How To Steal A Mil­lion

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - SEVEN DAYS -

(1966) U

Tues­day, 12.50pm, Ch4

Some­times, se­ri­ous­ness is over­rated, and pure, un­abashed en­ter­tain­ment is all that is needed – which makes How To Steal A Mil­lion just the ticket.

The per­fect lit­tle romp for a spot of af­ter­noon viewing, Wil­liam Wyler’s care­fully con­structed con­fec­tion stars Au­drey Hep­burn – Givenchy-clad as ever and at her quirki­est (note the typ­i­cally od­dball en­sem­ble be­low as a case in point). Here, she is Ni­cole, the up­stand­ing daugh­ter of third-gen­er­a­tion forger Charles Bon­net (Hugh Grif­fith), who, it tran­spires, has just loaned the fam­ily’s re­mark­able ‘Cellini Venus’ to a Paris mu­seum. How­ever, both fa­ther and daugh­ter know that grand­papa mod­elled the sculp­ture on grand­mama, and un­der no cir­cum­stances can they let it un­dergo the mu­seum’s rig­or­ous test­ing pol­icy. En­ter Si­mon Der­mott (the al­ways en­gag­ing Peter O’toole), the ‘so­ci­ety bur­glar’ Ni­cole dis­cov­ers creep­ing around the house one night and black­mails into help­ing her to steal back the phoney fig­urine. Cue chaos.

It’s ob­vi­ous from the start ex­actly where this smart-talk­ing tri­fle is head­ing; the trap­pings are very 1960s; and the odd scene is milked be­yond its comic po­ten­tial – but none of that makes it any less of a de­light.

The story be­hind the film

Not gen­er­ally noted for his come­dies, Wil­liam Wyler had orig­i­nally had a much darker mood in mind for How To Steal A Mil­lion. He’d in­tended to make it af­ter his 1953 hit Ro­man Hol­i­day (again with Au­drey Hep­burn and Gre­gory Peck), and had ap­proached up-and-com­ing di­rec­tor Stan­ley Kubrick – who had re­cently en­joyed suc­cess with heist thriller The Killing – to con­trib­ute ideas. Pos­ter­ity doesn’t note what went wrong, but we must as­sume that it is our gain.

And the ad­ver­tis­ing world’s... Ea­gle-eyed view­ers with long(ish) mem­o­ries will have no trou­ble spot­ting the scene that in­spired an iconic 1990s au­to­mo­bile ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign (the words ‘Papa!’ and ‘Ni­cole!’ should give you suf­fi­cient of a clue). Vicky Thompson


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