Nicole Bonnet (Audrey Hepburn) enlists the help of Simon Dermott (Peter O’Toole) to steal a renowned statue from a Paris museum in order to conceal the Bonnet family’s history of art forgery.
Released in 1966, How to Steal a Million is an enchanting romance crime comedy set in Paris, directed by William Wyler, and scored by the John Williams, back when he was still being credited as Johnny Williams. If that all wasn’t enough, the entirety of Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe for the film was designed by Givenchy and she drives the absolute cutest of compact convertibles.
Without a doubt, this film is one of my all-time favorites (I used to own it on VHS and watch it on my TV/VCR combo as a teen, thank you very much) and even though there are barely any food moments in the film, I still wanted to feature it here on the blog since I love it so. Also, seeing as it is February and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to choose a film with a bit a romance in it, as well as a fair amount of crime to keep things spicy.
Despite How to Steal a Million containing very few food moments, it does manage to have a bevy of beverage moments beginning at about eleven or twelve minutes into the film. During the initial scene in the Bonnet family home with its fabulously ornate Rococo style rooms, we see the first of several appearances of the Bonnet bar cart, complete with its collection of crystal decanters, glasses and champagne bucket. After Nicole tells her father, “I get dizzy spells when we have these conversations, Papa.,” Charles Bonnet (Hugh Griffith) replies, “What you need is a brandy.,” before going to the bar cart and getting her one. The next appearance of the bar cart comes when Charles is pouring himself a glass of Dom Pérignon, and when Nicole returns home, he gives her his glass and has her take a sip before refilling. Then upon taking a sip of his freshly-poured champagne, Charles spits it back out in response to what Nicole has told him. Charles then gives Nicole the glass of champagne and leads her to a conversation set, pulling the bar car behind him.The next scene containing food or drink comes shortly thereafter when Nicole goes out to dinner with American tycoon, Davis Leland (Eli Wallach). The scene begins with an establishing shot of the upscale restaurant in which we can see a flurry of servers, elegant patrons dining, and at least one large platter of fancy, but blurry food. We then cut to a shot of Nicole and Davis seated at a table next to one another drinking wine. As Nicole picks up her glass of red, she remarks, “A lovely dinner. Marvelous wine. How did you know how to choose it?.” Based on this line we are to assume that the two have already enjoyed their multiple course meal and are now concluding with some wine. A few moments later as Davis is making his way back to the table after taking a call, we see him bump into the server who is holding another blurry serving tray of food. Based on Davis’ hand movements, it appears that he gets a bit of whatever the food is (possibly cake?) on his hands.
The next scene picks up the following morning and shows Charles drinking a cup of coffee while reading a newspaper. On the table in front of him is a silver serving tray holding a coffee pot, as well as a plate of blurry pastries, which we later learn are croissants. Seconds later when Nicole joins her father, Charles gives her his cup of coffee. Then while Charles speaks with the camera focused on him, Nicole (offscreen) picks up a croissant from the tray. Then in the next shot, which contains Charles and Nicole, we see Nicole chewing and holding a piece of croissant above her coffee cup before dipping the croissant into the coffee and taking another bite.
In addition to the coffee-soaked croissant moment, there is another notable breakfast moment in the film worth highlighting. This time the moment is in Simon’s hotel room where there is a tray of room service on his bed, and while most of the items on the tray are rather indistinguishable, there is a glass of orange juice that is clearly visible. Also, during this scene, Simon speaks with Nicole on the phone and she says to him, “Oh, Simon, isn’t it too awful? I slept beautifully! And I’ve just eaten an enormous breakfast. Isn’t it ghastly?.”
In addition to the food and drink moments mentioned above, there are quite a few additional moments (mostly of the cocktail variety) throughout the film including a couple of scenes that take place at the bar at the Hôtel Ritz. The drinks in both of the bar scenes look to be scotch and sodas, especially in the second scene between Simon and Davis where there are bottles of what look like Perrier on table next to their highball glasses of scotch. In the second scene there is also a small plate of olives on the table, and later on, after Davis leaves and Charles and Nicole join Simon, Charles drinks a glass of champagne.
In addition to the bar scenes, there is at least one more appearance of the Bonnet bar cart, as well as a scene where Charles directs Marcel to take a tray of champagne into the library before telling Nicole, “We must celebrate! We’ll have a lunch and again tonight, fireworks, cocktails, a magnificent dinner!.”
Lastly, there are a few food and drink moments that take place at the museum worth noting, including the loaf of bread on the table during the first scene in the security break room, the lackadaisical security guard sneaking swigs of wine at his post, and the same guard serving himself some type of saucy dish from a pot on a hot plate in the break room.
When it came time to plan the menu for my How to Steal a Million food pairing, I took my inspiration from the breakfast menu at Bar Vendôme, a brasserie at the Ritz Paris, which is most likely where the bar scenes in the film were shot (or at least were made to look like they were). Therefore, for my How to Steal a Million menu, I prepared a petit déjeuner consisting of vegan croissants with strawberry jam and butter, mixed berries and yogurt.
Then for the boissons, I went with a café au lait (for croissant dipping, naturally), an orange juice (to match the one on Simon’s breakfast tray), and, of course, a glass of champagne (seeing as the sparkling substance makes quite a few appearances throughout the film).
Finally, for the table setting, I went with a bright pink fabric for the tablecloth in a similar hue to the gorgeous Givenchy coat Nicole wears the night she meets Simon. In addition, I included a small arrangement of irises as a nod to the Van Gogh-esque iris painting title card featuring Audrey Hepburn’s name in the film’s opening credits.
And that does it for this month’s installment of food & a film! Thank you so much for reading, and be sure to check back next month for a new entry. Until then!