Best Movies by Farr: Amazing Audrey

September 30, 2011 | John Farr

Audrey Hepburn led a legendary life and career. This week, Reel 13 will air her classic, “The Nun’s Story.” If it’s been a while since you’ve seen Audrey at her best, John Farr has three of her finest to recommend.

Charade (1963)

Parisian Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) knew she had marital problems, but when her errant husband gets mysteriously killed, she finds being a widow even more troublesome. It seems her husband was involved in hijacking some significant loot during the war, and now some of his past comrades- including Tex (James Coburn), Herman (George Kennedy) and Leo (Ned Glass), want to know where the money went. H. Bartholemew (Walter Matthau) is the government agent also interested in the case, and suave Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) the gallant older man who serves as Regina’s protector. But is Peter really on Regina’s side?

This Hitchcock homage provides a last glimpse of Cary as leading man. At sixty, the actor still brings off his trademark persona superbly. Hepburn is also in top form as the put-upon damsel in distress. Deftly combining mystery, romance, and humor, director Donen creates a chic, sophisticated mood via gorgeous Paris locations and a smooth Mancini score. The villains are mean enough to be taken seriously, but exhibit enough idiosyncrasies to seem human (Coburn has particular fun as Tex). As top-drawer entertainment, “Charade” is the real thing.

Two for the Road (1967)

The ups and downs of matrimony are deftly explored via vacations past and present in the lives of affluent couple Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) and Mark Wallace (Albert Finney). We see the bloom of early passion recede as over time the couple adjusts to new life priorities and struggles to maintain their intimacy and affection.

This smart, knowing romance projects director Donen’s signature style, with Hepburn the essence of sixties chic, and Finney (in his prime) the epitome of a salty, rugged leading man. European locales and a memorable Henry Mancini score add the requisite zing to this mature, nuanced love story. William Daniels and Eleanor Bron are also memorable as another married couple who cause Joanna and Mark to examine the state of their own union.

Wait Until Dark (1967)

Blinded in an accident, Manhattan housewife Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) is terrorized by a gang of killers after a large quantity of heroin stashed in a doll her husband, Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), unwittingly accepted from a woman on a plane trip. Led by Roat (Alan Arkin), the thugs will stop at nothing to recover the fortune, but Susy’s no pushover.

Audrey Hepburn ventures into edgy territory in Terence Young’s “Wait Until Dark,” based on the stage play by Frederick Knott (writer of “Dial M for Murder”). The Oscar-nominated actress excels in the role of a sightless woman fighting for her life in a basement New York flat, and Richard Crenna is solid as her unlikely protector. Still, it’s Alan Arkin who really sets your teeth on edge playing one of the screen’s creepiest villains. This nifty suspenser starts slowly but builds to a terrifying climax. Just wait.

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