I’ll admit, I trailed off a bit in the middle of Hitchcock‘s To Catch a Thief. The movie is so incredibly pretty that I kind of turned off my critical brain and focused on my instant gratification brain. It doesn’t help that the plot is rather standard without many twists to keep you on your feet.
Written by John Michael Hayes (a frequent Hitchcock collaborator), To Catch a Thief was loosely based on the novel of the same name by David Dodge. I haven’t read the book, but if I’d imagine it’s fun for the beach.
But seriously, the film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and by god it earned it! Also, with the added glamour of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, good luck keeping your focus on what’s actually happening.
I won’t say the plot was bad, because it absolutely wasn’t. It was tight as a drum with excellent character motivation, just simple compared to today’s standards… so I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m a jaded asshole.
John Robie, “The Cat” (Grant), is a reformed jewel thief with a signature style, and when a new rash of burglaries pop up around the French Riviera mimicking what “The Cat” was known for, he’s obviously their number one suspect. Robie sets off on a mission to clear his name and expose the copy-cat Cat. He visits his old thieving compadres, only to meet up with the young Danielle (Brigitte Auber, whom you might know from The Man in the Iron Mask), the daughter of one of his contemporaries. She’s fiery and completely mad about him.
This is the part where my focus faltered. I’m assuming he went to see his old crew to gauge the climate of the thieving business, but I couldn’t really tell you what happened in that scene…sorry. All I know is the cops locate him and Danielle whisks him away in a speed boat!
Somehow, Robie hooks up with an insurance man named H.H. Hughson (John Williams) who gives him a list of all the jewelry worth taking in the area. From there Robie tries to stay one step ahead of his imitator. On that list are Jessie and Francie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis and Grace Kelly respectively), a mother-daughter duo of new money. Jessie is a sharp-witted women who could be described as crass next to her cold, modest daughter. Francie’s act only lasts for so long, as she ends her first evening of acquaintance with Robie with a rather suggestive kiss. It’s soon realized that Francie is a bit of a wild card. She correctly guesses Robie’s true identity, and when her mother’s jewels go missing, she feels betrayed by him.
Of course, Robie isn’t responsible for the jewels disappearing, and it doesn’t take her long to changes her tune. In true RomCom fashion, Francie says she believes Robie and throws in there that she is also madly in love with him. From there, they set a trap to distract the police and lure out the real burglar. This involves an extremely elaborate ball where the attendees dress up as 18th century French aristocrats.
Surprise, surprise, they’re successful. I won’t spoil it for you, however. What the damn movie yourself!
After Robie is wiped clean of all accusations, Francie chases him back to his home in her impossibly amazing golden ball gown (designed by Edith Head, who was nominated for an Oscar for this film). To Catch a Thief ends with them deciding to settle down together (I guarantee wild-card Francie will be stepping out on him in no time). It closes on a humorous note when Francie mentions that her colorful mother will be moving in with them. Things happened so fast back then. At first you’re just solving a crime together, and then BAM you’re married! Adorable!
Two hilarious things to note about this film: it has some of the most ridiculous day for night technique I’ve ever seen in my life, and the fireworks scene where Francie attempts to tempt Robie with fake diamonds is unintentional comic gold. Best use of fireworks simulating emotional ejaculation I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot.
I will say that Grant’s Robie gets some hilarious one-liners in there. Grant is always charming, but his performance is rather delightful in To Catch a Thief. This also happened to be Grace Kelly’s last film with Hitchcock, as she became “Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco” the next year and dropped off of the face of the Hollywood planet almost entirely.
Anyway, this film is definitely cute and fun to watch. It’s the most light-hearted Hitchcock I’ve seen to date, which unfortunately causes it to be left behind by his more suspenseful fare. I feel rather indifferent about it, so I’ll give it an A-. I leave you with this…