Why I Love… How To Steal A Million

After receiving such a positive reaction to my previous Why I Love video post in which I discussed Carol Reed’s The Third Man, I have decided to make this a monthly series. The plan is that I will discuss a crime or mystery-themed film each month and list five reasons that I love that film.

My selection this month is 1966’s How to Steal a Million. If you are unfamiliar with this film directed by William Wyler and starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, it is based around a heist at an art museum though it arguably is more romantic comedy than serious crime film.

Have you seen the film? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts whether you agree with me or not. Feel free to drop suggestions for other comedic heist or mystery films as well!

9 thoughts on “Why I Love… How To Steal A Million

  1. I enjoy this film, and I was nodding along happily, ready to provide a supportive comment, until I heard you say that this was Audrey Hepburn’s last great screen role. I had to rewind twice to make sure I heard you correctly.

    Really?? When in the very next year, 1967, she gave us her Susy in Wait Until Dark, and particularly, her Joanna in TWO FOR THE ROAD???? I wouldn’t go to the mat for the former (though I like it, and her in it), but the latter is just one of the most glorious movie experiences ever.

    I was going to mention my favorite comedic screen caper experience, too, but now I’m such a snit, I won’t. So there!! 🙂

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    1. Heh, well we all have opinions. I will say that I haven’t seen Two for the Road in years and I could believe that I was perhaps too young for it. I can’t promise I will amend my view but I will take another look at it since you rate it so highly!

      Wait Until Dark is fine but I don’t think she sparkles in that quite the way she does here.

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      1. I agree that Wait Until Dark isn’t a “sparkle” kind of role (though she gave a good performance, as she did in earlier non-sparkle roles like The Nun’s Story). And Two for the Road mixes the sparkle with some grit (as evidenced by the absence of Givenchy to dress her). Part (only part) of my love for that movie is my love of ingenious non-linear structures (more recent example: Duplicity). But there’s more to it: do give it another look, if you can.

        Look: I’ll back down slightly to the extent that I’ll say How To Steal a Million is the last movie in which she got to play the beloved, irresistible character “Audrey Hepburn” the movie star. The same way Charade is the last movie for the iconic character “Cary Grant,” even though Grant made two more movies afterward. There’s a certain image for such individuals, one that they build up over their careers and that we’re happy to see again and again because it makes us feel good. I’m as susceptible as anyone. But whereas I don’t particularly long to see either of his last two pictures, Two for the Road will never leave my top dozen favorites.

        As to my own example of a caper/heist story with a comedic element, I used the generic word “screen” rather than movie, because it’s a TV series: Leverage. And it too has a particular nonlinear structural device, which it uses in nearly every episode.

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      2. Great call on Leverage. A very entertaining series!

        I totally get your point about Hepburn playing the image of herself (and Grant too). I can certainly agree with what you wrote there about both actors.

        I think part of the reason she sparkles here is that she feels so central to the movie. Everything is setup to complement and enhance her performance including the space she is given by O’Toole and Griffith (much as Grant is enhanced in Charade by the attention he is given by Hepburn). O’Toole wasn’t always such a generous performer but here he plays to her rather than attempting to dominate the picture and the result is charming.

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  2. Very nice point about O’Toole giving Hepburn the setup she needs to take “center stage.” Sort of like the danseur’s job being to let the prima ballerina soar. (Though in movies, it’s not gender-bound.)

    Leverage has been enhanced for me by rewatching the whole series within a month (the DVDs have group commentary on every episode, so I watched almost every episode twice), thanks to staying at home in connection with a series of surgeries (nothing dire, but it was planned and necessary). It was a great choice for that purpose, and I became more aware of the well-planned character development start to finish (and it does lead to a perfect ending). I also was all the more able to enjoy the changes they ring on their special structural device (the con seems to have failed, until we briefly flash back in time, in black and white, and see the moves we didn’t witness the first time, that were part of the whole plan). I love that stuff.

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    1. Yes – and I don’t think it is just for her benefit either as his performance becomes more whimsical and entertaining when he does fall into focus. I do like the ballet analogy you use!

      Did you ever see a BBC series named Hustle? It liked to do a similar trick with the flash back to see the setup to see the second con they were running when the first seems to fail. I think Leverage has a greater range as a series but I remember finding Hustle great fun.

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  3. Yes, I’ve seen some of Hustle — the first series, I think. I need to see more. It was often mentioned in the TV forums I frequent, as a precedent (some put it more strongly) for Leverage. I enjoyed the actors too; in particular, I’ve long been an avid fan of Adrian Lester and wish I’d had more chances to see him.

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    1. Yes! Rififi is absolutely captivating and so clever in a logistical sense. It is fascinating to see how they work to pull their heist off. This isn’t anywhere near as clever as that but it is certainly entertaining to watch.

      Le Cercle Rouge is a great choice too – a fantastic film.

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