By Kate Youde
As the onset of pandemic made life increasingly turbulent in March last year, I escaped from London to Paris. I took masterpieces at an art exhibition, ate at a fancy restaurant, and drank champagne at the Ritz.
I did it all one Saturday afternoon from my couch while living Audrey Hepburn in William Wyler’s 1966 romantic 1966 comedy. How to steal a million, in which Hepburn and Peter O’Toole (together pictured above) play the most unlikely thieves.
When the forger’s father of Nicole Bonnet (Hepburn) faces discovery after lending a less than authentic Cellini sculpture to a Paris museum, she recruits “very chic burglar” Simon Dermott (O’Toole) to help her help steal it before it can be investigated for insurance purposes. (UK readers unfamiliar with this robbery may remember the “Nicole!”, “Papa!” Exchanges from the 1990s Renault Clio television commercials inspired by the film.)
This “big time caper,” as Nicole calls it, is my movie version of comfort food; a reassuring watch that offers a few hours of escape to a softer, carefree world, one to which I have since returned. It is also a visual festival, with colorful cars and strange hats. Hepburn wears Givenchy clothes and Cartier jewelry throughout – except when disguised as a cleaning lady. “For one thing, it gives Givenchy a night off,” Simon says wryly.
Paying a life of crime: Nicole and her father Charles (Hugh Griffith) live at 38 Rue Parmentier, an imposing stone mansion in the luxury Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Double-arched stone steps lead to the front door, where the butler Marcel waits, while a soft, purple carpeted staircase with matching handrail is ideal for wiping off to show off a new outfit.
Although the “more is more” approach to decor is not for me – too much marble and baroque-style furniture – I would love to step into Nicole’s shoes. Maybe because I have lived, eaten and worked in one reception room for much of the past 18 months, the sheer size of the house is attractive, not to mention a library to take away happy hours. I would fill the bookshelf display case, which once housed the “Cellini”, with a vase of beautiful flowers.
Meanwhile, lead to walk into a closet in the Bonnet house not to Narnia, but with a spiral staircase to the attic where Charles paints his Van Goghs (the word “fake” is not used in this house) and look out for approaching police through its patry gate windows. My art skills are such that I would move back there to work and write instead; own room.
The house in Neuilly-sur-Seine that doubled as the Bonnet mansion no longer stands so I will have to look elsewhere if I win the lottery. This € 8m house in the same area, west of the 17th arrondissement, has the space I crave with its two living rooms, dining room and seven bedrooms (I can probably save one for a study), as well as a pretty garden.
Alternatively, this two bedroom apartment in the 7th arrondissement, on the market for € 4 million, the library offers what I desire. It is also a short walk from the Rodin Museum so that I can get a correction of real sculpture masterpieces whenever I want.
Photos: Getty Images; Alamy; Christie’s International Property