this type don't have them.  But they don't obtrude too much.  Even if the plot were as finely tailored as one by Le Carré, it would not be a much better movie.  The appeal of it comes from the performances of the two lead actors, particularly Audrey Hepburn, who was as charming and adorable as she ever was.  They were unexcelled at combining powerful dramatic moments with a light comic touch.  They were also helped with a solid supporting cast, James Coburn, I think doing the best of them.  And Stanley Donen gave the movie a slick, polished look, never allowing it to stall, and injecting not a small amount of playfulness and wit into the imagery.

 

The most disappointing part of the movie for me is the ending.  But very few movies have good endings, so I don't let it ruin it for me.

 

Oh, and there's killer music by Mancini.

 

 

Oh, I agree. I enjoy the film despite it's implausibilities here and there. It's sad that Hollywood does not make this kind of sophisticated, classy type of film anymore. There are no more Audrey Hepburns or Cary Grants (or Stanley Donens for that matter).......:(

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Did anyone see the Jonathan Demme remake of Charade some years back? I forget the title. (something like Where's Charlie? Or something like that). i couldnt bring myself to see it as Marky Mark was playing the Cary Grant part. Needless to say it was a big flop............

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It was called THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE with Wahlberg in the Grant role, Thandie Newton in the Hepburn role (meaning there's a black-white romance you probably wouldn't have seen in 1963) and Tim Robbins in the Matthau role. As I recall, it's not terrible. I think I saw it in the theater and have never come across it on television even once in the dozen years since, so I remember very little about it. My classic movie knowledge was pretty scant back then. I'm not sure at the time that I even knew it was a remake.

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It was called THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE with Wahlberg in the Grant role, Thandie Newton in the Hepburn role (meaning there's a black-white romance you probably wouldn't have seen in 1963) and Tim Robbins in the Matthau role. As I recall, it's not terrible. I think I saw it in the theater and have never come across it on television even once in the dozen years since, so I remember very little about it. My classic movie knowledge was pretty scant back then. I'm not sure at the time that I even knew it was a remake.

 

 

I've read some of the reviews on imdb. Pretty funny (and scathing). Wonder if it ever pops up on tv? I dont want to pay to rent it......

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