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RELEASED: 1955, Cert. PG
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 105 mins
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Alfred Hitchcock
SCREENPLAY: John Michael Hayes
MUSIC: Lyn Murray
Cary Grant as John Robie
Grace Kelly as Frances Stevens
Jessie Royce Landis as Jessie Stevens
John Williams as Hughson
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on David Dodge's novel presumably of the same name and set in the South of France, To Catch A Thief introduces us to ex-jewel thief John Robie, nicknamed 'the cat burglar' by police.
After retiring from his life of crime, Robie leads a fairly quiet existence, living in luxury with his housekeeper, in a villa overlooking the French Riviera.
When a series of jewel thefts occur locally which are carried out very much in Robie's style, the police naturally suspect him. After managing to give the police the slip, Robie decides to take it upon himself to try and catch the thief, claiming that he'd know exactly what strategy is used due to it being a copy-cat of his own style.
Robie enlists the help of Hughson, an English insurance expert, who off the record provides him with a list of potential targets for the at large jewel thief. On this list is wealthy mother and daughter Jessie and Frances Landis, who Robie befriends in the hopes that when they become victims of the jewel thief, he can blow the thief's cover and clear his own name.
Whilst setting himself up as guardian to the two women, Frances falls in love with him.
That sets the basic scene for this rather 'bitty' film.
To Catch A Thief is shot in colour, and it suffers from what a lot of films from the late 1940s and early 1950s do, in that the depth and brightness of the colour is much too harsh, losing an element of realism, and bearing this in mind, I'd have preferred to see it in black and white.
This is one of Alfred Hitchcock's more whimsical films, in that there is a definite thread of humour running through it, in parts almost having a romp-type element. The style of humour is very typical of the era, which I'm afraid I found irritating rather than funny.
However, and similarly to Hitchcock's masterpiece, Rear Window, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly work very well together, albeit in similar roles whereby Grant is cast as a smartly dressed individual who although he is fascinated by women, views them as an irritation, and Kelly plays the part of a strong-minded, pleasantly feisty young woman whose femininity and glamorous sense of fashion hides a softer, more romantic side. In contrast to her daughter, Jessie Stevens - although still glamorous - is far more down to earth, and a lot of the humour in this film centres around her. She overall is my favourite character, as her personality exudes a refreshing, albeit borderline 'rough and ready' attitude as opposed to the pretentiousness that people with an affluent lifestyle can get caught up in.
I wouldn't say that the acting from any of the cast is particularly stunning, as this is a film which concentrates on the storyline and a sense of adventure rather than character development, and all is done very much in that late 1940s/early 1950s style where it was the fashion for actors to speak in a rather barked, clipped fashion....To Catch A Thief is no exception.
For me, this honestly isn't one of Alfred Hitchcock's best productions. It has all the hallmarks of everything we come to associate with the Master Of Suspense, such as a story with a criminal element, a touch of romance, mystery and intrigue, but I don't think such is put across as well in this film as it is in his others.
The music again is very typical of films from this era, in that it is orchestral, intense, and comprised of varying levels of dramatic strings sounds, hiking both up and down depending on what happens on the screen at any given time.
The idea of an ex-jewel thief setting himself up to clear his name by setting a trap to catch a burglar who is copy-catting him I think is a very good one, but I don't feel as though such is explored too well in this film, it coming across as a bit confusing in parts, with the plot line for me being weakened rather than turned into a nail-biting, edge of your seat mystery crime thriller. I found it difficult to concentrate on who was who in the story, although there is a little twist at the end which although I didn't see coming, I feel it could have been presented more powerfully than it was.
I really don't like putting a downer on Hitchcock films as for me he can do very little wrong, but for me this definitely isn't one of his best. I'd like to have seen the whimsical element, intended to be for amusement, removed....and for the levels of intrigue to be focused on and expanded out in order to create deeper levels of tension. From the point of view of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly working together, I'd much rather watch Rear Window, as for me it has far greater strength as a storyline, with the way it is made and its setting being much more original.
In summary, I have to say sorry Alfred Hitchcock, but I feel you flopped here with To Catch A Thief, as for me it is a somewhat boring, uninspiring mystery/thriller that simply doesn't hit my spot at all....it being boring in parts rather than gripping. Maybe Hitchcock had an off day when he thought of making To Catch A Thief? Who knows! The best part about this film for me is the location in which it was made, with some beautiful shots of the French Riviera.
At the time of writing, To Catch A Thief can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.13 to £23.24
Used: from £3.29 to £5.25
Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £19.99
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Thanks for reading!
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To Catch a Thief is a 1955 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock based on a 1952 novel by David Dodge. The impossibly suave John Robie (Cary Grant) lives in a plush villa on the French Riviera and is a retired international jewel thief who was once known as "The Cat". Robie, a former circus acrobat, hasn't pilfered any gems for years and earned a parole for his colourful past when he joined the French Resistance during the war. However, when a spate of jewel thefts occurs in the area Robie suddenly comes under suspicion - especially as the robberies bear all the hallmarks of his work. "I can't understand how this thief can imitate me so perfectly," muses Robie. "It's someone who knew my technique, maybe somebody in the police. He picks perfect victims and the right stones. Goes up walls, over roofs, leaves no clue and disappears in the night."
The police decide to arrest him but he manages to give them the slip in the hills and takes a bus to Cannes. Robie decides he can only clear his name by finding the real culprit and looks up some of his French Resistance connections who let it be known that they think he is probably guilty and feel let down. The innocent Robie is now a wanted man but a meeting with insurance agent Hughson (John Williams) gives him a good idea of where the jewel thief might possibly strike next. The wealthy American socialites Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Frances (Grace Kelly) look the most likely candidates and - posing as a rich lumber baron and prospective suitor for Frances - Robie becomes friendly with both of them in order to be very close when the real jewel thief makes his next move.
One of Alfred Hitchcock's fluffiest films, To Catch a Thief is still great fun, not least for the sight of the ultra sophisticated Cary Grant and Grace Kelly swanning around the French Riviera as they banter in suggestive innuendo laden fashion, drive sleek convertibles along little winding hillside roads, sip champagne and share picnic hampers which they eat alfresco under the sun with a backdrop of slanted rooftops and blue waters. "Why did I take up stealing?" explains Robie to Hughson when asked. "To live better, to own things I couldn't afford, to acquire this good taste that you now enjoy and which I should be very reluctant to give up." The sprawling vineyards and Grand hotels of Southern France make a fitting playground for Cary Grant's urbane Robie and a wonderful backdrop for the film as a whole.
The story in To Catch A Thief perhaps isn't the most inspired or complex to ever feature in a Hitchcock film and subsequently the picture is generally regarded to be one of his lighter and less important offerings. This is unfair though and you get the impression that Hitchcock just wanted to have some fun and present a mystery in a more relaxed and playful way. The witty exchanges between the stars are always enjoyable and the pretty locations make you feel like you are on holiday yourself with these characters. I quite like too how Hitchcock takes us from the sun-drenched exteriors into shadowy interiors when intrigue surfaces in the film. You may or may not work it all out for yourself before the film is over but the central mystery is glossy fun and it's hard to resist any film that has Cary Grant playing a retired jewel thief who is pressed back into action. There is style and sophistication to spare here with Grant, who must surely be one of the greatest film stars ever to grace the screen, soon catching the eye of socialite Jessie Stevens who immediately decides he might make a good suitor for her daughter Frances. "Sorry I ever sent her to finishing school," says Jessie. "I think they finished her there."
Cary Grant is his usual elegant self in To Catch A Thief and makes George Clooney look like David Thewlis. He resembles a mature James Bond in his tuxedo and is one of the few people who can get away with a cravat or red neckscarf. There are some notable scenes revolving around food in To Catch a Thief that are worth a mention. Frances drives Robie high up in the hills - evading the French police in the process - and then produces a hamper for an alfresco lunch overlooking colourful bougainvilleas and the sparkling sea. "Do you want a leg or a breast?" she asks after producing some cold chicken. "You make the choice," replies a deadpan Robie. To Catch A Thief is like an incredibly sophisticated Carry On film in its more risque moments. There is a food related scene in the film that has been rendered very amusing by the passage of time - and the advent of supermarkets I suppose - where Robie serves Hughson a cultured and poncy lunch that impresses his guest a great deal. "What's this?" asks Hughson. "Ah, this," replies Robie proudly. "It's called a Quiche Lorraine. You'll like it."
The ethereal Grace Kelly is more than a match for Grant with a range of expensive outfits and a slyness lurking just beneath her icy reserve as she dispenses numerous suggestive lines and asides while playing cat and mouse with Robie - the point being you are never quite sure who is the cat and who is the mouse. To Catch A Thief is reminiscent of what the Bond films used to be like in the sixties at times with a heightened sense of style and reality and attractive, cultivated people living the high life in exotic locations. The costumes, cinematography and playful score by composer Lyn Murray are all great strengths of the picture too. The only flaws that tend to stick out to modern eyes are some dated back projection work during driving scenes (ironically also a flaw of the early Bonds) and a few bits where we are obviously in a studio rather than outdoors. The dubbing of of Charles Vanel as Bertani, one of Robie's old French Resistance muckers, is rather obvious too.
These elements are more than offset though by the witty script ("From where I sat it looked as though you were conjugating some irregular verbs") and some memorable sequences - like the lavish costume ball where all the women are wearing expensive jewellery and a famous fireworks sequence during a romantic moment. To Catch a Thief is a highly entertaining and stylish distraction with two wonderful leads.
Following the massive success that was Rear Window, Hitchcock had a huge amount to live up to. So he chose to move away from the mystery thriller and chose to have the romantic thriller novel To Catch a Thief adapted.
The result is a very good film, that is much better than most, but doesn't stand out massively amongst all the other Hitchcock gems.
To Catch a thief Stars Hitchcock regulars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (though this was her final role if a Hitchcock film) as retired Jewel Thief John Robie, nicknamed 'The Cat' and his romance interest Francie.
Retired, Robie is now living on the French Riviera and does little other than attend to his vineyards. However, after a series of robberies that resemble his own, he is forced to go into hiding, using some of his old resistance contacts to help him. With the police now after him, Robie must catch the real thief (Set a Thief to Catch a Thief). To do this he enlists the help of insurance broker H.H. Hughson, who gives him a list of those on the Riviera who have the most expensive jewellery. At the top of the list are Jesse Stevens and her daughter Francie. He purposefully strikes up an acquaintance with them, though Francie is much more suspicious that her mother.
However, she is up for fun and after she sees through his disguise, she teases him. But it all goes wrong when her jewels are really stolen, and both she and Robie try to find the real thief.
This is classic Hitchcock, as always, with the can and mouse game and the wrong man being accused. It's not as good as some of his previous efforts, and does lack a certain amount of tension. But it is certainly very fast paced and entertaining and Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, and was a wonderful film for Grave Kelly to finish more or less her career on (she would take two more just the year later, and then married and was forced to retire).
Still a very entertaining cat and mouse film, even if it's not his best.
This has been known as one of Hitchcock's 'lesser' films. It stars Cary grant as a former jewel thief in the French Riviera. When there is a spate of roberies Grant is the first suspect. he sets out to proclaim his innocence to all including Grace kelly, the daughter of a jewel clad millionaire widow (played immpecably by Jessie Royce Landis), who suspects him and falls madly for his dangerous charm. I found this to be a highly enjoyable and entertaining film. perhaps not one Hitchcock's best, it certainly lacks the dark elements of many of his masterpieces, but the performaces are thoroughly enjoable throughout. Grant plays his usual self with aplomb and there is a fine turn by John williams as the insurance agent that helps grant find the thief by helping him find the richest ladies on the Riviera. the chemistry between Grant and Kelly sizzles throughout and although no-one will watch this and consider it a masterpiece, it is glorious Sunday afternoon fun.
Minor Hitchock movie, strange in the fact that it seems like a glossy remake of a Hitchcock, with all of the wrinkles and obsessions ironed out. There is no heavy guilt, no madness, no obsessions or surreal murder; it's a lightweight comedy thriller with Cary Grant the former jewel thief accused of modern thefts on the French Riviera. There's a bit of odd sexual motivation with Grace Kelly thrilled and excited by her proximity to the criminal Grant (coming out with her infamous picnic line - 'Would you prefer breast or leg?') and then turning on him when she actually thinks he's stolen something, but other than that, it's all style and no substance. Nevertheless, it is very stylish, and the stars are exceptionally attractive and glamourous (Kelly made so few films you have to appreciate every one there is), while there are two masterful comic performances from John Williams as an upper-crust insurance agent, and Jessie Royce Landis as Kelly's disgraceful mother. Not a classic, but very entertaining nonetheless.