Friday, March 21, 2014

To Catch a Thief (1955)


“For what it's worth, I never stole from anybody who would go hungry”

            I believe in another life I must have been a thief. Especially in the past few months I have had this belief because one of my favorite topics in my Museum Registration class is theft prevention (along with copyright law), I love movies that have to do with jewel or bank robberies, and I just re-watched the entire series of Leverage one of my all time favorite TV shows  (which if you have never seen or heard of it was a show about con artists who were good guys) where my favorite character is the thief (she steals art and so does the character of the grifter). I love how thieves are made to be smarter than the quote/unquote good guys. It amazes me how smart they are and how quick they have to be. Of course I know I am talking about fictional characters and that theft of any kind is wrong and I would never dream of going into that line of business in a million years. I am neither smart enough or courageous enough to be a thief.
            This all being said one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films is his 1955 film To Catch a Thief starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.
            In the beautiful French Riviera a string of jewel robberies has occurred. All of them happen at the hotels along the beach. The police immediately suspect an American named John Robie (Grant). They naturally suspect him because he used to be known as “The Cat” a notorious jewel thief. The police come to Robie’s house t ask him questions. He manages to get away by climbing out the window of his bedroom. Robie goes into town to a restaurant where he speaks to a few people he used to work with. They are not happy with him for drawing attention to him. Robie swears these robberies are not his doing.
            Robie receives a list of all the rich people who are staying at the hotels with a list of their jewel collections and how much they are insured for. He decides to do his own investigating to clear his name. He finds the name of a Mrs. Stevens and her daughter Francine (Kelly) on the list. They made their fortune when oil was found in their backyard and have been traveling around Europe before coming to the Riviera. He catches their attention under a different name pretending he is a businessman from Portland. Francine immediately takes to Robie.
            Francine takes Robie out for a car ride one afternoon. All throughout the car ride two police officers in a black car follow them. He has her take him to a house where a party will be held under the story that he wants to show her the gardens. As they walk around and she talks Robie scopes out the house figuring out where this new Cat can enter and exit from without getting caught. Back on the road Robie has Francine drive fast to shake off the police. When they stop to eat Francine tell Robie she knows he is The Cat. She thinks of the whole thing as a game and tells him she wants to join him on one of his heists and who they should rob next.
            That night at the hotel Francine comes into Robie’s room demanding for her mother’s jewels back. Her mother has been robbed. Robie does not have the jewels he was in his room the entire time. He goes into the room and finds the real thief came in and left through the bathroom window. Francine wants to call the police but her mother does not.
            Robie finds out this new Cat is robbing a house on the water. While investigating he is almost killed. Unfortunately one of his old friends from the restaurant was there and he is killed when he falls from a high place into the water. The newspapers and police claim that The Cat has been killed. Robie knows his friend is not and could not be The Cat because the man a wooden leg. He tells the police he has a feeling he knows who the real Cat is and needs to go to the party at the house he checked out. He manages to get Francine to invite him and with her help he gets the thief.
            I do not think Cary Grant could more handsome than he did this film. He looked amazing. I liked seeing Grant as a reformed thief he looked like he could be a thief. Grace Kelly was alright. She is not one of the best actresses. She did look fantastic with Grant but he always managed to make his women look extra beautiful when he was on screen with them.
            My favorite scene of the film is the most well known one. Robie and Francine are in a room alone together with the view from the window looking out over the water and fireworks going off. The room is dark with the only illumination coming from the lights outside through the window. Francine tries to tempt Robie with her femine wiles and her necklace. It is a slow build up to their kiss. I just love the way the scene was played out. Everything about it was sexy from the acting to the lighting to Hitchcock’s directing. I also loved Grace Kelly’s first scene. She is just sitting on the beach applying suntan lotion as Robie walks passed her on the beach. She looked beautiful and a bit mysterious.
            Edith Head designed Grace Kelly’s costumes. The gowns and dresses are so beautiful. Kelly’s white dress is one of my all time favorite from a film. It is simple yet stunning. The blue dress, the first one Kelly wears in the film is beautiful as well with its different shades of blue throughout it.


            To Catch a Thief has a great story. Well it is right up my alley at the moment. I actually did not even really mean to watch it until my friend wanted to have a Cary Grant marathon and she never saw To Catch a Thief. This film is fun to watch and compared to some of his other films it is a bit light. Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut that this film was not meant to be taken seriously. To Catch a Thief is an essential viewing for any film buff… especially those that like stories about thieves.