Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Film-Night : : How To Steal A Million

I first saw How To Steal A Million at a drive-in movie theater near the coast of central California . . . as the fog rolled in.

It started out clear and bright and visible (the operative word) at dusk. But by the time Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn were hiding in a broom closet while they attempted to steal back the Cellini Venus forgery her father (the forger in question) lent to a Parisian museum, invisibility was the order of the evening.

And as the film left two days later, it was literally years before I ever got to actually see the movie!

I still think it was worth the wait.

While How To Steal A Million is definitely light-weight fare compared to other films in the careers of both Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, it's a delightful comedy when you're in the mood for such. It's also something of a comedic caper movie, if you like those. And if you're a fan of quirky sixties couture (which no one wears better than Miss Hepburn) it's a definite fashion trip.

Basically, the story is this: Nicole Bonnet, lovely long-suffering daughter of master forger Charles Bonnet, discovers that her dear papa has loaned one of his best works (read: finest forgeries), a Cellini Venus, to a Paris museum. Then she learns that the museum needs to verify the Venus's value for insurance purposes. This means it will be examined by experts.

Horrors! Papa's true occupation will be found out!

When Nicole surprises a tuxedo-clad burglar (this would be O'Toole, looking drop-dead gorgeous in his tux) in her father's workshop, presumably attempting to steal a painting she can hardly call the police. Comic mayhem ensues in which she both shoots the burglar (flesh wound, don't worry!) and ends up driving him back to his hotel!

See, I told you it was a comedy. Anyway, the 'burglar' is actually inspector and art expert Simon Dermott who is already aware of Papa's true occupations. He just needs to gather evidence before bringing the miscreant to justice.

Meeting Bonnet's beautiful daughter complicates that. And things get worse when Nicole, believing Dermott is a real burglar, asks him to steal the Venus so her father won't go to jail.

True love wins out, of course, and Simon, intrigued by the challenge and definitely smitten with Nicole, says he'll do it.

Almost always the fog doesn't roll in at this point, and you actually get to see what happens when Simon -- and Nicole, because she isn't just a stand-around-and-look-beautiful heroine) attempt to steal the forgery.

I won't spoil that part of it for you. I'll just say that it will leave you smiling.

From a romance reader and romance writer perspective, the relationship is great fun, too. The chemistry between the effervescent Nicole and the sexy charisma of Simon Dermott is worthy of a romance novel.

There aren't many actors who can play opposite Audrey Hepburn and make you believe it would work: Cary Grant in Charade, Peter O'Toole here. That's about it.

From the sheer standpoint of enjoying all that beauty -- both male and female -- it's worth a look.
Not to mention you get to enjoy exchanges of dialogue that are both fun and carry the story forward developing the relationship -- and the cameraderie -- between Nicole and Simon:

When she shoots him:
Nicole: Don't be such a baby, it's only a flesh wound!Simon: Happens to be my flesh.

After the first burglary -- in her house:

Simon: Just one more tiny favour: like an idiot I forgot to wear gloves on the job. I may have left some fingerprints. Be an angel. Before you go to bed, just give the frame of the painting a little wipe with a clean cloth, ok?

Nicole: Certainly. Anything else? You wouldn't like a forged passport or some counterfeit money or...
Simon: Oh, no no no.
Nicole: You're mad. Utterly mad. I suppose you want to kiss me goodnight?

Simon: Oh, I don't usually, not on the first acquaintance, but you've been such a good sport...
And just before the Happily Ever After:
Simon: [crazy Senor Paravideo comes as Nicole and Simon are leaving] Who's that? Nicole:[obviously lying] Papa's cousin... from South America!
Simon: You know for someone who started lying recently, you're showing a real flare!

Nicole: Oh thank you!

So if you're looking for a nice bright pick-me-up, leave-me-feeling-good film, if you want to spend an hour and a half or so with a gorgeous flippant couple wearing eye-popping clothes (well, h
ers are, and he looks fine in that tux) while they pull off a silly (in the best possible sense of the word) caper, How To Steal A Million works every time.
On a warm and fuzzy scale, it's middling, maybe a 7. It's not warm and fuzzy so much as it's funny and sharp and delightful. It will leave you with a smile on your face. For that it gets a 9.

Anne McAllister's most recent Presents, The Boss's Wife For A Week, was an October release in North America. It may still be around Down Under where it was also out this month.

In UK, where they are already apparently well on their way to celebrating Christmas, her Code of the West book, The Cowboy's Christmas Miracle, is out now (November release) in a Silhouette Spotlight re-issue edition called Their Little Miracles.

Stop by and visit her blog. She has been in the midst of posting Kate Walker's story of Eamon who went to Ireland in pursuit of Abby Green. Not quite Peter and Audrey, but definitely warm and fuzzy!


  1. Anne, BRILLIANT choice of film! This is one of my all time favourites. As you say: funny and sharp and delightful. Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole are an absolute delight in this. Actually I've been keeping my eyes open in the hopes of seeing a copy on sale somewhere lately. Now I wish I'd found it already so I could sit down and watch it tonight.

    On another note, congratulations on your 'Boss's Wife for a Week'. I read it recently and had a great time. Thank you!


  2. Hi Annie
    So glad you enjoyed the film, too. It's fun. I hope some more people track it down.

    Also, thanks for the kind words about The Boss's Wife For A Week. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

  3. One of my fave movies EVER Anne! I am a huge Audrey fan and this was my first introduction to Peter O'Toole. Those blue, blue eyes... yummmmm.

    I can't believe I hadn't done this film already! Beautiful choice. And please, everyone else, do track it down.