- Directed and Produced by Norman Jewison
- June 19, 1968
A bored millionaire’s latest caper puts him squarely in the focus of an attractive insurance investigator.
The Thomas Crowne Affair is one of those classic films that works largely on the chemistry of the two leads. The story itself is not necessarily focused on the caper but rather on the romance between insurance investigator Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) and millionaire Thomas Crowne (Steve McQueen).
Before I get too deep into this there are quite a few names listed in the opening credits. One of the standouts is Yaphet Kotto who plays Carl. Kotto was a great actor. He kicked butt in every part he took. Just an amazing performance each and every time you saw him. The thing is after his five minutes or so in the opening of this film you never see his character again. That just really jumped out at me. You get in the opening credits and all you do is what amounts to a cameo? Why is his name in the opener? Anywho…
Steve McQueen is great as the charming yet bored and wealthy Thomas Crowne. He’s a very intelligent man who decides to turn his attention to masterminding a heist simply out of boredom it appears. The real mystery of this movie though is how does he get in contact with all the criminals he recruits? You can’t exactly look them up in the Yellow Pages. (Younger people won’t know what that is). I cannot come up with any in-film hints that give an explanation.
I am curious if Crowne’s dalliance with Vicki was an extension of that boredom. They are clearly attracted to each other but because of looks and position Crowne could get a woman (as shown early in the story) that would not be investigating him. Was he doing it to keep tabs on or control the investigation in some way?
I bring this up because for me the romance kind of just happens. Vicki is charmed by Crowne and Crowne clearly is drawn to her but when it clicks for the two is rather uncertain to me. I guess that’s what it comes down to for both of them: she’s chasing him and something pulls her to him and he toys with her and finds her charming as well.
One of the highlights of this film is the song used in the opener as well as during a scene where the playboy Crowne is piloting a glider. “The Windmills of Your Mind” is such a beautiful piece of music. It strikes an emotional chord with you and feels as if it belongs in a tragic romance movie. Not that this ends on either going off into the sunset together but rather I could it belonging in a film where one dies of some vaguely defined disease. Listen to the song here where Noel Harrison performed it a few years ago and still sounded the same.
Nothing is overly elaborate or ridiculously complicated. I know nothing about bank robbery but the robbery that occurs in this film is shown to be well planned. Details are thought through and every step is prepared for. There is no appearance of winging it as can happen in a plot element like this that opens a film.
If there’s any stylizing going on it’s of the aesthetics of the era. From the clothes to the cars to just about everything, visually The Thomas Crowne Affair is a showcase of the style of the time. And it’s done to the point to make it cool. The visuals of the era are framed lovingly.
And how can you not mention the split screen seen in this movie? It is an unusual method used in film to display multiple actions at the same time. For one thing it looks really cool but also keeps the story moving rather than showing what needs to be shown for events to make sense one after another. It can be done but this gets over most editing hurdles while maintaining the flow and just adding to the style of the picture.
The dialogue is sharp and with leads like McQueen and Dunaway the performances are great. They are helped by a good supporting cast and a great script in a film helmed by the legendary Norman Jewison. This is filmmaking at its best.
The Thomas Crowne Affair is a classic piece of heist film history where the heist is less important to the story than the characters are. Buy it or stream it or whatever but this is definitely a must-see!