‘Venus Rising’- George Bradshaw’s short story about an art forger was never meant for the big screen. But once finagled by screenplay writer Harry Kurnitz and cast with none other than two of Hollywoods greatest; Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, it could do little more than succeed. In 1965 How to Steal a Million was graced with a WGA Award nomination( for Kurnitz) as the Best-Written American Comedy, being beaten out to winner A Thousand Clowns, which needless to say did not star Hepburn or O’Toole.
Hepburn plays the daughter of art forger ( Hugh Griffith)- a man who believes his art no less than a masterpiece simply because it’s copied. Nicole( Hepburn), after hearing her fathers forgery has taken hundreds of thousands at an auction, feels she may need to do some reprimanding- but she’s too late. The museum’s already on its way to her families home to secure their famous ‘Cellini’ ( aka…. a fogery by her grandfather) for an upcoming exhibit. Will the madness never stop!
Choosing a cozy Hitchcock novel over another museum opening exhibition, Nicole Bonnet is greeted with a ‘society burgular’ Simon Dermott( O’Toole) in her living room. Threatening him with a gun which accidently goes of and grazes his arm, Simon charms her into mending his wound and driving him home. Thus begins a beautiful relationship.
When Nicole discovers the museum must do testing on the Cellini for insurance purposes she quickly engages Simon to help her steal her own statue. The comedic timing by both O’Toole and Hepburn is perfect. Griffith plays an excellent bumbling father and Eli Wallach signs on as the man willing to buy the Cellini Venus on the black market, with an engagement ring for Nicole in tow.
I adore this film, it’s fun and light. I would have loved to see Peter O’Toole in more romantic comedies in the 60’s but it just did not happen. Peter O’Toole appeared in over 70 films and played over 40 roles on the stage and Audrey Hepburn accumulated over 45 major award nominations( winning 23). The pairing of these two icons is genius, and make for a wonderful film.