I think I might hate ‘cute.’ Or at least the pseudo-realistic ‘cute’ that permeated film through the 1950s and 1960s, when the films became so much about enjoying the actors’ charisma, there was no sense of any reality to the films’ situations and conflicts. In that way, How to Steal a Million is an interesting companion to Sneakers. Sneakers is still a real film, How to Steal a Million is not….
The film’s mildly charming–Audrey Hepburn’s in it, after all–but the first half is too long. The second half, which switches focus to Peter O’Toole is better, but probably only because it contains the heist scene (the heist genre has since learned, when doing ‘cute,’ have a heist at the beginning too, to set high expectations for the final caper). I suppose what’s most wrong with the film is William Wyler. It feels like he’s doing a light comedy and knows it. The film hasn’t got anything to say about… anything. It’s either treading water or paying for scotch. As it comes right after The Collector in his filmography, it almost looks like it has to be scotch money.
I’ve seen the film before, years and years ago, and I remembered it being a lot better. I’d forgotten Wyler directed it, however, which is hardly a good sign. The most stunning thing about the film is probably that Hepburn was thirty-seven when she made it. The only sign of her age might be the eye-shadow… and I suppose it did make me want to watch Wait Until Dark again. Blond-haired, blue-eyed O’Toole leaves no impression….
Directed by William Wyler; screenplay by Harry Kurnitz, based on a story by George Bradshaw; director of photography, Charles Lang; edited by Robert Swink; music by John Williams, production designer, Alexandre Trauner; produced by Fred Kohlmar; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Audrey Hepburn (Nicole), Peter O’Toole (Simon Dermott), Eli Wallach (Davis Leland), Hugh Griffith (Bonnet), Charles Boyer (DeSolnay), Fernand Gravey (Grammont), and Marcel Dalio (Senor Paravideo).