November 15, 2016

How To Steal A Million (1966)

This time last year, I was living in Paris, just a few blocks from where the attacks occurred. The city was suddenly in turmoil, soldiers flooded the streets, and everyone was in a state of silent shock. The following few weeks, however, were not characterized by fear, but by courage and celebration. I saw a determination to go about life as per usual - people out and about, at the markets, the park, cafes, shopping centers, seasonal Christmas markets, museum exhibitions, and holiday get-togethers. This was a city in mourning, yes, but also one that refused to surrender to fear and hatred. Paris holds a very special place in my heart. It is where I studied and lived during graduate school, it is where I met my best friends, it is where I had some of the most memorable experiences of my life, and it is where I’ll be going back to in a few months.

So in honour of this beautiful, vibrant, perpetually inspiring, and all around amazing city, I'd like to share one of my favourite, and often forgotten, films set in Paris: How To Steal A Million (1966) starring the always delightful Audrey Hepburn and an irresistible Peter O’Toole

When one thinks of Audrey Hepburn’s Paris, it is without a doubt that most people remember Sabrina (1954). Others may recall Funny Face (1957), where she glides down the steps of the Louvre in the most mesmerising red dress ever to grace the silver screen. I’ve already posted about Charade (1963), where she and Cary Grant share a wonderful wit-filled romance. Along with Paris When It Sizzles (1964) and Love in the Afternoon (1957), How to Steal a Million (1966) sometimes gets passed over.
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how.to.steal.a.million.audrey.driving.white

In How To Steal A Million, Hepburn is a wealthy young woman named Nicole who lives in a grand Parisian mansion with her father (Hugh Griffith), a reclusive and esteemed "art collector." However, we learn that, like his father before him, he is actually an expert art forger! While she enjoys flitting around the city in her zippy little red car, he spends most of his days holed up in their attic, replicating, with meticulous detail, the works of the great masters.

"This is not ordinary dirt! It is van Gogh dirt! Dirt from his own neighbourhood! I scraped it myself, off these old 19th-century canvases..." 
how.to.steal.a.million.audrey.speaking.to.father

One night, while in bed reading, she hears a noise and cautiously goes downstairs to investigate.

(The Book that Audrey is reading is Le Revue du Suspence, a French translation of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, first published in 1956).
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She arms herself with an old pistol and descends the stairs to find Simon (Peter O'Toole) hovering over her father's recently finished Van Gogh. As an investigator specializing in art forgeries, Simon was there to steal a fleck of paint from the canvas in order to have it analyzed for authenticity. Nicole, however, mistakes him for a burglar and accidentally shoots him!

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How many burglars come dressed in a tuxedo?
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Oh dismay!
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Thankfully, her bullet only lightly grazes his shoulder. But because she can't call the police for help, lest her father's illegal activities be uncovered in the process, she decides to let him go. But first she dons on an apron, bandages his wound and even offers to drive him back to his hotel....because that is just what one does after being burgled by a handsome, charismatic stranger! Mais oui, bien sûr!

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Instantly smitten, Simon uses their time together in the car to sweet-talk the distraught Nicole, who is now terrified...but also a bit aroused by the whole ordeal.

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What a deliciously bright magenta overcoat. Oversized cocoon styled coats are quite popular these days too. 
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Shiny black patent leather wellies. How eccentric, considering there was no rain.
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She comes home and tells her father of the incident...

What happened? And then you did what?!
how.to.steal.a.million.audrey.magenta.coat+father

When her father lends his prized Cellini Venus to a prestigious art museum, he didn't foresee that such a gesture would incur a thorough inspection of the sculpture by the museum's insurers. Knowing that it would inevitably be exposed as a forgery if it undergoes such a rigorous examination, Nicole conceives a plan to have the figurine stolen. But by whom? Why, by the burglar she helped a few nights ago, of course!

how.to.steal.million.give.away.sculpture

Thinking that the theft would be of mutual benefit, Nicole then contacts Simon and tells him of her predicament. She "hires" him to steal the Cellini Venus and he, being completely in love with her by this point, can't bring himself to tell her that he is actually an art forgery investigator. Of course he complies, and then the pair begin to concoct their elaborate scheme to steal back her father's sculpture.

Here they are planning the heist at the restaurant in his hotel. Audrey wears a black lace Givenchy dress with black lace stockings, a black lace eye veil and glittering silver eye shadow. Understandably, Peter O’Toole’s character does a double take when he sees her. That dress later sold at auction for £600,000.
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That is Nicole to the far right, in a tan, nondescript tweed jacket & dress ensemble to help her blend easily into the crowds at the museum.
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how.to.steal.a.million.audrey.tweed

Simon gazes upon the Cellini Venus with rather conspicuous magnifying glasses... how.to.steal.a.million.magnifying.glasses

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He tells her the face looks rather familiar....she winces and confesses that her great grandfather forged it in the likeness of her great grandmother.
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After they finish reconnoitering the museum, Simon hatches a plan and decides that Nicole should dress up as a washerwoman and sneak in with the janitorial staff when they enter the museum to clean during the night. Here they are in Simon's hotel room, where he has her try on some ill-fitting but appropriately old and tattered clothes for her disguise. He even jokes, "Well, for one thing, it gives Givenchy a night off!"
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The reference made me chuckle because the collaboration between Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn was a particularly special one. Audrey served as the muse for many of his iconic designs and became "the face" of Givenchy during that time. Perhaps my favourite Givenchy creation (while he was working as Audrey's costume designer) was this spectacularly bewitching red number in Funny Face (1957). Sorry, digression.funny.face.audrey.red.gown.steps

ANYWAY, back to the film.
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Although I'm not entirely certain, her silk scarf looks to be Hermès. I'm a big fan of Hermès' silk scarves and while I don't wear them often, I do love scouting and collecting vintage ones every chance I get. They really are classic, timeless pieces that can be passed down for generations. Hermès comes out with new prints every year and their interactive website is a fun way to waste time (I love how they offer two viewing options where you can see how the scarves look while flat and knotted/being worn). 

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Who would've thought that lime, slightly neon, green could look so stunning? If you look closer, you can see that the fabric is actually of a jacquard texture...or is it damask? brocade? Sorry, I'm still not entirely clear on the differences between those three weaves.
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Below is a similarly coloured jacket+dress combination, except it's more custard/lemon yellow and the fabric appears to be wool.
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I find it interesting and even a bit daring, to wear a scarf in the same colour as the rest of her outfit. Perhaps anyone else (and most certainly me) would end up looking like a big gumdrop, but Audrey just looks simply divine, as usual.
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Another simple, nondescript beige dress made everso chic by Audrey.
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I do love the wide mock turtleneck though. Or is there another more accurate term for that type of neckline?
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Lovely checked coat. The image doesn't quite capture the subtle colours of the pattern (which are actually muted red and blue).
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Now, the LOCATIONS:

The Bonnet's mansion was situated on 38 Rue Parmentier, in the wealthy neighborhood of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Sadly, the original house has been demolished and replaced by an apartment block. The original gate, however, still remains, but it has been relocated farther down the street.

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View of the street from the house. how.to.steal.million.house2  
Grand entrance stairs.how.to.steal.million.audrey.checked.coat+car

Charming windows how.to.steal.million.house.window

Of course, the interiors were filmed on a studio set.

This is a wardrobe that opens up to a secret passageway that leads up to the attic. I want something like this in my house!how.to.steal.million.house.bedroom.wardrobes

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Here is a glimpse of the parlor. 
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Here is a list of the some of the other memorable locations that we saw throughout the film.

Quai de l’Archevêché, Ile de la Cité, Paris how.to.steal.a.million.paris.notre.dame

Avenue des Champs-Élysées
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Below is a small park called Carré Marigny, between Avenues Gabriel and Marigny. It is right off the busy Champs-Élysées and is a great little hidden gem if you're looking to escape from the hordes of frenzied shoppers and the endless procession of cars on the former. This is also the location of the Marché aux Timbres (stamp market), where you can find all sorts of collectible postage.   I believe that same stamp market was featured in Charade (1963).

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The Ritz Hotel, 15 Place Vendôme, 75001, Paris. how.to.steal.a.million.ritz.hotel

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Simon, out on the balcony of Nicole's hotel room, throwing a boomerang.
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The exterior shots of the fictional museum featured in the movie were filmed at the Musée Carnavalet (16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois), which is wonderful museum dedicated to the history of Paris. The interior was filmed on a studio set located at Boulogne-Billancourt Studios. It was allegedly modelled after the Musée Jacquemart-André (158 Boulevard Haussmann), which contains an impressive collection of Italian art and was formerly the private home of the wealthy banker Édouard André.

The set designer, Alexander Trauner, who lived in Paris, contacted several Paris-based painters to recreate the “masterpieces” that line its walls. For $100,000 he amassed a collection of fake Renoirs, El Grecos, Goyas, Rembrandts, Rubenses, Van Goghs, Monets, Cézannes, Tintorettos, and Picassos. For another $50,000, he bought authentic antique frames. The fake artwork was so attractive that real thieves helped themselves to several objects during the filming! how.to.steal.a.million.museum.entrance

The restaurant at which Nicole dines with her wealthy American suitor is a real restaurant called Maxim's, located at 3 Rue Royale. The film doesn't do justice to its gorgeous Art Nouveau interior. I have actually eaten at this restaurant but at the time, was totally unaware of its history and that it was featured in a couple other prominent films, including one of my personal favourites, Gigi (1958). Its most recent cameo was in Woody Allen's delightful comedy, Midnight In Paris (2011).

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And lastly, The CARS:

Normally, I wouldn't pay much attention to cars featured in films, but these were too adorable to ignore. They were practically characters themselves! 

Nicole drives a zippy red 1965 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile. These little roadsters were only produced for a short period of time (1957-70) and if you're thinking that it looks an awful lot like the Fiat 500, then you're right! It was indeed based on the Fiat 500 and came equipped with a Fiat engine. how.to.steal.a.million.audrey.car.red

Simon's car is sleek yellow E-type Jaguar. The E-type is perhaps one of the most iconic cars in all of automobile history and was also one of the cars driven by Sean Connery as James Bond. how.to.steal.million.audrey.yellow.car.night

What could be more glamorous than driving up to your private jet in a Jaguar convertible?
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I forget which character drove this 1960s Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Might've been Nicole's American suitor. how.to.steal.million.house.stairs.grey.car

So there you have, How to Steal a Million in no less than a million screencaps!

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