The best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made. That’s how certain enthusiasts of American film think of Charade, Stanley Donen’s 1963 lightly comedic mystery thriller filled with international intrigue. Its cast list draws deeply from the era’s formidable well of cinematic icons: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy. Its action takes place in no less a screen-illuminating world city than Paris. The Criterion Collection has seen fit to give it a scholarly, respectable DVD and Blu-Ray release. It comes scored by Henry Mancini. It has inspired four remakes, including one in Bengali and one in Hindi. It director also made On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain, Funny Face, and Bedazzled. ”A terrifically entertaining comedy-thriller,” critic Dave Kehr calls it, “perfectly crafted” and “a marvelous use of Paris.” All these qualities and more strongly recommend the picture, at least to my mind, and if you’d like to see it for yourself, you have only to pull it up on Archive.org.
Wait — really? A film of such seemingly high profile, made only 49 years ago? You don’t exactly come across the likes of Charade in the public domain every day. But I have an explanation, and it will surely delight those film fans who make sport of pointing out the incompetence of major studios. It seems that pre-1978 United States copyright law absolutely required you to include some sort of mark on your work indicating your intent to claim copyright at all — ©, for instance — and in Charade‘s case, Universal Pictures seemed to have just sort of forgotten about it. The film thus went public domain as soon as it came out. Criterion’s provides a superior transfer and a wealth of cinephilic accoutrements besides, but if you want to dip into the picture right now, simply click play. An unknowable but capable Cary Grant and a Givenchy-clad Audrey Hepburn pursued through the early sixties’ City of Light for gold stolen in wartime — who, especially those on an office lunch break, could resist?
You can, of course, find Charade listed in our collection of 500 Free Movies Online.