Cary Grant as Brian Cruikshank (aka Peter Joshua, Alexander Dyle, or Adam Canfield)
Paris, April 1963
Release Date: December 5, 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
Referred to as “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made”, Charade is a well-made blend of espionage thriller, screwball comedy, romance, and whodunit mystery. It was one of Cary Grant’s final movies before his retirement after Walk, Don’t Run in 1966.
In the film, Grant plays the well-suited hero or foil (depending on the scene) to Audrey Hepburn’s character, housewife Regina “Reggie” Lampert, who is gradually learning the layered criminal truth about her recently deceased husband. Although he was 59 years old when the film was made, Grant makes a convincing action hero, spending most of the final third of the film running, jumping, and shooting.
As to be expected, Grant is immaculately suited through most of the film.
On the 109th anniversary of Grant’s birth—when he entered the world in Bristol, England, as Archibald Leach on January 18, 1904—please enjoy…
What’d He Wear?
Unlike his previous prominent foray into espionage cinema, Charade provides Cary Grant with multiple wardrobe changes and the chance for the actor—then pushing 60 years old—to showcase his ability to easily outdress actors half his age.
Grant’s most frequently worn suit in Charade is a dark navy blue suit, featured in many of the film’s signature scenes from the orange tamoure dance to the climactic chase through Paris. One sequence finds Grant’s character walking with Reggie along the Seine, enjoying ice cream, when she spills some of the confection on the suit. Grant brags that the suit is “drip-dry” and proceeds to show her as much by wearing it into the shower… thus foiling her plans to search it for clues to his identity.
BAMF Style reader Shaiaz Shah deducted from Grant’s “drip dry” comments that this dark navy two-piece suit is likely the Haspel “Exemplar” suit in a then-groundbreaking polyester/rayon “wash-and-wear” blend. Haspel seems to support this theory on their site.
Cary Grant often wears this suit jacket with just the lowest one or two of the three buttons fastened. This isn’t recommended for most men, but it works with Grant’s frame and also has a practical purpose within the film; as Grant’s character wears his gun on his right hip, his weapon remains concealed under the closed jacket but the lower buttoning point allows him a large enough opening to draw it if needed.
Grant’s suit jacket has a single back vent, two-button cuffs, straight flapped hip pockets, and a welted breast pocket where he keeps his eyeglasses.
The high rise trousers are flat front with plain-hemmed bottoms, worn with a black nylon belt.
…and how he wears it
The dark navy blue suit is first introduced when Grant arrives at the home of Hepburn’s character, Regina “Reggie” Lampert, as she is mourning her husband (and her possessions). He pairs the suit with a pale blue shirt and a French blue silk tie.
For the rest of the film, Grant sticks with plain white cotton shirts, all styled similarly with point collars and wide front plackets.
Grant’s shirt sleeves are finished with single cuffs, rather than the traditional double (French) cuffs, which are lighter-wearing and can be less cumbersome, particularly for a man of action like the snubnose-carrying spy that he is. His cuffs are dressed with plain, round mother-of-pearl links.
Under the left cuff, Grant wears a plain and sensible wristwatch with a round steel case, white dial with a marker at each hour, and a simple black leather strap.
Finally, Grant suits up for the film’s climax in the dark navy blue suit, white shirt, and same French blue necktie worn earlier. Possibly expecting rain or moments of badassery, Grant pairs the ensemble with an ivory knee-length Aquascutum raincoat. The coat is single-breasted with 5 light brown buttons. The raglan sleeves fasten at each cuff with a single smaller button on a half-tab. The back has a single vent and a storm flap across the top.
On his first date with Reggie—which takes them to the orange tamoure dance scene—Grant wears the suit with a white shirt and solid forest green tie. Grant is next seen wearing the suit on a dinner date with Reggie on a boat traveling down the Seine (try and top that, Mr. I-Got-Us-Reservations-At-Chili’s). For this, he wears a white shirt and a solid navy tie.
All of Grant’s ties are of a conservative width, getting slightly wider towards the bottom. With the green tie, Grant wears a gold tie pin that keeps it in place. The tie pin serves a secondary purpose; he uses it to rig a device to booby trap Reggie’s hotel room door after their date.
Best seen when rigging Reggie’s door, Grant wears a pair of black leather two-eyelet derbies with a long plain toe. He wears thin dark navy dress socks.
Grant’s character wears his revolver in a right side hip holster. The holster itself is only seen clearly once, when Grant removes his jacket after a long night of orange-transferring and bad guy-chasing.
Go Big or Go Home
In a contrast to North by Northwest where Grant played an innocent man thrust into the world of espionage with a mysterious woman playing seemingly both for and against him at every turn, Charade finds Grant playing the mysterious man to Audrey Hepburn’s innocent woman finding herself surrounded by spies and assassins, unsure of whom to trust. (Who to trust? Whom? Whatever.)
Grant doesn’t get much time to get any on-screen drinking done, replacing his martini with a revolver. However, he does enjoy a highball in a Parisian nightclub before the action takes off and is also shown to enjoy skiing. So check those off of your list of things to appreciate (or look like you appreciate) in your lifelong quest to be like Cary Grant.
In another contrast from his usual roles, Grant finds himself to be the pursued, rather than the pursuer, in his relationship with Hepburn’s character. Having cited his concerns about playing the love interest to someone 25 years his junior – very gentlemanly too, I might add – the plot was adapted to have Hepburn trying to seduce Grant at every turn. Naturally, he can only resist so much before realizing, “Oh, right, this is Audrey Hepburn.”
How to Get the Look
In Charade, Cary Grant shows how to diversify a simple wardrobe to fit the moment, wearing the same suit on a date, a meeting, and a chase through the streets and subways of Paris.
- Dark navy blue polyester/rayon “drip dry” suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped straight hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single rear vent
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White dress shirt with moderate spread collar, front placket, and single cuffs
- Translucent round link-style cuff links with a light gold frame
- Solid tie (in light blue, dark blue, or forest green)
- Ivory gabardine knee-length 5-button Aquascutum raincoat with shirt-style collar, side hip pockets, single-button half-tab cuffs, back storm flap, and single vent
- Black nylon belt
- Black leather 2-eyelet plain-toe derby shoes
- Thin dark navy dress socks
- Steel wristwatch with round white dial on black leather strap
- Black-framed eyeglasses
- Black leather hip holster (RHD) for S&W 2″ medium-frame revolver
As usual, you can buy all of these things but just keep in mind that Cary Grant will still look better than you.
Unusual for Cary Grant, his character carries and uses a gun throughout the film. The gun in question is a snubnose Smith & Wesson Model 10. The Model 10 was one of Smith & Wesson’s most popular handgun designs, having been around in various models since its introduction in 1899 as the “Military & Police Hand Ejector”. It introduced the venerable .38 Special cartridge to the firearms world and quickly shot to popularity among both police and criminals.
The snubnose Model 10 is an appropriate choice for Grant’s character, an American government agent who requires a concealed weapon just in case of an incident. He’s not James Bond, going out and getting into gunfights, but it’s good that he has something reliable and powerful at hand if he needs it.
The Model 10 is differentiated from the Model 36, the .38 snubbie used by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas as well as countless other film characters, as the Model 10 is a full-size 6-round revolver whereas the Model 36 only carries 5 rounds.
Do Yourself A Favor And…
Check out the Criterion Collection version of the movie. Since it’s in public domain due a Universal Pictures error back in the ’60s, many companies have released versions of varying quality. Only Criterion has issued a version clear enough to satisfy.
Adam Canfield (since it’s his name in this scene): We didn’t steal it, there’s no law against stealing stolen money.
Regina “Reggie” Lampert: Of course there is!
Adam: There is?
Adam: When did they pass such a silly law?