Favorite things about… How to Steal a Million (1966)

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(Image via Brave Movies

The favorite film:
How to Steal a Million, directed by William Wyler

The synopsis:
Monsieur Bonnet has a legendary art collection. He sells select works for great prices at auction, and lends others to museums for special exhibits. His father was also in the art business. But the Bonnets have a secret: they’re forgers, not collectors! When a Venus statue, supposedly sculpted by Cellini but actually sculpted by Bonnet’s father, goes on display, Bonnet’s daughter Nicole is filled with worry. Will it be found out as a fake? Rather than take chances, she teams up with expert “society burglar” Simon Dermott to steal the statue back from the museum where it’s on loan.

The cast:
Audrey Hepburn as Nicole Bonnet
Hugh Griffith as “Papa” Bonnet
Peter O’Toole as Simon Dermott
Eli Wallach as Davis Leland
Charles Boyer as DeSolnay
Fernand Gravey as Grammont

Fun facts:

  • This was the third and final collaboration between Audrey Hepburn and William Wyler. Their other films together are Roman Holiday (1953) and The Children’s Hour (1961).
  • According to TCM’s introduction for the film, Wyler had a hunch that Hepburn and O’Toole would get along great. Sure enough, they became fast friends and had a great time working on the picture, often laughing through takes.
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(Image via Doctor Macro)

  • The film was shot by Charles Lang, who also worked on Audrey’s films Charade, SabrinaParis When It Sizzles, and Wait Until Dark.
  • Audrey Hepburn’s costumes were designed by Givenchy.

Favorite things/quotes:

  • The groovy font and artistic backdrops of the opening credits
  • Audrey’s first scene, driving in that red car, with the white hat and matching glasses. She was the epitome of retro-cool to me when I first saw this film as a teen. It’s been several years since I last watched, and seeing that shot gave me a flood of nostalgia!
  • Papa: “How kind of Van Gogh to use only his first name. I can sign him in half the time!”
  • The amount of detail that goes into Papa’s forgeries, going so far as to gather dirt from Van Gogh’s neighborhood to distress the latest painting!
  • Papa: “The basic trouble with you is that you’re honest.”
  • Eli Wallach and his car phone!
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(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

  • Nicole reading a Hitchcock book in bed!
  • Nicole catching Simon in the act of trying to steal Papa’s latest Van Gogh knock-off
  • Simon peering at Nicole over the top of the frame
  • Simon, after Nicole passes out: “I’M the one that’s bleeding!”
  • Simon: “I feel weak! From shock… and loss of blood!
  • Nicole’s outfit when she drives Simon home: a pale pink nightgown, black rain boots, and a hot pink coat!
  • Nicole: “You’re a very chic burglar, aren’t you?”
  • Nicole: “Your arm is much better!”
    Simon, clutching his left arm: “Oh,  no, no! It hurts, it hurts!”
    Nicole: “It’s the other arm.”
    Simon: “The infection is spreading!”
  • Simon asking Nicole to clean his fingerprints from his failed burglary in her own home!
  • Nicole: “Quite good looking! In a brutal, mean way…”
  • Papa spitting out his drink when Nicole tells him she drove the burglar home
  • Simon’s interest in hearing every detail of the museum’s security system
  • Nicole: “He makes COMPUTERS.”
    Papa: “What?”
  • Davis and Nicole’s awkward date
  • Simon sneaking his way to Nicole’s table when Davis leaves to take a long-distance call (which was arranged, of course, by Simon)
  • Davis admitting he’s using Nicole to get to the Venus
  • Davis’ reaction to being kissed by Nicole
  • Papa, explaining the odd behavior of American millionaires: “It must be something they put in the ink when they print the money!”
  • Papa: “We live in a crass, commercial world with no faith or trust!”
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(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

  • That black outfit with the lace eye mask and bold, glittery eye makeup! Iconic.
  • Nicole: “You interested in a big time caper?”
    Simon: “A what?”
    Nicole: “A heist.”
    Simon: “A heist? Oh! You mean a burglary.”
  • Simon’s amused and baffled reaction when he learns just what Nicole’s plans are for the burglary
  • Simon: “Where, precisely, were you in the early part of the 16th century?”
    Nicole: “I don’t know, but that’s not how I was dressed!”
  • Simon telling Nicole that she should wait until the statue is returned to her home and just steal it from herself
  • Simon: “How d’ya like being a gangster’s moll, baby?”
  • Nicole: “Are we planning the same sort of crime?”
  • Nicole’s frumpy “scrub woman” outfit
  • Simon: “Well, for one thing it gives Givenchy a night off!”
  • Simon insisting that Nicole’s crying won’t have an effect on him… just before giving in and agreeing to the burglary plan
  • Davis’ “man of action” proposal with that enormous ring
  • Davis: “I’ve never been engaged to such a fidgety girl in all my life!”
  • Simon’s face after Nicole says she’s late because she was getting engaged
  • Simon: “Well, we have a few moments for cultural improvement!”
  • Nicole: “I’m gonna faint.”
    Simon: “Don’t! There’s no room.”
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(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

  • Simon’s key-stealing magnet and door-unlocking, super-spy tricks
  • Simon: “Well, I’d send for a doctor, but I honestly don’t think he’d fit in the closet.”
  • Simon confronting Nicole about the Venus being a fake (and then admitting he knew all along, and giving her a big ol’ smooch)
  • Papa: “It seems so commercial to think of money at a time like this!”
  • Papa putting a big black bow on the Venus’ display, like it’s a funeral for a human
  • Nicole’s excitement over how well her “first burglary” went
  • Papa: “Yes, yes. Blue eyes, tall, quite good looking… a terrible man. I believe we have some interests in common.”
    Simon: “You have two gorgeous girls in your family, Mr. Bonnet.”
    Papa: “Two?”
    Simon: “The other is upstairs wrapped in a shirt in my room.”
    Papa: “Aha! And which, may I ask, do you intend to keep?”
    Simon: “The real one.”
  • Papa’s “cousin” coming to visit
  • Simon: “You know, for someone who started lying just recently, you’re showing a real flair!”
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5 thoughts on “Favorite things about… How to Steal a Million (1966)

  1. I love this film so much! It’s funny, romantic and Audrey and Peter have wild chemistry. The sequence where they are hiding in the cleaning cupboard is my favourite. Peter is so charming and sexy in this. Audrey is adorable. I wish I had Audrey’s black lace outfit. This is a film I turn to whenever I need cheering up, it has never failed yet! :-)

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  2. I think I saw this one literally decades ago, and remember not one thing about it…so I guess it’s time to give it another look. It does sound like a lot of fun…and I love that photo of Audrey holding the Hitchcock book!

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