The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Poster

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Favored over the remake
eschwartzkopf29 September 2003
The large number of reviews tossing this in the trash bin as an overwrought 1960s period piece, or inferior when compared to the Pierce Brosnan/Rene Russo remake caused me to find the DVD and take another look.

The problem with the 1967 film is that, unlike most films made today (including the remake), viewers need to think and connect the dots; and, there isn't always a "right" ending with all details neat and tidy. This is still a classic of the caper films, with McQueen giving the definitive performance of his absolute-cool image, and Dunaway as the Joan Crawford of the Virginia Slims generation.

The then-innovative parts of the film, including the multiple split screens and the repetition of the theme song with Noel Harrison look dated (and the split-screen is only effective on the big, big screens of the 1960s-era theaters), but the chess game is still the most-seductive bit of film where all the clothes stay on and nobody talks.

Listening to director Norman Jewison's commentary on the DVD is enlightening. The split screens were indeed a timely gimmick (Jewison and the producer saw the technique at Expo '67 in Montreal), and his explanation of the last scene in the cemetery gives a good insight as to how he aimed the film in general.
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Tense, stylish, serious
snaunton12 December 1999
This is a film about games: the defining image, a game of chess; and then, as well, the intellectual game that robbery provides for Crown (McQueen), and the two games, professional and sexual, in which Vicki and Crown stalk each other. For these players, games are very serious and the outcome of each uncertain.

The film is of its time, but works in ours, as well and better than the recent remake. Those looking for a fast action "heist" movie will be disappointed: this film is about alienation and attraction, trust and betrayal, about working out what matters - all those eternal themes. It will appeal to those content to focus on personal chemistry unpunctuated by regular gunfire. None the less, the planning and execution of the bank robbery is cleverly done and provides sufficient impetus to drive the rest of the straightforward plot. Crown's motivations, tedium and greed, are readily understandable; Vicki's are similar. As people they are similar and evenly matched. Vicki is stylish and beautiful and, using her sexuality as well as her intellect, she is Crown's equal or better - which is not true of the remake. In the end, it is she who defines the outcome, but what it will be and why Vicki makes the choice she does are left unresolved. So, too, we remain uncertain whether the possibility truly exists, that their alienation might be healed.

The focus is clearly on the couple. Eddy Malone's role as the police detective does not extend beyond that of a Greek chorus, providing the conventional and moral reference against which the actions of the principals are to be judged. Jack Weston's Erwin, a very worried getaway driver, simply contrasts the player of the game, Crown, with the instruments with which he plays it.

The performances of the entire cast are exemplary. McQueen's clipped manner builds the tension and intensifies the effect of his weakening to Vicki's seductive moves during the chess game. The role of Vicki is perfect for Dunaway, making no great demands on her to project herself, no extended dialogue, which she does not generally manage well; but the disposition of her body, her power of gesture, and her brief, pithy statements all work brilliantly. Jack Weston produces an excellent cameo performance that pretty well had me perspiring as much as he was. Malone plays a straight role straight, the way it should be.

The split screen title sequence and passages in the film work well; they do not distract, as this technique can, but are used to capture and compress moments of action that are significant but do not require extended treatment. The Legrand soundtrack is brilliantly effective, including the long passages of real tension, without music.

This really is a great classic, a film that will endure, and those who have difficulty with it should see it again and allow themselves the time to be seduced by its low key perfection.
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Unforgettable 60's cool
UGLYBOB572 July 2005
This movie is for fans of the 60s era not just 60's movies. It is a vehicle for displaying McQueen's cool and Dunaway's style. Made and set in an age when only the hippest were members of the jet set. Besides the two stars, look for solid performances from a very young Yaphet Kotto and the always disgusting Jack Weston.

The film itself is well crafted, beautifully photographed and brilliantly directed, it also has a great score. Jewison makes use of the split screen effect, several places in the film. While not only visually interesting, it also captures something of the essence of the era. Few people today will realise the significance of the split screen effect, as they don't remember Montreal's Expo/67.

While essentially a cool heist flic, and one of the first, this film is much more. It is a subtle study of human behaviour and the basic characteristics of man and woman. McQueen is the bored rich playboy and Dunaway is the cool, yet seductive private eye, who is not above using her feminine charms to solve a case. From time to time, the film hints at Crown's inner crisis, he is constantly in need of distraction, to prevent himself from dwelling on the fact that his life is essentially empty and meaningless.

Throughout the film, McQueen and Dunaway play a cat and mouse game, both on the professional level and also on the sexual level. The sexual tension during the chess game for example is so palpable, you can't help but be drawn in, dwelling on every stroke of Dunaway's fingers and every twitch on McQueen's face.

Unlike the modern remake, which is vapid by comparison, this film forces the viewer to pay attention, or risk missing the whole point. The pace of the original is much slower than the remake, and so might not appeal to those raised on video games.

The ending of this film gives us some real insight into the true nature of the relationships between men and women.

Overall, this film is a modern masterpiece.
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The Crown Affair is an Under-rated Masterpiece
filmphilosopher4 March 2003
I had to write this comment after reading the other comment about this fantastic film. You must watch this with the anticipation of someone about to relish an intricate and complex dish, with the feel of The Italian Job in mind, with the knowledge that Steve McQueen is the epitome of cool (see the Tao of Steve), and with the desire to see Movie Making as it should be. This is at base a heist movie, but with Steve at the helm as a wealthy businessman who is in it for kicks, you ride along with him and enjoy his every conquest of Faye Dunaway. The "Chess with Sex" scene is very sensual and has been mimicked in many movies (Austin Powers). The soundtrack is fantastic and I think "Windmills of Your Mind" won an Oscar for Best Soundtrack. The multi-split-screen views are, in my opinion, very clever as they tell different parts of the story whilst building the suspense, as well as looking very stylish. The ending is not confusing, it is intriguing, bittersweet, tantalising, and surprising. Watch and enjoy, those in the know.
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The Perfect Crime
thinker169110 July 2006
The Thomas Crown affair begs the question. What do the rich think of when they are bored? Norman Jewison decided to answer that question with a subtle, but over the top version of cops and robbers. Thomas Crown (suprisingly, but adroitly played by Steve McQueen) is a bored, millionaire who asks, "Who do I want to be tomorrow?" To that end, he decides on 'kicks.' In what seems like an absentminded challenge to himself, Crown designs and implements a down to the minute bank robbery. The plan is fantastic. He selects and hires five total strangers at random, instructs them on their part of the Bank robbery, then sets them in motion. What follows is perhaps the finest cat and mouse crime game between two intelligent and sophisticated players. Faye Dunaway plays Vicki Anderson, a top notch insurance investigator who for ten percent of recovered loot promises the capture of her agile quarry. Standing by to arrest the elusive Crown is Paul Burke, who plays Lt. Edward 'Eddy' Malone. Jack Weston portrays Erwin Weaver the get-a-way driver who could jeopardize Crowns Perfect crime. With the famous, "Windmills of your Mind" theme song, the viewer is hauntingly allowed into the mind of a sympathetic man and one cannot help but root for the thief. This film was McQueen's favorite. *****
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An Affair To Remember
G_a_l_i_n_a14 March 2006
The original "Thomas Crown Affair" directed by Norman Jewison is one of the coolest movies ever made and great fun for all of its 100 minutes - a clever bank-heist caper combined with the sensual romance where both participants (the brilliant bank robber and his match, the sultry and shrewd insurance investigator) are sophisticated, quick-witted and oh so cool. The split-screen technique really works well in this movie and I should mention the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" by Michel Legrand that very deservingly received an Oscar - and it does not happen often in the best song categories.

The chess game between "King Of Cool" Steve McQueen and 27 year old Faye Dunaway in the most provocative dress possible is one of the sexiest and most exiting without actual sex involved (my favorite kind of scenes - let my imagination work, let everything happen in my mind) scenes ever filmed. IMO, the 60s was one of the best dressed decades ever with the first wave of mini (and I mean it) skirts and elegant suits and dresses.

From Faye Dunaway's interview to "USA Today" about working with McQueen, "We had the most magical spark. Our hearts and souls combined. There was no romance off screen but on screen it was like a smack."
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An Excellent Movie Even If Out of Character for McQueen
wolfgar17 March 2003
I cannot think of anything that I did not like about the TCA. I read some of the other reviews, and I can understand why they might come to their conclusions to the contrary.

First, McQueen does look a little out of character being a financier, but as in most of his other roles, he is in control of the situation. He plays the loner outside of the situation and/or system. Even the women that came into his arms are issued temporary visa only as shown by Faye Dunaway left holding the bag at the end of the movie. He played her like a violin.

Someone mentioned that they hated the multiple shots used in several scenes, and that it was overused and probably pointless. I completely disagree. I think that it adds dimension and excitement when it used. During the robbery, the viewer can witness several aspects of the caper as it unfolds. The polo shots were fantastic and exciting.

To me McQueen was a bit of a mystery. What did he really want? "Kicks" as suggested by Paul Burke the police investigator? He told Faye Dunaway that it was he against the system, which leaves me a little less than satisfied. He certainly seemed to be bored. Everything came to him too easily.

Faye Dunaway started out great with the pitbull attitude toward reclaiming the money for the insurance reward. I liked the repartee at the initial meeting with McQueen at the art auction. I felt she showed weakness at their first dinner meeting when McQueen accused her of having a "funny, dirty little mind". The surveillance, "replacing the carpet" in his mansion and IRS audits forever were good blows she landed. McQueen always seemed to be one step ahead. Even before the last robbery when he said he had to know where she stood, I think he already was on the plane to Europe without her. For Faye, it was a lose-lose situation. Whether she ever was really in love with him or not, she got far to close to draw the line.

The chess scene in McQueen's den was probably the sexiest scene I have ever witnessed. Everything occurred in the viewer's mind -- no nudity or anything more than kiss on screen.

This movie was wonderful, a very good look at a refreshing look at the 60s with wealth and power. Even cigarette smoking had not become a pariah.

PS: I saw the Pierce Brosnan version of TCA, and it was zero in my estimation, and that was with the nudity. Don't waste your time on it.
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McQueen's female companion in Thomas Crown
trrammler31 July 2008
McQueen's young woman with an accent is the epitome of the gorgeous sexy mini-skirt brunette of the 60s. What is her real name? I think it is Astrid Heerenová but I cannot find a photo to verify it. The moment when she steps out of bed in her under-wear has a type of sexiness that is simple and desirable. Again, her figure is pure female 1960s. Simply a gorgeous woman but apparently did not perform in many more pictures after Crown. Her 60s beauty and the mystery of who she is is infatuating. Similarly, Brosnan had a young woman though she turned out to be effectively a step-daughter. McQueen's squeeze I think appears only twice; once picking up the phone in bed and jumping out to dress, and on that day meeting McQueen in the field as he lands his glider. (remarkable how glider technology improved in that 30 year period). Her shear beauty, sensitive female voice with concern for McQueen just makes you want to fall in love with her. Well, anyways can someone offer some details about her background and life?
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A Triumph of Style over Substance- but with style like this, who's complaining?
JamesHitchcock30 August 2005
Thomas Crown is a Boston financier who organises a daring bank robbery. This crime is not committed because he needs the money- he has made a large fortune from entirely lawful activities- but because he is bored with life and needs excitement. The police are in the dark as to who might have been responsible, but the bank's insurers are determined to recover their money and appoint Vicki Anderson, a tough female investigator, to look into the affair. Vicki soon comes to suspect Crown, but cannot prove his involvement, and so a game of cat and mouse begins between them. Vicki makes contact with Crown, hoping that he will give himself away, but he is well aware of her suspicions and is too clever to betray himself. They find themselves attracted to one another and eventually begin a love affair, leaving Vicki torn between her feelings for Crown and the job she has been assigned to do (in which she also has a financial interest, as she has been promised a percentage of any money she recovers).

The above scenario is, of course, implausible, but this is not a realistic film. It is a glossy colour supplement of a film that one watches not for realism or for its plot but for an atmosphere that has been described as the epitome of sixties cool. The trappings of Crown's millionaire lifestyle are much on display- his expensive cars, his luxuriously furnished penthouse apartment, his Cape Cod beach-house, his private glider, his games of golf and polo. (His surname is significantly derived from a symbol of wealth and power). The two leading actors, both iconic figures of the sixties, are perfectly cast. Steve McQueen was known not only as the Cooler King (his role in "The Great Escape") but also as the King of Cool. He was normally cast in "tough guy" roles, but here he broadens his range by taking on the role of a suave, wealthy playboy (although still with a hint of toughness), the sort of man every man wants to be and every woman wants for herself. Faye Dunaway was perhaps not a classical beauty in the style of some other sixties icons such as Raquel Welch or Julie Christie, but few actresses were better than she at conveying elegant, sophisticated glamour.

Everyone who sees this film seems to remember it for the same three things. First, there is director Norman Jewison's use of the "split screen" technique during the robbery and in the scenes of the polo match. This has been criticised as a gimmick, but I found that it did help to give these sequences a greater sense of urgency and rapid movement, a sense also heightened by Michel Legrand's driving musical score. (Legrand also provided a similar score for the British film "The Go-Between"). Second, there is the famous scene, full of sexual symbolism and suggestion but without any overt sexual content, where Vicki seduces Crown- or perhaps it would be more accurate to say they seduce one another- over a game of chess. (Faye Dunaway was at her best here). Third is the well-known theme song "The Windmills of Your Mind". The song's rather enigmatic lyrics do not have any direct reference to the plot of the film, but it fits the general mood perfectly, particularly as the plot itself is often enigmatic.

The sixties were the golden age of the heist movie with films such as "Topkapi", "The Biggest Bundle of them All" and "The Italian Job", all of which featured daring robberies carried out by a glamorous cast, often in an exotic setting. This genre has been criticised- and there is justice in the criticism- for glamorising crime and dishonesty, and "The Thomas Crown Affair", although it concentrates as much on the aftermath of the crime as on the robbery itself, falls within this tradition and must therefore bear some of the criticism. It is, however, unlikely that it ever persuaded anyone to take up a career as a millionaire playboy criminal mastermind. It is too obviously a fantasy for that- with its visual tricks, its highly stylised acting (especially from Miss Dunaway) and a general atmosphere that seems unreal, at times even dreamlike, it has about as much to do with real crime as the James Bond films have to do with the everyday work of the British Secret Service. Moreover, unlike some of the other heist movies, such as "The Italian Job" or "The Biggest Bundle", which have artificially moralistic endings, "The Thomas Crown Affair" at least has the courage of its own amorality. Its ending may be ambiguous, but it does not try to drive home a "crime does not pay" message.

I prefer this film to the recent Pierce Brosnan remake which, although it has its good points, lacks the distinctive style of the original film. The original has, in fact, been criticised for being a triumph of style over substance. Well yes, it is- but with style like this, who's complaining? 7/10
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All around perfection
mbrown-727 July 2001
Amazing movie. I give movies a 10 when I can come up with no suggestion at all to make it better. The cinematography, editing, dialogue, acting, costumes, locations and most of all direction of this movie are perfect. A definite must see if you are a fan of James Bond or risk taking films such as The Graduate and Rosemary's Baby. After you watch it, make sure to watch the remake which simply pales in comparison. The two together are a perfect example of what we loose from the comtemporary Hollywood blockbuster formula.
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'Style over Substance' is the point of this film
apban28 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In the audio commentary for this film Norman Jewison describe TCA as a film of 'style over substance' and he's right, but the style is the very point of this film. As Norman Jewison points out in the audio commentary from the sound mixing, to camera work, to the editing it was all an experiment in style and the final ingredient in this experiment is the acting. First Faye Dunaway is uber, calm, sexy and collected as she openly admits that she's 'immoral and in it for the money' and is not afraid to use her womanly charms to get what she wants. But for me it's Steve McQueen who sets the tone for this film and in my opinion I find it hard to believe that he found this role challenging because as always he is the epitome of playing it cool.

Now I first saw the re-make before I saw the original version and I can't say which I prefer more, there are elements of the re-make that made the idea of the film somewhat stronger but then there are the more quite and subtle moments in the original that were somewhat trampled on by the re-make, for example the love scene. In the original it is a somewhat cheeky, humorous, and a quietly smouldering piece of storytelling, but in the re-make it is nothing more than a full blown, out and out, there no need to imagine it affair. Also another thing that the re-make will not surpass is Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, now I like Pierce Brosnan, but Steve McQueen is cool without trying to play at being cool and that's the difference. Also the original doesn't go for the Hollywood ending of Tommy and Vicki ending up together. As Norman Jewison says in the audio commentary of the original the fact that Tomas Crown, before he's even done the second robbery, has made up his mind that he'll be on the plane and knows Vicki will betray him is wonderful cynical, he never even gave her the chance.

But to give the re-make some credit the fact that it has Thomas Crown take part in the art robbery is a nice touch and adds more to the idea that he's doing it for kicks. Also the re-make makes a bit more effort to give the story more substance, and that's something that the original should have had.

If the original Thomas Crown Affair had a bit more substance, and a better development of plot, the caper itself and Tommy's and Vicki love affair then I think the film would have a much higher standing in cinema history.

But then again Thomas Crown's life is all about style with no substance, a wealthy man who lives in a big house by himself with no other meaning to his life than to play the part of the rich playboy being seen at the right clubs and wearing what's fashionable. No wonder the man was bored.
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Colourful, kitsch 60's thriller
foz-322 August 1999
Take one playboy millionaire, a gorgeous woman, a bank heist and sprinkle with a fabulous though dated soundtrack and you have the type of film that US movie-makers in the 1960's were experts at producing. I look forward to seeing the re-make, but I know it won't be as good as the original. The directing was slick and the characterisations were brilliant, even though you need only to analyse McQueen and Dunaway. The only thing that marrs the film is the split screen direction at the beginning which probably was state of the art at the time, but appears passe now. As you watch the film you notice that the scenes with Dunaway and the detective are fast-paced and strained, whereas McQueen's scenes are drugged and relaxed, a bossa-nova backing tune never far away. The infamous chess scene is a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece that could never be equalled although the fact that recent films love to parody this suggests that it is rather dated. Although Crown is essentially an immoral character, you have to like him - you want to be him. There are certain similarities with The Great Gatsby in that Crown has so much cash that he is after absolute perfection. Unfortunately he can't get it, but unlike The Great Gatsby, this is by no means a tragic film, much more of a romantic thriller with a twist.
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One of the best psychopath portrayals ever (spoiler alert!)
archie_goodwin3012 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Steve McQueen gives one of the best portrayals of a psychopath ever, whether he intended to or not. Whether it's his game playing with the authorities... his pulling off the crime to see if he can (there is no true profit motive here... he has more money than he knows what to do with), all are classic behaviours. But the TRUE telling is in the scene where... after tormenting the cops... Crown tries to laugh. It's as though he knows he's supposed to be maniacally happy, but doesn't know how to achieve it. And everything he goes through as far as the 'love affair' goes... and sets her up to leave her and escape... pure non-conscious behaviour. The movie may SEEM dated with time... but the portrayal is as accurate as any you will ever find.
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Eye candy and brain candy
yoodete30 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I caught this movie on TV last night and was so surprised by how much I had forgotten--except for the chiffon halter dress that Faye Dunaway wears--that had been seared into my 13-year-old mind as the height of chic in 1968. The previous comment said she was too distant and cold. Well, she was an insurance investigator, not a daycare provider. This was 1968 when women really had to be businesslike to make their way in the world and this also is the image of the writer of her character. What I loved was the minimalist dialog, the incredible lighting and composition in every frame (Haskell Wexler's genius at work), especially during the best scene ever of a chess match. This was totally film as film--it was a scene that could only come to life in film. It was such a pleasure to see a filmmaker rely on the photography, music and facial expressions of the actors to build a scene instead of another bang up car crash. The camera loved both actors' faces, but especially Steve McQueen's cragginess and leanness. I love witty dialog, but this minimalist approach worked because it fit the characters. And the end was perfect because it totally fit the characters. She was an investigator and just because she fell in love she wasn't prepared or able to abandon the way she had lived her life--within the law. He couldn't abandon his life choices either, because he'd only end up in jail without her anyway. A happy ending would have meant she was an entirely different person than we were led to believe. I think this movie stands the test of time incredibly well and as a piece of how you can film two people in a room nearly without dialog and make it interesting and erotic, well it's a treasure. .
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Stealing With Style
bkoganbing9 December 2007
Thomas Crown is a mysterious gazillionaire who is frankly bored with his life. What to do when you're a thirty something and have all the resources available. For a lark, plan the perfect crime.

So in The Thomas Crown Affair, Steve McQueen does just that. He recruits four people at random for the crime, none of whom know each other and pull off a really neat bank robbery.

It seems like Paul Burke and the Boston PD aren't getting the job done so the bank brings in Faye Dunaway as an insurance investigator. She does this for a 10% finders fee, not for a policeman's salary. She also doesn't have to follow the rules the way the cops do.

Dunaway is smart and she does figure out it's McQueen who's the mastermind. She baits him in some of the same way that Inspector Slimane baits Pepe LeMoko. Of course she really gets up close and personal in a way that Slimane couldn't. All this really does get to Paul Burke, whose performance is unfortunately overlooked in talking about The Thomas Crown Affair.

It's a battle of hubris between McQueen and Dunaway and the film does keep you in some suspense as to who will win out.

The Thomas Crown Affair garnered won Academy Award for Michel LeGrand's song, The Windmills of Your Mind. It's a stylishly done caper film and I guarantee you won't be able to anticipate the outcome.
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Stylish Caper.
rmax30482317 May 2013
Steve McQueen is a filthy rich expert in securities and arbitrage living in the closest house to a palace in Boston. He and a handful of colleagues, all strangers to one another, pull off a major bank heist and make off with more than two million dollars. To recover the money, a beautiful and unorthodox insurance investigator, Faye Dunaway, is brought into the case. They fall in love, or apparently fall in love, and McQueen claims he will give the money back, since he already has all he wants.

I realized by the end that some important plot points had escaped me. How come McQueen winds up with ALL the loot? Does Dunaway try to outfox him and send him to jail? And where is McQueen headed in that airliner? Does he leave Dunaway with nothing but a free Mercedes? It was directed by Norman Jewison and released in 1968, a good year for movies generally. It's stylish, yes, but the style is of the period and looks a little odd from our current perspective, like watching a 1942 musical featuring Tommy Dorsey and his band, and a lot of men in uniform jitterbugging with the bobby soxers.

It isn't until Dunaway's close ups that you understand the impasto of eye make up in the late 60s. And her black eyelashes are the size of window awnings on an ordinary house. They must flap in a stiff wind. The clothes are tres chic. That's not necessarily bad. Dunaway has nice knees, but otherwise, what with hats the shape of flying saucers, she seems a sterile, odorless presence on the screen. McQueen only looks slightly uncomfortable in his three-piece suits, smoking those thin cigars or demonstrating his recklessness on a golf course.

The prolonged scene of their playing chess at McQueens manse has been described as extremely sexy, a kind of foreplay or at least thirdplay, and I can see why. That's clearly what the director was aiming at. But if you're not particularly turned on by either Dunaway's or McQueen, or their characters, it turns into an extended chess match, and that's all.

The musical score is of the period too. Very sophisticated in a jazzy and romantic way with Burt Bacharach vocals like ba-ba-dee ba-ba-dumb of the sort that were popular at the time. They are even more pronounced in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The score isn't at all objectionable. I kind of like it. But the faddish split-screens, ripped off from Andy Warhol's "Chelsea Girls" and infecting the screen for the next couple of years, is a distraction and a major nuisance.

It's not a terrible movie. Some of the supporting players are quite good and the viewer gets a nice tour of Boston and environs. And it must have been successful because they recently remade it, just as Hollywood now remakes every movie that ever made a nickel. Movies are now based on television sitcoms or adventures, cartoon series, comic books, video games, and earlier successes. If we live long enough we should all witness a remake of Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" from 1903.
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Thomas Crown Affair on Reel 13
eplromeo817 May 2010
Oddly enough, I had only seen the John McTiernan remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR and while I realize it wasn't a masterpiece, I found it an entertaining and enjoyable caper. I just assumed that the original would be superior in every way and was excited about its airing on Reel 13 last night. After all, Norman Jewison, Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway seem like a late sixties dream team (Jewison was coming off of directing the Best Picture Oscar-winner the year before – IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT). Instead, the film had absolutely no emotional impact on me at all and left me surprised, bewildered and severely disappointed.

At first, I couldn't figure out where it went awry. I kept wanting to like it, expecting it to turn a corner and pique my interest, but then, before I knew what hit me, it was over. It starts promisingly enough with a clever bank heist, but Crown isn't physically involved in the robbery and we never really see him planning it in any way, so he's sort of passive, as heroes go, especially given it's essentially the only heist in the film (the second one at the end is a quickly cut carbon copy of the first). Then, Faye Dunaway, as insurance investigator Vicki Anderson, solves the mystery of the robbery WAY too easily. She walks in, looking young and stunning in several ridiculous overly fashionable outfits, bats her eyes and more or less decides that Crown is the guilty party. So, the two major elements of any crime - the crime and the investigation – are rushed through and devoid of any suspense whatsoever.

It's almost as if Jewison was in a rush to get to the longest scene in the film – the sexy chess match, which Norman clearly was setting up as the not-so-subtle metaphor of the movie (Did Dunaway really need to suggestively stroke one of the phallic-looking chess pieces? Cheeee-sy). It was around this time that it occurred to me that it's not supposed to be a cops and robbers movie as much as it was supposed to be a love story. That's fine, in theory, but even their relationship scenes are rushed. He gives her a dune buggy ride on the beach and suddenly, they're soulmates? Sorry, I don't buy it.

I'm most disappointed in Jewison, who normally is such a stickler for detail and is so careful in his storytelling. Here, he seems more interested in the natural beauty of both his lead actors than in the plot. Even the device he employs early in the film of dividing the screen into boxes falls flat or rather, he doesn't use it to advance the story (like the current television show "24" does a great job of). While he does have several things going on at once – the robbery comes at the bank from five different angles – he would instead chooses to use his four of his blocks to show Steve McQueen and the rest are out of focus. Then, when all of Crown's pawns are at different places in the bank, Jewison returns to full frame shooting at a time where the blocks might have really been useful/effective. Stylistic choices like that need to serve the story, not to show off the director's ability to do tricks.

I can almost see why McTiernan felt like it was a necessary film to remake. The plot has a lot of potential – extremely wealthy man plots bank robberies (or in the case of the remake – art heists) and then meets his match when an attractive, intelligent insurance investigator becomes the first to suspect him. Sounds great, doesn't it? But this original version barely scratches the surface of that juicy plot and invests more time in Michel Legrand's bizarre rhythmless song "Windmills in My Mind" (connecting Crown to Don Quixote). If you want a fun caper movie (I never thought I would say this), rent the remake. Norman Jewison has made a lot of great films, but he really bungled this one.

(For more information on this film or any other Reel 13 film, check out their website on
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60's Gem
krgreenhouse5 February 2019
This is a very stylish and cerebral film that's meant to stimulate your mind rather than your senses: it isn't fast-paced, there are no explosions or big "special effects", and it doesn't have a formulaic happy ending. But it will keep you guessing (and thinking)... that's what makes it so good.
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"Like a circle in a circle, like a wheel within a wheel...."
theowinthrop23 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I remember the advertising campaign for this film on the big screen: "What do you give the man who has everything?"

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR was an unusual departure for Steve McQueen. All of his characters (even the military ones) were middle class types. Thomas Crown, his anti-hero here, is a very wealthy banker in Boston. He plays polo. He is an art collector. He knows all the right people, and has all the right connections. But he is bored. He has to do something unusual. So he decides to commit the perfect crime: he is going to rob his own bank. And for the first twenty minutes of the film we watch a well planned robbery get carried out. Crown has chosen total strangers as his assistants, and he has gotten first rate equipment for them. The result is that the police (represented by Eddie Malone, played by Paul Burke) are stumped.

Enter the investigator for the insurance company who have had to make good on the robbery, and want the money back. This investigator is Vicki Anderson (played by Faye Dunaway). Vicki is a lady who enjoys her job of solving crimes, particularly those that the police can't get a grip on. But she is determined to get a solution at all costs. Although Eddie appreciates her work, he is also appalled at her methods. Here he soon sees the fruits of them. Vicki and Eddie have one slender clue - a flabby nonentity named Erwin (Jack Weston) was identified as driving away from the robbery site. Erwin suddenly has plenty of money to spend, and has bought a new station wagon. Vicki arranges for Erwin's car to get stolen (he is tripped by one of the thugs she hires), and later has his son kidnapped to force Erwin to make a deal with her and the police. Eddie is not happy about this effective but illegal method of getting information.

Vicki has also settled on the crime being an inside one, and the most likely candidate being Crown. She decides to romance him into a weak position and then arrest him. When Eddie confronts on the lack of morality in this Vicki defends her actions because the world is immoral.

But what she does not count on is herself. Vicki is not all bad (she even apologizes for her high handedness to Erwin), and she is as susceptible to charm as others. And Crown is charming, especially in his milieu of a Beacon Hill mansion with brandy before the fire, or midnight lobster fries on Cape Cod. Soon she is falling for him, and Eddie is wondering if she is still as effective regarding Crown as she has previously been on other cases. And Crown certainly is not totally accepting the situation. He keeps pointing out her operatives to her when they are together.

The film is headed to a fatalistic conclusion: will Crown be caught by Vicki and the police, or will he destroy himself, or will he escape? No matter which conclusion, is there a future for Thomas Crown and Vicki Anderson?

The film works, despite the odd casting of McQueen as one born to the purple. It is not a real stretch for him, but he rarely came back to it (his role in THE TOWERING INFERNO is his next professional man of any upper class stature). He seems to fit the role well, but one wonders if he felt happy with it. His best known film role for 1968 was not Thomas Crown but Bullitt, his troubled but determined detective.

Dunaway (fresh from her triumph in BONNY AND CLYDE) is showing she is capable of performing as an upper class insurance investigator. She certainly shows the slow divisions in her own personality as she sees the immorality of her hunting a man she's fallen in love with.

Burke's characterization is between two points: he really dislikes muddying the waters of police investigation by actions that are illegal, but he likes Dunaway (who has worked with him before) and swallows this. But he also notes her changing feelings toward McQueen, and his anger develops a small degree of jealousy. In fact, at one point, he enjoys showing that McQueen has been followed three nights a week going to a call girl. Dunawasy tries to not be dismayed by this.

In the wake of the 1999 remake, this earlier film has been pushed out of the memories of most film lovers. It is not one of the greatest detective films, and may not be among the best loved McQueen or Dunaway performances, but it holds up well. It is also fitting to have one of the best theme songs ever composed for a movie: "The Windmills of Your Mind."
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Better than the 1999 version
pmacors9 October 2001
This film seems very audacious for its age. It looks like it has been edited just two years ago because of the very dynamic way the bank attack scenes were filmed and the very sensual way the chess game scene was acted.

I very liked this movie, which very cool and very 'french' in its ambiance.
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Souless period piece
Tenate930 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Bored decadent rich man plays games with ordinary peoples lives for no other reason than he can. A not very likable premise for a movie but it is very popular. Used as an epitome of coolness - with laddish aspirations of greatness gleamed from it for a couple of generations of bored not-so-bright 'Man-children'. I know that many males identify with Steve McQueen maybe because he is your average joe in looks ( verging on ugly ) and his diminutive size ( 5'9 ) is very appealing and non-threatening. His characters drive fast and don't give a damn about anybody - anti-hero pinup boy - an adolescents wet dream. Beneath his supposedly cool laconic exterior, this actor seems to hide a blank interior rather like the character he plays in this film. He is the ultimate lad. Listen to him chortle to himself on his prowess when he returns to his mansion after the heist- some of the saddest acting I have seen in awhile. In fact right up there with his performance in the chess scene - which is laughably bad - but then maybe thats the point ? From the frame within a frame nonsense to that farcical theme tune, it's lame entertainment. The female protagonist/foil is either a sexual object to be won or a non-ethical money scheming femme fatale who is bright but obviously confused by his big kid magnetism. The film ups and turns with a very predictable and ludicrous plot, the film makers made every character one dimensional and dislikable, again maybe on purpose - something for the Lads, budding crooks and capitalists to 'empathise with' ( or is that an oxymoron ? ) In the end the Bored decadent rich man leaves to sunnier climes with all the cash - ( He is bored with everything, cares for nothing and nobody cares for him. ) As the girl cries, caught between an ethical dilemma, her lust and the reward she's lost - he smirks in his getaway plane.
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annoying and incredibly over-rated
jeff-9027 August 1999
Thinking, "gee, the original is always better, let me watch that first", I caught this on tape last week. Yecch. Nothing happens, staring at each other not talking does not make "sexual tension", what little plot there is I wasn't buying and the soundtrack is absolutely grating. Hell, half the film is nothing but loud horrible music. Talk about a movie that didn't age well. And I'm a fan of McQueen and Dunaway !
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Flat as Dunaway's bosom
LaDonnaKeskes22 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie clomps through some dated sixties tropes: that women need to use their sex appeal as much as their intelligence; that seducing a man is merely a technique; and that, in the end, women are slaves to their feminine feelings.

Both actors are miscast--McQueen because he's anything but suave and debonair (there's only one Cary Grant), because he's unattractive in closeup, showing tobacco-engraved wrinkles and sun damage (there's only one Cary Grant!), and because he plays only one character, that of the smirking bad boy. You don't rise in the Boston Brahmin banking echelon and maintain that persona. His performance started skidding with his faked hysterical laughter and never regained traction.

Faye Dunaway delivers her lines with the skill and conviction of a Jackie Gleason chorus girl, swings her miniskirted hips and fondles herself with sixties-era "nude" fingernail polish, but she's out of her depth. Her hairdos recall Princess Leia's cinnamon buns in surreal bulk. It's worth remembering that, like Cybill Shepherd, she was a fashion model to start with, and can't stop composing her flawless features into camera-ready freezes.

The plot is sketchy, the motivation unclear, the supporting characters, particularly the heist men, left unexplored with the exception of Jack Weston's sweaty Erwin. Even Crown's motivation is barely hinted at. You don't care that Vicki loses her man in the end, and I actually wished for Crown to get his comeuppance--then, at least, McQueen's bad-boy insouciance would have something to work itself on.

Gimmicks like split-screen, slow dissolves, and the psychedelic colors (the costuming is particularly hideous, putting Dunaway in stale-coffee shades of beige and black, and minor characters in the ugliest of lime, orange, and pink) don't annoy as much when viewed as artifacts of a particularly dismal time in fashion and film--they arouse a more indulgent compassion, like what we experience looking at old high-school pictures of heaped-high hairdos, narrow short trouser legs, and garish makeup.
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Cool and Clever and Not Quite Heartless
secondtake25 June 2009
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Cool and Clever and Not Quite Heartless

A clever, precisely controlled, and cleanly stylized caper drama, with a heavy romantic thread that becomes, eventually, all that matters to both us and the two main characters. Steve McQueen's unflappable, detached businessman who loves his pleasures (from liquor to women to dune buggies) is played perfectly. He's not a sympathetic character at first, but you come to appreciate him, if not love him, and want him to get away with things. Success on his terms is a kind of defiance against the dullness of life, so we can relate. Faye Dunaway, when she comes in, is easily his equal, quick and coy in ways that fit perfectly with his.

The plot is carefully delineated, and interesting, but it becomes just background after awhile, as does the police investigation. What matters is how the Dunaway character proceeds, breaking rules and breaking through. She's a great paradigm of a "1960s" woman, liberated and smart but still all female in the usual clichés. I suppose McQueen is a kind of 1960s playboy himself, but he comes off as less fun and less elevated (and more selfish) than, say, Sean Connery's Bond character.

There are some stylistic things to enjoy, like the sophisticated "split screens." Starting with the opening credits and continued between scenes throughout is a creative dividing of the screen into several frames, sometimes showing two or three scenes, and with a whole range of different combinations and shapes. It sounds distracting or affected, but it works really well for this kind of cool, clean movie. And the music, up front and a hair heavy handed at times (by Michel Legrand), emphasizes style and chic over realism.

Norman Jewison, the director, has had an odd career, stellar at moments, but always emphasizing artifice. "The Russians are Coming" the year before this is a perfect example, also empty but perky. Or the musicals that follow (like "Jesus Christ Superstar"). I think all of these are worth watching if you have the slightest interest in the period, in the way movies had to shift to wider moral scopes as well as to an audience hungry for innovation (and tired of t.v.).

But if you really want a look at stylized crime movies from this period at their best, you'd be better off starting with "Klute" or "Point Blank" (the first version). Both are terrific. "Thomas Crown" lacks any one great thread to make it click— the script is routine, the acting reasonable but never sparkling (Dunaway does her best). The filming (Haskell Wexler) and the editing (Hal Ashby, yes!) are standouts in their own ways. It's a period piece, odd to say (being that it's so "mod" in its airy 1960s cool).

If all this careful, designerly perfection wears you down, that's understandable. While the plot does unwind about an hour in, we are still made to see and think our way through the plot, and not feel it or inuit it. Which is fine enough. A fitting movie for its time.
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A disgusting, fraudulent film.
alice liddell23 August 1999
It is significant that the least cool film by Steve McQueen, King of Cool, is the one in which he strives hardest to be cool. Of course, effort is the antithesis of cool. I had expected to enjoy this film as a frothy 60s pop-artefact in the ARABESQUE vein, but it is tedious and gauchely unchic. Director Jewison has subsequently proven himself to be bereft of interest in his later career, but he confuses ripping off adventurous film-makers with being adventurous himself.

The film is NOT stylish, which is its claim to fame - its devices are irritating, its form is not aligned to an artistic point of view, the colour is ugly, the unravelling of plot is insultingly implausible, its use of stars is hopeless. Faye Dunaway, bristling with sexuality in BONNIE AND CLYDE, is an unloveable mannequin in this film, with an appalling taste in clothes. Steve McQueen, one of the great actors, is completely wrong for this film, lacking the necessary dark suavity of a Cary Grant. These characters are ciphers, without history, motivation or even charm: Thomas Crown plans a heist for kicks - at one point he hilariously suggests that he is fighting the 'system' - a $4 million capitalist dealing in property and currency!

The film tries amid the inept gloss to make some 'serious' points - capitalism is linked to crime and death; Crown, successful businessman, has a dark, split personality (lots of mirror/frame shots, hysterical laughing, split-screens). The use of this latter device is annoying and uninventive - unlike the complexity of Greenaway's THE PILLOW BOOK, in which multiple images disorient the viewer with unexpected juxtapositions and disruptions of time and space, the images here are all narratively coherent and hence redundant. The flashy direction is so satisfied with itself that it bungles the tension and excitement in not one, but TWO heist sequences, surely an expected skill in the 60s.

Compare this film to the amazing CHARADE, a genuinely stylish 60s film, which, while tongue-in-cheek, played its thrills straight; incorporated its stylistic and fashionable elements to visualise a growing desire between its two stars (Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant were invented for this kind of film), who provide a genuine, touching, playful attraction, which evokes enormous audience goodwill, without resorting to gimmicks like the chess sequence, which is possibly meant to be funny, because it's certainly not erotic.

Although Jewison probably wanted to replicate the freshness and romance of an early Nouvelle Vague film, he has only succeeded in emulating that egotistical fraud Claud Lelouch. Like that purveyor of insipid, 'significant', romances, the only saving grace is the beautifully schmaltzy score, this one by Michel Legrand (although for real Legrand beauty, check out LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG).
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