Tag Archives: How to Steal a Million

Style on Film: How To Steal a Million

This is the look everyone remembers from the 1966 romantic caper movie How To Steal a Million, in which the irresistible Audrey Hepburn played Nicole Bonnet, the daughter of a master art forger. Set in Paris, the film features glorious locations – the Bonnets’ fabulous mansion, the Louvre, the Ritz – and, of course, some fab fashions from who else but Hepburn’s favourite couturier, Hubert de Givenchy. For the opening scene, he kitted his muse out in a kooky helmet hat, with matching sunglasses – very much a la Paco Rabanne. Here’s our first glimpse of Nicole:

When she arrives at her (presumably right bank) home, we get this glimpse of the rear view of her natty cream and white ensemble..

Later that night, Nicole is disturbed from her bedtime reading (a book about Alfred Hitchcock!) and discovers that a rather attractive Englishman (Peter O’Toole) is trying to pinch her pere’s Van Gogh. And when I say her pere’s Van Gogh, I mean the one he painted; not “Van Gogh’s Van Gogh”… After shooting him, tending to his injury and driving him back to the Ritz (well, he is, as Nicole points out a particularly “chic burglar”, she arranges to meet him the next day. For her secret rendez-vous at the Ritz to seal the deal, Nicole goes semi-undercover in an unforgettable black lace ensemble – which is very, very now.

Even the eye make-up glimpsible under that mask looks very 2011 – Chanel’s Illusion d’Ombre in Epatant would achieve a similar effect as Nicole’s eyes in that last picture. Here’s a better look at that exquisite lace mask.

For their next meeting – to case the joint for their heist (they are going to steal back Monsieur Bonnet’s Cellini statue from the Louvre) – Nicole dresses very conservatively. This is colour-blocking, 1966-style.

And here’s an off-duty shot of the stars which shows off one of the many pairs of patterned tights sported by Nicole in the film.

Hepburn’s reputation as the epitome of chic is affectionately sent up in the movie. When Nicole puts on her char woman disguise, her suave accomplice quips: ” Well for one thing, it gives Givenchy a night off!”  Setting off for the heist, she dresses in sophisticated beige …

Style-wise, How To Steal a Million is a bit of a mixed bag – one of Nicole’s outfits (a canary yellow suit, plus white tights) looks like it was inspired by Tweety Pie, and she spends quite a bit of time in a boring cotton nightie, but the opening scene outfit and, especially, the black lace ensemble are worth tuning in for. And this make-up is very inspirational for the party season.

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Style on Film: How To Steal a Million

Tune in to Channel 4 at 1pm on Tuesday March 30 for a chic lunchtime treat: a screening of the 1966 romantic caper comedy How To Steal a Million in which style icon Audrey Hepburn models some particularly modish Givenchy and her first short hairdo of the decade.

Playing the despairing daughter of a wealthy master forger who likes to replicate his own impressive collection of great art works, Audrey has a wardrobe to die for. The only time she doesn’t don Givenchy is when she pretends to be a maid. But even then, her favourite designer gets a namecheck – courtesy of co-star Peter O’Toole who, upon seeing her in her disguise, comments that Givenchy is getting a “day off”.

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Paris on Film, Je T’aime

I was in Paris a couple of weeks ago, to hear about a new skincare launch by Chanel and to do some research for a forthcoming piece about the new biopic Coco Avant Chanel.

As we traced the great couturiere’s dainty footsteps across the quartier where she lived and worked, I was struck by just how many great films I’ve loved have been set and filmed there. And how, any time I need a fix of my favourite city, I have any number of wonderful movies available to me for an instant Parisian pick-me-up.

Filmmakers just love Paris. It’s little wonder, given the possibilities that it offers. Its spectacular scenery has lent itself to unforgettable musical numbers in everything from Vincente Minnelli’s Gigi (a whirlwind tour through the parks of Paris if ever there was one) to Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You (who could forget Goldie Hawn dancing in the air on the banks of the Seine as she sings “I’m Through With Love”?).

Its buildings, squares and streets have added atmosphere and authenticity to historical epics and period dramas (think Dangerous Liaisons or A Very Long Engagement) and so much of the city is unspoiled that actual locations – the scene of the attempted assassination of General De Gaulle, at the corner of the rue de Rennes and the boulevard du Montparnasse, as featured in The Day of the Jackal, for example – can be used in their cinematic recreations.

You don’t need to be a director to be able to visualise clearly what the scene must have been like in the vast place de la Concorde when Madame La Guillotine was entertaining the crowds, or to imagine the misery of life in the Conciergerie prison where Marie-Antoinette and hundreds of others were held before they lost their heads: they have been preserved for posterity.

Similarly, legendary Parisian institutions – such as Maxim’s restaurant (as featured in the sumptuous Art Nouveau extravaganza Gigi as well as the tres chic sixties caper comedy How To Steal a Million), the Moulin Rouge, and the Chartier brasserie, where Jodie Foster lunched in A Very Long Engagement – have barely changed in decades, and so lend themselves beautifully to films set in any period since they opened. The Ritz will undoubtedly play its part in Coco Avant Chanel, as it was here that she enjoyed trysts with her lovers before nipping across the rue Cambon to her boutique.

The world-famous metro system and its iconic, labyrinthine stations have played host to nail-biting chases in such great (and very dissimilar) movies as Diva and Charade, and the Eiffel Tower has played a pivotal part in everything from Ealing comedy (The Lavender Hill Mob) to James Bond thriller (A View to a Kill). A moonlit Bateau Mouche cruise on the Seine is where Cary Grant and a Givenchy-clad Audrey Hepburn fall in love in one of the most evocative of all Paris films, the super-sexy comedy-thriller Charade.

The many facets of the city’s personality are reflected in the range of films that have been set there. The threatening side of Paris – especially to hapless American tourists – was exploited to great effect in the Roman Polanski thriller Frantic, in which Harrison Ford’s wife disappears without a trace from their hotel bedroom.

The often deserted platforms and empty corridors of the metro evoke the eery, unsettling side of a city with its fair share of nutters. Just ask Steve Buscemi who, in the recent portmanteau movie Paris Je T’aime, has an unpleasant (and not entirely unusual) experience while waiting for a train in the Tuileries station. Equally, the sordid and tacky parts of Paris have been shown in a diverse range of films including Amelie, which views the sex shops around the Faubourg St-Denis with characteristic bemusement.

Few films have evoked the quixotic, magical side of Paris as well as Amelie, which portrayed the city as a big adventure playground for romantics and underlined the fact that it’s the sum of its many parts, of which the pretty, whimsical, self-contained Montmartre area is just one.

Meanwhile, such Parisian passions as American jazz have produced some superior jazz movies, including Paris Blues and Round Midnight. And the city’s status as the capital of style has inspired a string of fashion films, among them Pret-a-Porter, Robert Altman’s chronicle of the catwalk shows, and the gloriously chic Funny Face.

Indeed, Funny Face is probably the greatest of all the cinematic billet doux from Hollywood to Paris. A gorgeous, colourful, joie-de-vivre-exuding movie, it highlights how one person’s Paris can be entirely different from another’s – because of all these separate, but overlapping, facets to the city’s character. While Fred Astaire’s urbane photographer character is drawn to the grandeur of the Champs-Elysees, the fashion editor played by Kay Thompson wants to hit the shops around the rue St-Honore, and our bookish, beatnik heroine, Audrey Hepburn, can’t wait “to philosophise with all the guys in Montmartre – and Montparnasse”, and explore cafe culture. .

Paris Je T’aime cleverly used this all-things-to-all-people idea to highly original effect, by gathering together 18 different stories, each set in a different part of the city. It’s the ultimate Paris film locations-wise, but, of course, the love affair between Paris and the movies isn’t dependent on complete authenticity. The most famous romantic movie of all time, Casablanca, was partly set in Paris and although filmed entirely in California, it captured the city’s romantic personality by suggesting that Paris was more than a place; it is a state of mind.

After all, as Bogey says to Ingrid Bergman as they separate forever: “We’ll always have Paris.”

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