To Catch a Thief (1955)


Food: Brazen Fox is a rowdy sports bar in the area that we ventured to because my roommate is on crutches, and it was close. What we did expect was a loud and crowded environment with a typical menu. What we did not expect was to find a deliciously stuffed chicken pot pie with crescent roll style bread. The menu is full of a variety of unexpected, comfort-food options and the drink menu is long. They also have a fun list of seasonal cocktails.

Film: “To Catch a Thief” (1955) was a peculiar release coming from Alfred Hitchcock, seeing that it was a romantic comedy. There’s still a mystery to be solved, but it comes secondary to the budding romance that develops between a wealthy jewel-owning Francie (Grace Kelly) and a retired cat burglar John Robie (Cary Grant). When a bunch of precious rocks are stolen in the area, the authorities assume its Robie due to his past. In order to clear his name, he must find the actual robbers, and, therefore, he begins following those with the most jewels in the area to capture the one framing him.

Taking place along the breathtaking French Riviera, the film is full of clever one-liners… “Miss Stevens, I must say you are a girl in a million.” “That’s a routine compliment, but I’ll accept it”… and an undeniably palpable chemistry between the two leads. Seamlessly blending the genre from a rapidly unwinding mystery to a sultry love story, every moment of “To Catch a Thief” is compelling. Filmed gorgeously in VistaVision (a higher resolution, widescreen variant of the 35 mm motion picture film format which was created by engineers at Paramount Pictures in 1954), the picturesque landscapes and immaculate fashion (designed by the legendary Edith Head) is displayed memorably.

The story was developed by screenwriter John Michael Hayes (who also worked on Hitchcock’s brilliant “Rear Window”), based off of a novel by David Dodge, about a series of robberies happening in France. Prior to the making of this picture, Cary Grant was frustrated with the lack of appreciation he felt from those that supported the likes of Marlon Brando and his method acting. He was lured out by Hitchcock for this film with the information that it would be filmed along the French Riviera and that Grace Kelly already had signed on as the lead. These were two factors that made retirement seem much less enticing. Kelly retired after this film, marrying the Prince Rainier III in April 1956 and starting a new life as the Princess of Monaco, and Hitchcock tried, but failed to bring her back into film, so this was the final film that the two of them made together.

Further, with an unfortunate connection to her last film, at only the age of 52 years old, Grace Kelly was driving down the very same road that was featured in the famous chase scene from this film, in Monaco near the location of the picnic, when she was killed in a car accident, driving off the road after having a stroke. This was on the 14th September, 1982.

“To Catch a Thief” as well as other Hitchcock films featuring Kelly, showcase her appeal in an indirect way. Speaking on sex in films, Hitchcock stated (in 1963), “If sex is too blatant or obvious, there’s no suspense.” After all, he is the master of suspense, so it is no surprise that his ability to build visceral tension would carry over well into the romantic aspects of filmmaking. In this film, Hitchcock says he “deliberately photographed Grace Kelly ice-cold and I kept cutting to her profile, looking classi­cal, beautiful, and very distant. And then, when Cary Grant accompanies her to the door of her hotel room, what does she do? She thrusts her lips right up to his mouth.” This was Hitchcock’s way of disrupting the male gaze, giving us a more complex heroine, who did not lead with her sexuality, but still obtains and enjoys it. Hitchcock, also, thoroughly understands how to shoot passion in any of its forms. Gracy Kelly said, once, “It was thanks to Alfred Hitchcock that I understood that murder scenes should be shot like love scenes and love scenes like murder scenes.

It is a film that has stood the test of time and then some, but do not be fooled by the creator and the title, this film is light, easy-going and fun to watch. This genre fits the likes of “Roman Holiday” or “His Girl Friday” more than any Hitchcock-ian tale that which we have come to expect. (He created a few other romantic films – one being the original “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” that I am now eager to check out.) This film is magnificent, and audiences are not the only ones who loved it. Hitchcock says, “Cary Grant is the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.” Grant cited Grace Kelly as his favorite actress to work with, despite having only one film together. “To Catch a Thief” soars as a story that envelops love, crime, adventure, quick-wit, France, elegant costuming, and legends being legends of their craft. If you haven’t seen it, do it now.

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