How to Steal a Million (1966)

127 mins | Comedy | 13 July 1966

Director:

William Wyler

Writer:

Harry Kurnitz

Producer:

Fred Kohlmar

Cinematographer:

Charles Lang Jr.

Editor:

Robert Swink

Production Designer:

Alexandre Trauner

Production Company:

World Wide Productions
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HISTORY

The 20 Feb 1964 LAT reported that playwright Harry Kurnitz's latest script was written with actress Audrey Hepburn in mind, as were all of his screenplays. The working title was Venus Rising, after the 1962 short story by George Bradshaw, upon which it was based. More than a year later, the 25 Mar 1965 DV stated that cinematographer Leon Shamroy would join director William Wyler on the project. Shamroy was eventually replaced by Charles Lang, and Audrey Hepburn had already been cast in a lead role. On 29 Mar 1965, NYT announced Peter O'Toole as her leading man.
       An item in the 16 Jun 1965 Var reported the revised title as How to Steal a Million Dollars and Live Happily Ever After. Production was scheduled to begin 16 Aug 1965 in Paris, France, according to the 27 Jun 1965 NYT. As noted in the 25 Jun 1965 DV, Wyler and producer Fred Kohlmar were already making preparations in Paris. The 19 Aug 1965 DV revealed that the team encountered difficulties in obtaining permits to film in the city, due in part to the storyline, which suggested the presence of forged paintings in the Louvre Museum. The counterfeit paintings created for the film were copied from works by Gaugin, Cezanne, Degas, and Renoir, and were said to look authentic. The technical advisor was identified as Joe Chapman, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Interior shooting was currently underway at Studios de Boulogne. Three fifths of the $5 ... More Less

The 20 Feb 1964 LAT reported that playwright Harry Kurnitz's latest script was written with actress Audrey Hepburn in mind, as were all of his screenplays. The working title was Venus Rising, after the 1962 short story by George Bradshaw, upon which it was based. More than a year later, the 25 Mar 1965 DV stated that cinematographer Leon Shamroy would join director William Wyler on the project. Shamroy was eventually replaced by Charles Lang, and Audrey Hepburn had already been cast in a lead role. On 29 Mar 1965, NYT announced Peter O'Toole as her leading man.
       An item in the 16 Jun 1965 Var reported the revised title as How to Steal a Million Dollars and Live Happily Ever After. Production was scheduled to begin 16 Aug 1965 in Paris, France, according to the 27 Jun 1965 NYT. As noted in the 25 Jun 1965 DV, Wyler and producer Fred Kohlmar were already making preparations in Paris. The 19 Aug 1965 DV revealed that the team encountered difficulties in obtaining permits to film in the city, due in part to the storyline, which suggested the presence of forged paintings in the Louvre Museum. The counterfeit paintings created for the film were copied from works by Gaugin, Cezanne, Degas, and Renoir, and were said to look authentic. The technical advisor was identified as Joe Chapman, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Interior shooting was currently underway at Studios de Boulogne. Three fifths of the $5 million budget were allocated for preparation and salaries. According to 20 Aug 1965 DV production charts, principal photography was scheduled to begin three days later.
       A news item in the 8 Sep 1965 LAT revealed that Audrey Hepburn was required to take driving lessons for her role. The actress, who had no previous driving experience, was expected to "maneuver a sports car" through Paris traffic during a chase scene. The picture was referred to as How to Steal a Million Dollars. That day's NYT reported a $30,000 budget for Hepburn's wardrobe, designed by Givenchy. Color screen tests were made of the actress in each outfit, after which "a number of changes were made." An unidentified studio spokesman assumed that Hepburn would be allowed to keep her wardrobe, although he could not say for certain. The total budget was raised to $7 million, according to the 20 Sep 1965 LAT.
       The 5 Oct 1965 LAT reported that co-star Charles Boyer was grieving the death of his only son, and actor George C. Scott was suddenly replaced by Eli Wallach. Wyler told the 12 Jan 1966 NYT that Scott arrived for his first day on set at 5 p.m. and was immediately fired. The director explained that the French film industry began its shooting day at noon, resulting in better performances from the well-rested actors. However, even in this lax environment, Scott's lateness was unacceptable.
       Following the completion of principal photography, the 30 Dec 1965 DV announced the official title as How to Steal a Million.
       An article in the 7 Mar 1966 LAT reported that an unidentified "technical adviser" misinformed the British media, saying the art forgeries used in the film could easily be mistaken for the originals, and were to be destroyed following production by order of the French Ministry of Culture. The story was exposed as a hoax after the paintings were displayed in Paris, and art critic Pierre Schneider described them as "worse than mediocre."
       The 23 Jun 1966 DV announced the 13 Jul 1966 world premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA. The 8 Jul 1966 edition noted that a party would follow at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, CA, featuring the Freddy Martin orchestra. According to the 28 Jun 1966 DV, a preview screening was scheduled for a "Governor's conference," also at the Century Plaza, to be attended by governors from all fifty states. As reported in the 9 Jun 1966 NYT, an "invitation showing" was scheduled for 28 Jun 1966 at the Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York City, along with a display of paintings and sculpture. Proceeds benefitted the Lincoln Center Fund for Education and Creative Advancement. The New York City opening took place on 14 Jul 1966 at Radio City Music Hall. Reviews were mixed, with the 15 Jul 1966 NYT calling the film "a delightful bit of flummery," and the 14 Jul 1966 LAT describing the editing as "disconcertingly negligent." Public response was enthusiastic, earning the picture a record-breaking $30,387 on its opening day in New York City.
       A novelization of the screenplay was published by Signet, as noted in the 21 Jul 1966 NYT.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Mar 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Jun 1966
p. 8.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Jul 1966
p. 10.
Daily Variety
18 Jul 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Jul 1966
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1964
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
8 Sep 1965
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
20 Sep 1965
Section C, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
5 Oct 1965
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
7 Mar 1966
Section C, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1966
Section C, p. 9.
New York Times
29 Mar 1965
p. 44.
New York Times
27 Jun 1965
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
8 Sep 1965
p. 54.
New York Times
12 Jan 1966
p. 27.
New York Times
9 Jun 1966
p. 50.
New York Times
14 Jul 1966
p. 26.
New York Times
15 Jul 1966
p. 28.
New York Times
19 Jul 1966
p. 34.
New York Times
21 Jul 1966
p. 56.
Variety
16 Jun 1965
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A William Wyler Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Miss Hepburn's clothes
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Dial coach
Prod asst
Prod asst
Hairdresser
Main title des
Main title des
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Venus Rising" by George Bradshaw in Practise to Deceive (London, 1962).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Venus Rising
How to Steal a Million Dollars and Live Happily Ever After
How to Steal a Million Dollars
Release Date:
13 July 1966
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 13 July 1966
New York opening: 14 July 1966
Production Date:
23 August--December 1965
Copyright Claimant:
World Wide Productions
Copyright Date:
3 August 1966
Copyright Number:
LP32998
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
127
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Charles Bonnet is an incorrigible third generation art forger in Paris who dupes connoisseurs into labeling his works authentic and then sells them at elevated prices. So great is his enthusiasm for his profession that he permits his grandfather's "Cellini Venus" to be exhibited at a Paris museum. His daughter, Nicole, knows that the hoax will be discovered when government officials appraise the statue, and to protect her father, she blackmails "society" burglar Simon Dermott into helping her steal the tiny statue from the museum. Actually, Simon is a detective who specializes in tracing stolen art objects, but, taken by Nicole's charms, he agrees to assist in the burglary. Using only a magnet, a boomerang, and their wits, Nicole and Simon remove the sculpture from its laser-protected pedestal. Simon then offers the Venus to Nicole's fiancé, American millionaire David Leland, who is so fanatic about art treasures that, in return for the statue, he agrees to give up Nicole. Futhermore, he promises Simon never to allow another person to see it. The affair settled, Simon whisks Nicole off for a honeymoon while Bonnet gleefully plans his next ... +


Charles Bonnet is an incorrigible third generation art forger in Paris who dupes connoisseurs into labeling his works authentic and then sells them at elevated prices. So great is his enthusiasm for his profession that he permits his grandfather's "Cellini Venus" to be exhibited at a Paris museum. His daughter, Nicole, knows that the hoax will be discovered when government officials appraise the statue, and to protect her father, she blackmails "society" burglar Simon Dermott into helping her steal the tiny statue from the museum. Actually, Simon is a detective who specializes in tracing stolen art objects, but, taken by Nicole's charms, he agrees to assist in the burglary. Using only a magnet, a boomerang, and their wits, Nicole and Simon remove the sculpture from its laser-protected pedestal. Simon then offers the Venus to Nicole's fiancé, American millionaire David Leland, who is so fanatic about art treasures that, in return for the statue, he agrees to give up Nicole. Futhermore, he promises Simon never to allow another person to see it. The affair settled, Simon whisks Nicole off for a honeymoon while Bonnet gleefully plans his next masterpiece. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.