How to Steal a Million – 1966
How to Steal a Million is a romantic comedy set in the backdrop of a museum heist, directed by William Wyler (1953’s Roman Holiday and 1959’s Ben-Hur) and written by Harry Kurnitz (1957’s Witness for the Prosecution). This movie not only has a great duo behind the camera, it has a great duo in its stars, having Audrey Hepburn (1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and 1964’s My Fair Lady) as the lead and Peter O’Toole (1962’s Lawrence of Arabia) as her romantic interest.
The story centers around a father and daughter duo who make a living out of forging artwork. The father is played magnificently by Hugh Griffith and his eyebrows. In a movie where Hepburn and O’Toole are the headliners, his eyebrows - I mean, his performance - was a standout. Everything about him was delightfully over the top. His facial expressions, married with his wardrobe and his line delivery, gave backstory to his character without the need to say it out loud. You understood that everything about him was a performance to maintain his social status among the art snobs. He has so many hilarious lines in the movie (“The basic trouble with you, is that you are honest”), but his use of his eyebrows was te most hilarious aspect to his performance.
The daughter of the duo is played by Audrey Hepburn and she is as charming and classy as she has ever been. Despite knowing what her father is and does, she is always trying to look out for him and help him stay above trouble. You can see the evolution of Hepburn’s talent from Sabrina to this movie. She boosted a confidence in her screen presence that was missing for the most part 12 years back. Like in all her roles, her wardrobe is impeccable and they looked as though they are part of her. My favorite of the bunch is her black dress with the lace mask to cover her identity during the meeting with O’Toole.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about Perter O’Toole’s performance. I honestly didn’t know this man was this funny. I had only seen him in Lawrence of Arabia and knew he was a respected well-known actor among his peers, but funny? Yes. His dry sarcastic line delivery made me laugh more than I can count (that’s on me, bad counting skills). He used every single tool (sorry) at his disposal to make the material hilarious. Some lines were so clever (credit to Kurnitz), that they just flew right over the heads off everyone around him. My favorite comes from when Hepburn’s character demands to take control of the situation and he simply replies; “Alright, you’re the boss now do as I tell you.”. Her character doesn’t even bat an eye and starts working as told.
Quick-note; I don’t want to go on and on about the performances, but I want to highlight the security team of the museum. They worked together like a veteran improv group, reminiscent of Monty Python. Each had his role within the group and all delivered at least one good laugh during the heist sequence.
Now that we covered the stars in front of the camera, lets quickly touch on the stars behind it. When you have a director in William Wyler, who has been nominated for 12 “Best Director” awards at the Oscars and won 3 of them, I think you are in good hands. Combine that with Harry Kurnitz, a writer that has over forty scripts to his name, and you get a fun and creative heist movie. I loved the entire heist scene and here is when the duo shined. The creative heist plan, that includes the use of a boomerang, and how it was shot had me hooked on what was happening on screen. The entire movie is fun and funny, even though it can be considered a slow burn movie.
How to Steal a Million is a fun movie with a unique premise, that is elevated by the creative team that lend its talent to it. But if I must pick a reason why I love movies from the immense pool of talent in this movie, by far it’s Griffith’s eyebrows.
How to Steal a Million is currently playing on Netflix, watch it before someone steals it with a boomerang.
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