How to Steal a Million (1966)

How to Steal a Million (1966), directed by William Wyler.

First review

Slow moving caper comedy, a residue of the imitation-Hitchcock genre that includes Charade (1963) and Arabesque (1966). Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole are always appealing, and he can do the Cary Grant gentleman burglar thing, although he is more convincing as a madman like Lawrence or Lord Jim.

A bit of early product placement: Hepburn's fashions (some of which are hideous) are credited to Givenchy, and when she has to wear scrub-woman disguise, O'Toole tells her "it gives Givenchy a night off."

"Johnny" Williams score.

Second review

A few notes after a rewatch and new thumbnails from the Blu-ray.

Confession: I saw this nine years ago and even wrote a review but remembered nothing about it.

I think Wyler's love of the project -- Paris, Art, the idea of a romantic caper comedy, his beautiful stars -- led him to spin it out too leisurely. Comedy requires a faster pace and these 2 hours could have been condensed.

Apart from that: it's witty in a rich, genteel way. Whatever became of the gentleman cat burglar and charming art thief? The target statue is a forgery modeled by Hepburn's character's grandmother in the nude; he notices the resemblance (of face). Getting the statue and getting her become a combined effort. (He: "Where were you in the 16th century?" She: "Wherever I was I wasn't dressed like that").

The best bits are where she gives him the screwball treatment, making him dizzy over her inexplicable need to steal her own property back from the museum.

Wyler launched Audrey Hepburn's career with Roman Holiday (1953) and he wouldn't have done this without her.

Peter O'Toole and Eli Wallach had been in Lord Jim (1965) the year before.

O'Toole was a dominating screen presence from the beginning. It was like he had no apprenticeship at all but just appeared as a fully-formed star.

(Michael Caine's quip: "Never go drinking with Peter O'Toole. You wake up three days later in a strange city with no memory of how you got there and are told it is best not to ask").

Hugh Griffith received an Academy Award for Wyler's Ben Hur (1959).

Photographed by Charles Lang. Score by John "Johnny" Williams. Some of the comical musical bits are close to irritating Mickey-Mousing. You can hear a lot of his mentor, Henry Mancini.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

A light, low-density commentary track is edited from remarks by Eli Wallach and the director's daughter.

Catherine Wyler points out that her father also became producer for this project and when that happened the films did tend to become too long. The creative friction between producer and director can improve a movie.