How to Steal a Million


This Catch-Up is written by Telaina Eriksen
Year of Release: 1966
Rating: NR (G/PG—a few dammits, hells and casual smoking, drinking, and kissing)

Currently Streaming on Netflix? No (Currently available on demand for HBO Subscribers)
Spoilers: No more than the trailer

Saturday night after working at a water polo tournament all day (don’t ask) my husband and I ate too much Mexican food and watched How to Steal a Million on our bloated cable package. To me, watching older movies feels almost like reading. There is a cleanness to them, a neatness, that, if they are good, help soothe my psyche. No one is on a cell phone. There is barely mention of TV. People are wearing suits and dresses. There’s no CGI. (There are also unfortunately, no people of color.) It’s not that I idealize this time. This movie was released two years before I was born. It is older movies’ simplicity that I treasure. The box office game was perhaps, a little easier then, the formula for a hit a little less honed, making it easier to just tell a story.

Audrey Hepburn is Nicole whose dear father Bonnet (Hugh Griffith) is an expert art forger. Because of his renown as a famous art collector, no one bothers to check and see if the paintings he sells are real. Peter O’Toole plays Simon Dermott. Nicole thinks he is an expert burglar, but really he is a private detective hired to check into Bonnet’s forgeries. With unabashed optimism, Bonnet lends a forged sculpture to a famous French museum, unknowing that it will have to be appraised and authenticated for the insurance. Nicole, not wanting her father to rot in prison, “hires” Dermott to break in to the heavily guarded French museum and steal the statue back.

Simply LOOKING at Hepburn and O’Toole in this movie is a pleasure. I’ve had a thing for Peter O’Toole since the 80s when he was a hot older dude to Jodie Foster’s ingénue in the TV movie Svengali and since O’Toole’s fabulous performance in My Favorite Year. I saw both of these in my teen years and didn’t see many of O’Toole’s older movies (including this one) until later.

It is hard to remember while watching this sweet, sly performance of Hepburn’s, that she survived the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, spoke four or five different languages, won an Academy Award and went on to be a special ambassador to the United Nations.

This is a little gem of a romantic comedy, but it isn’t sickeningly sweet or syrupy. Nicole isn’t a goody-goody and Dermott shrugs off his law-abiding ways to help the woman of his dreams.

Put this one on your watchlist to enjoy after a stressful day but take my advice, and go easier on the cheese dip than we did.