Say Anything – Charade – tape 1369

Over to the Movie Channel for a movie which is fairly well known just for a single scene. It’s Say Anything starring John Cusack and Ione Skye.

John Cusack

Cusack wants to date Ione Skye despite them having spent no actual time together at all. She’s the class valedictorian, whose father, John Mahoney, clearly has high hopes for her.

Ione Skye

It’s unclear to me why he’s not going out with either of his actual, close friends, with whom he has rapport and friendship. But this is a romcom, and those are the rules. At least one of them is still obsessed with the guy who broke up with her, and she’s taking Adele therapy by writing 65 songs about the breakup.

Cusack and friends

Cusack’s sister is his real-life sister Joan Cusack.

Joan Cusack

She’s a little older, and the sensible one. “Why does your food contain no actual food?”  On his relationship with her young son, “Why can’t you be his uncle and not his playmate?”

Meanwhile, Skye and Mahoney are showing us more of their Father/Daughter relationship. Mahoney is astute casting here, as he’s warm and likeable by default, but he’s clearly invested a huge amount of himself in the academic success of his daughter, whom he obviously adores, and she’s starting to wonder if that was the best thing. The scene is set for disruption.

Lloyd manages to ask her to the big graduation party everyone’s going to, and she accepts, somewhat reluctantly. At the party, Lloyd has to be the keymaster, looking after everyone’s car keys so nobody can drive home drunk, so immediately we’re seeing responsibility. The party scene is a good indication of where this film differs from a more typical high school comedy. Although it’s loud and raucous, on the whole everyone is having fun, and there are none of the usual pratfalls and cliqueyness. Even Skye’s appearance at the party, even though it’s unexpected as she clearly didn’t socialise very much, doesn’t make her the subject of any unpleasantness. And although she and Cusack don’t spend much time actually together, because of his keymaster duties, he’s frequently checking up on her to make sure she’s OK. Combine this with how obviously popular and liked he is, and you can see why Skye would at least be interested in him.

There’s a few cameos at the party. Bebe Neuwirth plays the school’s careers counselor.

Bebe Neuwirth

Kim Taylor, one of the Heathers in Heathers appears.

Kim Walker

And continuing our occasional connections with previous tapes, I’m fairly sure that’s Jeremy Piven, also Jerry the head writer on the Larry Sanders Show.

Jeremy Piven

The host of the party is Eric Stoltz

John Cusack, Ione Skye and Eric Stoltz

Cusack and Skye get on so well they start seeing a lot of each other. Their second date is a ‘family audition’ meal with her father and some of his friends. It doesn’t go badly, although Cusack’s lack of a defined career plan raises eyebrows. But he doesn’t embarrass himself. However, at the party, Mahoney is visited by two agents for the IRS, informing him that he’s under investigation, a plot thread that will trickle through the film.

When Cusack and Skye finally consummate their relationship, which she later explains to her father was more her choice than his, Mahoney tells her she’s probably going to be better off if she breaks up, because she’s going to go to college in England, and it would be better not to try to maintain a long-distance relationship. Mahoney is brilliant in these scenes, so clearly torn between watning to protect his daughter, wanting to ensure her continued success, but also, somewhere deep down, not fully wanting to stop her being her own person.

So she reluctantly breaks up with him.

Mahoney is shopping for luggage for her trip overseas, and is lightly flirting with the woman in the store, when both his credit cards are declined. And we cut to this scene.

John Mahoney

Suddenly I realise this film is as much about the Father as it is about the couple. This is followed by the film’s most iconic scene, as Cusack stands outside her house, boombox in hand, playing Peter Gabriel (also from the last tape) singing ‘In Your Eyes.’

In Your Eyes

It’s strange how this one shot represents the whole movie when, in the end, the scene doesn’t go anywhere. She hears the music, but doesn’t even look out of the window. There’s no sudden catharsis here. But the scene is the one everyone remembers, possibly because it was on the poster. Icons are important in film.

Skye tries to get the IRS to back down on the investigation, but they’re sure they have the evidence that her father has been stealing money from the old people in his old people’s home. And when she finds a box full of cash in an old music box she knows they must be right.

She’s angry he lied to her, when she could always say anything to him. And even when he’s fined and sent to prison, she’s still angry. Cusack visits him, to tell him he’s going with her to England, and this is the only time where Mahoney really plays the ‘angry father’ trope that the film so studiously avoids, but the subtext now is that he’s angry with himself. Cusack and his roles are almost reversed. But even here there’s a happy ending.

My goodness this is a good film. I watched it once, a long time ago, and I know I enjoyed it, but over the years it has blurred and blended with all the other high school comedies of that time in my memory, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t identify so much with John Mahoney the first time.

Another remarkable thing about this film is that I like every single person in it. Even when they’re at odds. This might be unique in motion picture history, and especially in teen romantic comedies.

After this, recording switches to Charade, a movie which stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, directed by Stanley Donen. I think I remember this from a long time ago, but I think I might be mixing it up with a movie with a similar title. If there’s a microdot involved somewhere in the plot, it’s the one I’m thinking of. Or it might have been Caprice. or Facade.

After some lovely Maurice Binder designed titles, with a jazzy score by Henry Mancini we’re off to the ski slopes, where Hepburn is enjoying a meal, while from afar, a hand points a gun at her, pulls the trigger and… sprays her with water. It’s the young son of her friend.

Audrey Hepburn

It’s going to be that kind of film. Hepburn wants a divorce because her husband is keeping secrets. She meets Cary Grant when he returns the son to them. “He was throwing snowballs at Baron Rothschild.” Illuminati confirmed.

Cary Grant

They have a brief, sparky conversation – lovely dialogue, but both have to leave for Paris.

When she gets home she’s shocked to discover her apartment totally empty. She’s even more shocked when the police take her to identify her husband’s dead body, discovered beside the railway tracks. He’d was travelling to Venezuela. Things get even murkier when the police tell her had had multiple passports. He’d been keeping a lot of secrets.

Cary Grant turns up at her door to offer his condolences, having read the news in the paper.

The funeral is an exciting affair. Hepburn, her friend and the police investigator are the only mourners, but several people come in to see the body. James Coburn is one of them. He puts a mirror under his nose to make sure he isn’t breathing. He clearly knew her husband, and offers his apologies. “Charlie had no call for doing it that way.”

James Coburn

George Kennedy is less friendly. He stomps in, pulls out a pin and pokes it into Charlie’s hand. I definitely remember this scene, so maybe this is the film I remember.

George Kennedy

Hepburn is summoned to the US Embassy to ‘discuss the circumstances of her husband’s death’. At the embassy she’s greeted by Walter Matthau. This film is getting better and better.

Walter Matthau

“Mrs Lampert, do you know what CIA is?” You can tell it’s an old film when they have to explain what the CIA is.

Hepburn’s husband was wanted by the CIA. She’s shown a picture of her husband as a younger man with three other men, all of whom had turned up at the funeral. They’re all after the money her husband raised from selling all the contents of their apartment, and Matthau tells her that she must know where the money is, or at the very least be able to find it, and that her life is in danger because of it.

Hepburn meets with Grant in a park. They watch a Punch & Judy show. “Who’s the man in the hat?” “That’s the policeman. They want to arrest Judy for killing Punch.”

The policeman behind the hedge

To cheer her up he takes her to a sophisticated French nightclub which, for reasons passing understanding, gets the audience to play the ‘pass the orange’ game much beloved of boozy parties.

Pass the Orange

But it gives one of her husband’s conspirators to take part, and threaten her. And when she tries to contact Matthau, another of them, Coburn, appears to threaten her more.

This is such a funny film. Hepburn points at Grant’s chin cleft and asks “how do you shave in there?” When they arrive at her floor in the lift, he says “Here we are. On the street where you live.” Which sounds like a reference to My Fair Lady, but that doesn’t come out until a year after Charade – was it made before? I presume Hepburn’s casting was well known.

Hepburn finds George Kennedy in her apartment, and he threatens her with his metal hand. Grant attempts to subdue him but he escapes, so Grant follows him to his hotel room where he eavesdrops on the conversation between the three spies. Then the twist – Grant is in cahoots with the three of them, also after the money.

Kennedy phones Hepburn and tells her not to trust Grant, who he refers to as ‘Dyle’ (He’s been going by ‘Peter Joshua’).

Hepburn meets Matthau who explains it all started during the war, when $250,000 of gold was stolen by her husband, the three men after her, and a man called Carson Dyle. But that Dyle was killed in the same incident that cost Kennedy his hand. So who is Grant actually? Now it’s up to Hepburn to play the spy.

Hepburn The Spy

When she confirms his name is Dyle, she confronts him, and he explains that he’s Carson Dyle’s brother, and that he believes that the other men, including her husband, killed his brother because he wouldn’t go along with their scheme to steal the gold, and he wants to find out the truth.

But Grant is then taken to the roof, where he has a life and death fight with Kennedy and his metal hand.

Things get even more convoluted when the bad guys kidnap the young son of Hepburn’s best friend. Grant suggests that perhaps one of the conspirators has already taken the money, and is pretending not to have it so the others don’t suspect. After some searching of rooms, Kennedy is found drowned in a bathtub.

At this point, nobody seems to know who to trust, but just to further complicate things, Matthau phones Hepburn to tell her that Grant can’t be Dyle’s brother as he didn’t have one. So he tells her he’s just a thief, on the lookout of the money. Strangely, this doesn’t seem to unnerve her any more.

They’re dining on a boat on the Seine, which at one point turns out all the lights so that the diners can watch the banks of the river, as spotlights are used to illuminate kissing lovers. Seems like a strange tradition, a sort of institutionalised dogging.

That night, another of the conspirators is murdered, this time in the lift. Grant thinks that Coburn must have the money, but when Coburn phones him and threatens him, he knows he can’t have it.

Which just leaves Hepburn, who was given her husband’s flight bag, with a handful of things in it, somewhere among which a pointer to the money must be hidden.,

Hidden clue

After a trip to the market for clues, everyone realises it was all about the stamps on the letter, which Hepburn had given to her friend’s son as a present that morning. Luckily the dealer who bought them was honest, and knew their value, and he was able to explain what they were and how valuable.


Hepburn returns to her room to discover Coburn’s dead body, and he’s left a clue in the carpet.

Another clue

Hepburn calls Matthau who arranges to meet her, but Grant is in hot pursuit. There’s a tense chase through the metro, and when she finally makes it to the rendezvous, Matthau is there, but Grant tells her that Matthau is actually Carson Dyle, the fifth conspirator. Who will she believe.

Once the evil Matthau is finished off, it’s only left to Hepburn to return the stamps to the US Government, strongly against Grant’s urging. But when she gets to the office of the man responsible for the return of stolen funds, guess who she finds there.

Mr Cruickshank

“Crooked? I should think you’d be glad to find out I’m not crooked.”

“You can’t even be honest about being dishonest.”

“I love you, Adam, Alex, Peter, Brian, Whatever your name is. I hope we have lots of boys so we can name them all after you.”

This is a lovely film, not in the least bit deep, but so much fun. And to answer my question earlier, it’s not actually the film I remember seeing when younger. I suspect that film was probably Caprice with Doris Day and Richard Harris, but perhaps I’ll never know.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 3rd November 1992 – 23:15

After the movie there’s a trailer for The Haunting (see blogs passim). Then some weather, and a reminder that the US election results are ongoing on BBC2.

Decision 92

Then, Roger Maude wishes us all a very good night.


  • Amstrad Fax and answering machine
  • Poppop microwave popcorn
  • Guinness
  • Wisdom Reflex
  • Brut – Kelly Le Brock
  • trail: Almost an Angel

One comment

  1. I wish Cameron Crowe would go back to stuff like Say Anything instead of the cloying whimsy he does now. It arrived at the end of a decade of teen comedies and managed to be one of the best of the lot simply by telling a different story.

    Also, there’s another one for your “death watch”: the great George Kennedy died recently too.

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