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How to Steal a Million

Audrey Hepburn enlists cat burglar Peter O’Toole to nick a statue from a museum before it’s revealed as a forgery. To be honest, this caper comedy’s far from top flight, mainly because the caper itself is a tad weak (a key part of the ruse involves, er, setting the museum alarm off a lot so the security guards get bored and unplug it, and Audrey dressing up as a charwoman), but the script is packed full of high class banter and it all fits together perfectly to provide that all-important satisfaction factor.although the actual mechanics of the caper never get any better (that bit with the keys and the magnets, though making for some pleasingly incongruous shots for a Hollywood film, goes on for hours) there’s top fun with Hugh Griffith’s improbably-bearded French art forger. (And what do you call that tonsorial style, incidentally? Beard the exact dimensions of a large bar of fruit and nut, bald pate with thick black hair at the temples teased into devil’s horns, eyebrows doing the same? It’s so prevalent in comedies of a certain vintage, there must be a name for it. The Enraged Belgian Diplomat look, or something?) And of course, you have Moustache! With his… moustache! We’ve often wondered what it is with French actors and their single names, like they were Brazilian footballers or summat. Obviously Moustache started off as a comic turn (M. Moustache, in fact), but what about Fernandel? Bourvil? Cantinflas? (OK, he’s Mexican, forget the ‘French’ bit, then.) Why don’t English actors do this sort of thing? The answer’s obvious – because that would make them first-water prannies. Still, it’s fun to guess what they could have become. Bernard Bresslaw as ‘Lummox’, perhaps? Fred Griffiths as ‘Taxi’? Michael Caine as ‘Git’?



  1. Richardpd

    October 27, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    I watched this recently & found it quite enjoyable, lots of quirky moments especially when gaslighting the security guards.

    I like how Moustache changes the look of his moustache to suit his moods.

    While single names for actors who weren’t originally singers or models hasn’t really caught on in the English speaking world, it has for technical staff. Rocket was the camera operator on many 1990s episodes of Red Dwarf and Bazza is a regular backroom boy on Judge Judy.

  2. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 27, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    Mononymity (is that a word?) also notable amongst footballers, and light classical musicians: Mantovani, Semprini, Liberace. Frank Muir records the occasion when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation sent a Charles Moses to meet the distinguished pianist Solomon at the airport. Solomon bowed slightly and said ‘Solomon’, and the ABC man bowed back and said ‘Moses’.

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