Public Domain Theater: Charade (& “Have You Got Any Castles?”)

Welcome to Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

We have a special treat for you this time. One of the few full-color movies you’ll be seeing on Public Domain Theater, and undoubtedly one of the most expensive to produce, it’s the Audrey Hepburn classic, Charade!

There’s so much to recommend about this film, it’s hard to know where to start. Hepburn is absolutely electric in it, giving a performance that’s witty, vivacious, yet so very human. The cast is packed with other Old Hollywood talent like Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, and James Coburn. The story mixes a mystery/suspense plotline with the romance and witty repartee of a screwball comedy to tremendous effect. And the location shooting throughout is beyond gorgeous (this was a product of Hollywood’s “So you can’t afford to vacation in Paris? This flick’s the next best thing!” phase).

But perhaps the highest praise I can give the film is that, if I hadn’t paid attention to the opening credits, I would have sworn this was an Alfred Hitchcock picture. In many ways, it feels like a loving, brilliantly done homage (though never a ripoff) of To Catch a Thief.

In case all that gushing ain’t enough, we’ve also got an opening cartoon to draw you in. It’s the Merrie Melodies short “Have You Got Any Castles?”, part of their “objects in a store come alive after dark” line of films. Using a library setting, and having literally hundreds of fictional characters step out of their books to have a big ol’ dance party, it tosses all pretense of plot aside, using its premise to cram in as many puns and pop culture references as it can, before having it all explode in anarchic violence.

(Though, be warned, they also cram in a few racial stereotypes, including what is, as far as I’ve been able to discover, the only animated version of Fu Manchu.)

So why don’t you come with me down the streets of Gay Paris, exchange some witty back-and-forths, and maybe browse a library afterhours, here at Public Domain Theater.

Opening Cartoon:

Feature Presentation: