In Paris, wealthy Charles Bonnet is well known in the art world as a collector of rare pieces, mostly of the impressionist masters. He will on occasion sell paintings from his collection at auction. In reality, he is an art forger, he only reproducing those pieces known to have gone missing. His daughter, Nicole Bonnet, wants him to stop this business fearing that some day soon he will get caught. She is most concerned about he loaning out his Cellini Venus statue to the Kléber-Lafayette Museum, as she knows that technology can now test for things such as material age which would prove that the statue and by association he is a fraud. He ends up causing a problem for himself when he signs a $1 million insurance policy for the statue for the museum, which unwittingly allows them to test the piece for its authenticity. To save her father from jail, Nicole feels the only thing she can do is try to steal the statue from the gallery which may not be the easiest thing to do especially as ...Written by
Walter Matthau was the first choice for the Eli Wallach part but was looking for $200,000 so they went with the less expensive George C. Scott. Scott had been on the set a few weeks before shooting began. However on his first day of shooting, he didn't turn up until after lunch, and director William Wyler took the decision to fire him. He was already finding it difficult to handle two heavy drinkers, Peter O'Toole and Hugh Griffith, and the prospect of a third one was just too overwhelming. On hearing of Scott's removal from the production, Audrey Hepburn became quite inconsolable. See more »
The guards would have immediately searched the cleaning women and their buckets, finding the Cellini Venus. See more »
A Filmic Bon Bon; a Trend-Setting, Light-Hearted Romp
The trio of William Wyler directing, Audrey Hepburn as a charming French woman in need of help and Peter O'Toole as the dashing fellow who agrees to commit a crime for her seemed at first glance to many film aficionados to be potentially a fine partnership for making a winning comedy. "How to Steal a Million" in fact turned out to be atmospheric, very French, very sophisticated and a great deal of fun. The clever story and screenplay by George Bradshaw and Harry Kurnitz worked almost everywhere, I suggest. Some of the film's humor seems obvious to me--the use of rotund Gallic comedian Moustache borders upon parody at times; but this is a fundamentally light-hearted romp of a film from its flimsy but serviceable premise to its satisfying romantic conclusion. It is a comedy; and it turns upon O'Toole's ability to devise a means of stealing a well-guarded art object from a major French Museum, a physical feat which he proves to be quite capable of achieving. The reason he is asked by Hepburn to plan that robbery is that the lovely statue now on display is about to be examined and authenticated by experts--and her father created the work, as he has created so many others, his charming and adroit forgeries. There are several other currents at work in the plot as well; there is a U.S. buyer after the piece, Hepburn 's belief that her champion is a crook turns out to be an unfounded assumption, and he is falling in love with her as she is with him throughout the unfolding of actions and events. The production is expensive-looking but never "heavy" in feel to my way of thinking. Givenchy did Miss Hepburn's gowns, Charles Lang was the cinematographer, and the production design by Alexander Trauner and the bubbly music by John Williams both served the story very strongly. In the cast, O'Toole and Hepburn seem perfectly mismatched; she is a bit inconsistent, I believe not knowing how "old" to play her part; O'Toole is intelligent, and plays both a crook with a sense of humor and a romantic admirer of Miss Hepburn's very successfully. Her father who proudly but inadvertently loans the piece to the Museum and misses the clause relative to its being examined by experts is Hugh Griffith, who suggests as much as he blusters. His likability is the key to the plot, because if he were not talented and likable and worth saving, the viewers would not accept the story-line'e basic premise--much ado to save him. Eli Wallach is bright as usual as the obsessed would-be buyer; others in the cast include Charles Boyer, Fernand Gravey, Marcel Dallio, Jacques Mann, the aforementioned Moustache and Roger Treville. The film is often discussed as if it were a trifle, a cinematic glass of champagne and a delightful and only a bit-overlong comedy. the attitudes expressed miss the three points of the film...It is noir, since the police cannot be brought into the case; it is comedy, which means its tone of light-heartedness and clever dialogue is very often exactly right; and its sub-plot is adventure, a very daring and ingenious combination of psychology, physical paraphernalia and enjoyable suspense. It is well-liked by many, and as a writer, I am certainly one of its admirers..
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