Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on August 3, 1955
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by David Dodge
Cast: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Charles Vanel, Brigitte Auber, Jean Martinelli, Georgette Anys, John Alderson, George Adrian, René Blancard, Cosmo Sardo, and Alfred Hitchcock as ‘Man Sitting on Bus’
Along with Mr. & Mrs. Smith and North by Northwest, I’d say this was the least-threatening film in the Hitchcock canon…which is not to say that it wasn’t well-made, entertaining, and where the lead actress was concerned, absolutely gorgeous. Yes, there was a mystery thriller buried in there somewhere, but mostly this film showcased the beauty of the French Riviera and the romance between cinema god and goddess Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, who both were elegant, charming, and tanned beyond belief. Watching these two interact and light up the screen was definitely worth the price of admission, and made To Catch a Thief such a treat to watch.
The story centered on former jewel thief John ‘The Cat’ Robie (Grant), whose peaceful existence in the South of France is interrupted by accusations of involvement in a recent string of hotel robberies, which he insists he’s not guilty of. With the help of an insurance agent, who supplies him with a detailed list of the Riviera’s elite and their tempting jewelry collections, Robie strikes out on his own to capture the copycat burglar and prove his own innocence. High on this list of possible targets is an American widow traveling with her seemingly-uptight daughter, who just so happens to be our gorgeous lead actress, Miss Kelly. The question is, will she hook up with Robie and help track the rooftop bandit? Does that question even need to be asked?
For a Hitchcock film, this was suspenseful and involving enough, and offered some quality secondary performances from John Williams and Jessie Royce Landis, but don’t expect any shower slashings, necktie murders, or psychotic birds; you knew from the get-go that neither Grant nor Kelly were in any danger of being injured or killed — perhaps a sprained ankle or some hurt feelings, but nothing more. And for a film with so little going on, there were still quite a few iconic moments to enjoy, such as Kelly’s sudden kiss delivered to Grant at her hotel room door, the picnic scene, the fireworks display, and Hitchcock’s amusing bus ride cameo.
On the technical side, Hitchcock’s camerawork overall was fairly straightforward (though there were a few Hitchcockian touches to be found here and there), but it was what he did within the camera frame—set-ups, actor placement, and backgrounds—that impressed me the most, and again showed just how skilled of a director he was. His efforts were complimented by the cinematography of Robert Burks, who garnered an Academy Award for his work, and by the input of writer and frequent collaborator John Michael Hayes, fresh off his screenplay for Rear Window, whose script supplied the actors with some wonderful lines and innuendo-laced dialogue.
I don’t know whether to categorize To Catch a Thief as a mystery, a romance, or even a crime drama, but since this is a Hitchcock film, I guess we’ll have to go with all three. It’s also quite charming and a lot of fun, and though it’s been referred to as ‘fluff’ and ‘Hitchcock champagne’, I’d say those labels are positive ones, and describe exactly what makes the film so appealing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly at a seaside resort along the Mediterranean coastline in the 1950s? Thankfully, we have this as a worthwhile alternative; just sit back, turn down your expectation dial, and enjoy the view. (8/10)