Monday, 10 December 2012


1963 - Dir.: Stanley Donen - 1 hr 48 mins
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th December, 2012
Charade opened in the USA just in time for Christmas 1963. This glossy and slick comedy thriller didn’t fill the New York Times with festive cheer: "Seekers of Christmas entertainment, might do well to think twice about "Charade". This romantic comedy melodrama, in which Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant skitter and scoot around Paris as participants in a cheating-cheaters chase, has so many grisly touches in it and runs to violence so many times the people bringing their youngsters to see the annual Nativity pageant and the Christmas stage show may blanch in horror when it comes on." You have been warned!
Sometimes described as "the best Hitchcock film not directed by Alfred Hitchcock" this film is the work of jobbing director Stanley Donen who started his film life as a dancer. He became friendly with Gene Kelly who gave him the chance to direct musical sequences. He was so good at it that he soon found himself sharing the responsibility for big budget musicals like On the Town (1949) and then Singin’ in the Rain (1952). On his own he directed Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Funny Face (1957) and Damn Yankees (1958). When musicals were no longer in fashion he turned to suspense and comedy - which is exactly what he dishes up in "Charade". He was granted an honorary Academy Award "in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation." In his acceptance speech he declared that one of the secrets to being a great director is "You show up - and stay the hell out of the way. But you gotta show up or else you can’t take the credit".
The story of "Charade" started when screenwriters Peter Stone and Marc Behm offered a script called "The Unsuspecting Wife" to the Hollywood studios who turned it down flat. Stone then turned it into a novel, re-titled Charade, which found a publisher and was also serialized in Redbook magazine, as many novels were at the time. In Redbook it caught the attention of the same Hollywood bosses who had passed on it earlier….
When Audrey met Cary…This is Cary Grant’s one and only appearance with Audrey Hepburn and his last playing his stock urbane character - he was wise enough to realise that his age (59) was beginning to show. After a couple of small part appearances he retired from the screen in 1966 and devoted his life to his family… and a lucrative directorship of Fabergé. He died in 1986.
Audrey Hepburn was born on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her father was a wealthy English banker and her mother a Dutch baroness. When "Charade" was made she was enjoying the success of "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and the glamour of "My Fair Lady" was just a year ahead. While Cary Grant was effectively ending his career honourably, Audrey was on the crest of the wave.
Unlike our supporting film, "Charade" has received the full works - a High Definition digital restoration that gives the film a fresh, glossy, sharp, sparkling look. Like many of the best conversions from film to digital, this one almost looks better than the original.

The Plank

1967 - Dir: Eric Sykes - 51 mins
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th December, 2012

This showing was planned last April. Eric Sykes died in July aged 89. We could claim that this is our tribute to one of the greatest screen comedy actors Britain has ever produced - but we’d probably be more honest saying that over the past 12 years we’ve had more requests for this film than any other (apart from Lawrence of Arabia) - which is a tribute in itself! Sykes dreamed this inspired comedy up, cast it, squeezed money out of the stones of Wardour Street, scripted it as he directed it and did everything but the most mundane technical tasks himself. It’s quite simply one man’s masterpiece - and speaks volumes more than any epitaph.
It’s sad and rather shameful that The Plank has been absent from the big screen since the 1970s. The Rank Organisation, who inherited it after London Films went bust, seemed to be ashamed of it and no new prints were made after the original 1967 release. Television showings were sporadic and were eclipsed by a shorter 1979 remake by Thames Television - not as funny but cheaper to repeat. Even in the digital age The Plank has remained elusive and the version we’re showing tonight is far from perfect. In fact the film grew out of a television programme - it’s an idea expanded from "Sykes and A Plank" made for the BBC in 1964.
  • The Plank, signed by the entire cast, was recently sold at auction for £1,000.
  • Peter Sellers got a better paying job before shooting began and was replaced by Tommy Cooper at the last minute.
  • Jimmy Tarbuck was paid in whiskey (4 bottles).