Movies You Might Have Missed: How to Steal a Million

TitleHow to Steal a Million
Release Date: 1966
Rating: N/A
Length: 123 minutes
Director: William Wyler
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Eli Wallach
Language: English
Country: USA

If I’m honest, I’ve never been a fan of Peter O’Toole. On the other hand, I’ve always been a big fan of Audrey Hepburn. So that seems to even out, but this is also a heist movie and if there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s a heist movie. Plus, Eli Wallach and Hugh Griffith appear in strong supporting roles and they’re great too. Taking one thing with another, this comes out ahead. And that’s without reckoning with the fact that it’s hilarious.

Griffith is Charles Bonnet, father to Hepburn as Nicole. They are the last of a wealthy family with significant art holdings that we learn right away are mixed with forgeries the family has been creating for years. Griffith, in fact, is supplementing the family income by selling his forgeries at auction. Hepburn deplores this, both as being wrong and out of fear of his being caught. O’Toole is Simon Dermott who Hepburn catches one night in the act of removing a “Van Gogh”. Since calling the police to arrest a thief might lead to awkward questions and could reveal the true nature of the painting (forged), she lets him go.

Unfortunately, soon after she and her father learn that a sculpture he has loaned for a museum exhibition (over her worried objections) will be examined. They had thought it was safe from scrutiny since it was not for sale, but for the purposes of insurance and valuation, the museum is calling in the world’s greatest expert. Now, the whole edifice the family has built is in danger of tumbling, since the tests for sculpture are better able to discern forgeries than those for paintings.

There is a solution, however. Hepburn determines to recruit O’Toole to aid her in breaking into the museum, removing her own sculpture, and safely getting away before it can be examined and the fraud exposed. Of course, hijinks ensue. The security is tight. There is some romantic tension between our two leads. Nicole won’t say why she wants to steal her own property when it’s already scheduled to be returned in only a few weeks. O’Toole is hiding some secrets of his own from her.

Complicating matters, Wallach shows up as a millionaire American industrialist with an intense passion for collecting art regardless of whether its provenance is strictly legal or not. He finds himself in pursuit of both the sculpture and Hepburn and what will he do if he can’t manage to obtain both? Is he competing with O’Toole or collaborating?

It has its flaws, of course, but the Paris locations are lovely. Hepburn is stunning and the dialogue witty. The whole movie succeeds as a rom-com heist film. Well worth the two hour run-time to see it all work out in the end for absolutely everyone. Well, mostly everyone.

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