Feisty Heist: Hepburn and O’Toole in the Rapturous HOW TO STEAL A MILLION

Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

Thanks in part to its public domain status, Charade (1963) has become one of the most cherished and accessible favorites of many fans of Audrey Hepburn and classic films. Stanley Donen’s lighthearted romantic-comedy thriller offers endless delights, pairing her with the dapper charm of Cary Grant against a gorgeous Parisian backdrop. In recent years it’s even found its way into the Criterion Collection, gaining additional fans. We are so enamored with this film that we previously covered it as a Two Cents Film Club pick.


Charade fans jonesing for another hit need look no further than the lesser known but equally delightful How To Steal A Million. Released three years after Charade, the film reunited Hepburn with the director of her breakout hit Roman Holiday, William Wyler, and once again places the starlet in Paris with an effortlessly whimsical leading man: Peter O’Toole.

Hepburn plays Nicole, the daughter of a wealthy and famous art collector (Hugh Griffith), who is in fact an expert criminal forger who creates his own phony masterpieces. One night she encounters a prowler (O’Toole) in their mansion, and accidentally shoots him. Despite their highly inauspicious meeting, the two have immediate chemistry and quickly become fond of each other.

I adore this parallel framing of both characters as they take turns startling each other upon their initial meeting.

Nicole’s father lends a fake Cellini Venus statue to a museum, but their plans to inspect the piece for insurance valuation — projected as upward of $1 million dollars — puts him in real danger of finding himself in prison. The forgery will surely not hold up under such rigorous scrutiny. To save her father, Nicole enlists her new bungling burglar friend to help her pull off a major heist — to steal back their own statue.

The clear draw of this film is the fun of Hepburn and O’Toole sharing the screen. Their snappy banter, witty sarcasm, and natural chemistry all work exactly the way one would hope. Even though it’s a somewhat “talky” movie, this never for a moment becomes a detriment — after all, their playful chatter is a big part of the fun.

Joining the pair are a small but memorable core cast: Hugh Griffith as Nicole’s wily father, Eli Wallach as a wealthy art collector who wants to add both the Venus and Nicole to his collection, and French actors Jacques Marin (also from Charade) and Moustache among the museum’s security personnel.

The heist itself is similarly enjoyable, as O’Toole’s Simon comes up with hilariously clever (if rather unbelievable) tricks to bypass the museum’s rigorous security, using children’s toys like boomerangs and magnets.

Compared to very densely-layered modern heist movies like Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven series that have a ton of characters and moving parts, How to Steal A Million is a fairly simple and linear approach. But that’s also part of its charm: the caper plot, fun as it is, is really in service to watching a couple of really wonderful actors make screen magic, as opposed to the other way around.

The Package

Special Features and Extras

The Fairest Lady (45:01)
An A&E Biography episode on Audrey Hepburn’s life, covering not only her famed career as a legendary film and fashion icon, but also her life story including humanitarian efforts across the globe that came to define her later years.

Audio commentary with Eli Wallach and Catherine Wyler
Director William Wyler’s daughter Catherine, also a film expert and producer in her own right, shares history and anecdotes behind the film. Screen legend Eli Wallach is also present, though mostly pretty quiet with only occasional interjections to lavish affection on his costars. Overall the track runs a bit sparse and the pair don’t interact; I’d guess they were probably recorded separately.

Original Theatrical Trailer (3:26)

Isolated Music Track
Highlighting the score by “Johnny” Williams! (Yes, that John Williams).

Final Thoughts

This is the sort of film I really can’t imagine anyone not enjoying — a lighthearted comedy with utterly endearing protagonists, played by two legendary actors at the peak of their craft. Highly recommended.

A/V Out.

Get it at Twilight Time

Further Reading:


Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.


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