“For a burglar you’re not very brave, are you?” – Nicole Bonnet.
November is at an end, and the fun (and sometimes hectic) Christmas season is nearly here. So for this little venture down movie memory lane, it’s off to 1966. This was a smashing year culturally. Both Batman and Star Trek had their debuts on TV, while in comics the Silver Surfer and Galactus first appeared in Fantastic Four #48. While off in Hollywood, Audrey Hepburn’s latest movie hit big screens, a rollicking comedy/heist spattered with romance throughout. With William Wyler working again with Audrey and co-starring Peter O’Toole, this proved to be a memorable movie.
William Wyler had previously worked with Audrey on Roman Holiday, so the chance for these two to be together again on a picture meant that it could flow smoothly. William was the one who had taken a chance on Audrey back in 1953. In many cases, he helped fully launch her career as a cinema star in choosing her to act alongside Gregory Peck. The two of them working together again was like old friends coming together and it being as if no time had passed.
Audrey’s character (Nicole Bonnet) in this film is an amusing one. Her role is that of the daughter of an art forger (played by Hugh Griffith). Her world turns upside down when she confronts thief Simon Dermott (Peter O’Toole). Suddenly she finds herself wrapped up in a heist story worthy of Monty Python involving breaking into a museum with Simon (Peter) in order to steal back her father’s prized Cellini Venus statue (which is a fake). This is a clear character twist for Audrey, by playing a character who would never dream of doing such an act. Yet she is willing to in order that her father is not discovered as a forger and jailed. While the role is not a musically infused number like Funny Face or Roman Holiday, there are many moments throughout the story where she, and fellow star Peter O’Toole, have great interactions together.
Peter O’Toole is in many respects, a sterling example of a rising star who boomed (similar to Audrey during the 50’s). His big break came in 1962 starring in Lawrence of Arabia. How to Steal a Million is far less serious then “Lawrence,” but still has a grounded plot intertwined with humor and witty banter/dialogue. The sly and charming manner in which he conducts himself around Audrey, yet the amateur nature of his acts as an art thief, show that the film is and always will be first and foremost, a comedy. Not surprisingly, he and Audrey fall in love on screen and have achieved another of those classic Hollywood “happy endings” by the end of the story.
This entire month has been dedicated to Audrey Hepburn and her career as a film star. Partly due to the fact that November (more commonly associated with Thanksgiving), felt like the kind of month to sit down and each week write thoughts on this titan of cinema and one of her fabulous films. Audrey was, and still is to this day, a bright and shining star in the Hollywood sky. That is why this whole month was devoted to Audrey Hepburn, because of who she was and what she was in the movie industry. She was a great actress, dedicated to producing top quality work. Despite only being active for 41 years, the mark left upon the entertainment world is a deep one and will never go away.
November has been a fun month for Theater Thursdays. Each movie chosen and reflected on was picked because of Audrey’s performance and also because each represents a certain point in her career. Roman Holiday represents the true start of years as a big name actress, while How to Steal a Million represents something of the tail end. To all who follow and read these weekly trips back to the 20th century world of motion pictures, may it have been an enjoyable month and a fun trip down memory lane for all who grew up with Audrey’s movies and have loved and adored her work over the years. So make a point to take time this week to pop some popcorn, sit down with loved ones and laugh out loud to the antics of Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in How to Steal a Million.