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  • Writer's pictureStefan

How to steal a Mio? – John Williams – Soundtrack Review

John Williams is mostly known for his collaboration with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and for his fantastic music for the Star Wars-Series and Indiana Jones, but John Williams composed also the music for some comedies, and I want to talk today about one of them.

The movie

“How to Steal a Million” is a 1966 American heist comedy film directed by William Wyler and starring Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, and Eli Wallach. The film is set and was filmed in Paris, though the characters speak entirely in English. Here is the trailer:

The plot is a typical Audrey Hepburn comedy, but in my opinion a really good one. Wallach plays the Paris art collector Charles Bonnet and sells fake famous artists' paintings. His disapproving daughter, Nicole, constantly fears that he will be caught. Late one night at their mansion, Nicole encounters a burglar, Simon Dermott (O’Toole), holding her father's forged "Van Gogh". She threatens him with an antique gun that accidentally fires and slightly wounding his arm. For an important exhibition, Charles is lending his renowned "Cellini" Venus statuette that was actually sculpted by his father. Charles has never sold it because scientific testing would reveal that the "million-dollar" artwork is fake. Withdrawing the Venus from the exhibition would also raise suspicions. To protect her father, Nicole seeks Simon and asks him to steal the Venus before the examination. Unknown to Nicole, Simon is actually an expert consultant and hired to enhance security and detect forgeries. Because he fall in love with Nicole, he agrees to help her.. .

The music

John Williams, in the credits mentioned as Johnny Williams, composed a funny and quirky main theme with a lovely melody for brass and piano. Williams considers this movie a landmark in this career, and I agree. Here is the link to the main theme:

The score overall just consists of a few nice tracks. It is very interesting that Williams is not using a lot of typical stereotype music for this soundtrack. The main theme is used in the comedy way as heard in the main title, or in a romantic way for Hepburn and O’Toole. Williams composed some suspense music when Hepburn and O’Toole are trying to steal the Venus. The artwork itself has a fanfare when it is transported in a truck, this music is more serious, but also added some humor. For example, as the truck passes a group of priests, the music briefly booms with church organs as the holy men cross themselves in reverence for the Cellini.

During a very nice sequence, mentioned as “The key scene”, Williams composed a light and groovy melody with electronic instruments (apparently his first time using electronics). It is a very funny track because of its different instrumentation. It is one of my favourite tracks. Here is the link:

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $12 million in rentals to break even and made $10.45 million, meaning it made a loss. Despite that, it is still one of my favourite Hepburn movies because of the chemistry between Hepburn and O’Toole and Eli Wallach’s performance, he has some hilarious scenes. The charming movie is a great example of the typical romantic comedies from that time, and the fun of this music is also a result of John Williams music, one of this best in my opinions, and it is very sad that he was not hired to compose music for more comedies.


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