The phrase "Hitchcock Champagne" has been used to describe the 1955 romantic thriller To Catch A Thief. Starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, this lavish production (winner of an Academy Award for "Best Color Cinematography") is a far cry from the shadowy tales that spawned in the dark recesses of Hitch’s subconscious.
John Robie (Grant) is a former cat burglar/jewel thief, who lives a comfortable life on the French Riveria after paying his "penance" as a French Resistance leader against the Nazis during World War II. When a new series of jewel robberies occur, he is at the top of the list of suspects. Not only must he prove his innocence to the police but also to a group of tight-knit former Resistance fighters whom believe Grant is up to his old "cat routine." Grant strikes a deal with H. H. Hughson (John Williams II), a wary British insurance agent that he can catch the real thief but first needs Hughson to hand over a list of his "guarded clients."
On this list is an American mother/daughter twosome. Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) is a widowed oil millionairess who is husband shopping for her beautiful blonde daughter Frances (Grace Kelly) while vacationing at the French seaside. Grant’s charm easily sways the mother but Kelly has her own agenda. She casually toys with Grant and believes him to be the much sought after cat burglar - despite repeated denials by Grant. Complicating matters for Grant is Danielle Foussard (played by the French born actress Brigitte Auber) who creates a bit of sexual tension producing a somewhat comical love-triangle. [The "cat-fight" scene near a floating raft is quite amusing]. With the French police putting the squeeze on Grant, the American women agree to assist him in eluding the authorities while he secretly hunts down the real cat.
It is said that To Catch A Thief has three stars -- Grant, Kelly, and the French Riveria. Prone to film mainly "in studio" (where Hitch can keep a tight control over his production) this film was shot on location, utilizing some stunning locales, giving it a feel that no Hitchcock film has ever enjoyed - before or after. The exotic settings coupled with a steamy chemistry of Grant & Kelly make this film a lush composition with subtle bites of humor and witty double-entendres sprinkled throughout. While Grant provides many of the film’s comedic zingers, a good deal of the humor is provided by Landis whose character has a lively and blunt personality. Williams [who played the part of Chief Inspector Hubbard in Dial M for Murder] is once again superb in his role as the "authority figure" who seems to lack such.
Kelly (appearing in her third and final Hitchcock film) shines as the American princess of cinema as she displays her elegance and broad range of talent. She adeptly plays the "sheltered" rich girl who appears as innocent as the driven snow yet is much like the cat -- she though, a thief of hearts. Appearing to be destined for even greater heights, it is during the shooting of this film where Kelly would begin her new calling. She would eventually marry Prince Rainier of Monaco and leave Hollywood for good.
Though the film has more than several moments worth noting, two of the more famous sequences include: A passionate (and sexually laden) moment between Grant and Kelly before a spectacular fireworks display and a nail-biting drive on a winding cliffside road. Sadly, it was on a similar road that Kelly met her doom in a fatal car accident in 1982.
RATING: 8.0 (of 10). Even if you’re not a fan of the murderous story lines of a Hitchcock film, you may be surprised by To Catch A Thief. It is an enticing script, set in a utopian setting, displaying a great on-screen couple.
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