To Catch a Thief (1955)
An Alfred Hitchcock Film
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes
Grace Kelly at her coolest and most dazzling. Cary Grant, smooth and suave and almost immune to her beauty and charm. A story that is always a delight even when you know exactly what’s going to happen because you’ve seen it twenty-five times. The sheer glamour of the scenery, the sets, the costumes and the actors is mouth-watering every single time.
After Stage Fright (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1953), Dial M for Murder (1954) and Rear Window (1954), it nice to have something from Hitchcock that didn’t take itself too seriously. He doesn’t have to keep trying to fry the same pan of suspense over and over again. There aren’t many laughs in Rear Window and there are none in Dial M for Murder, so I’m forever grateful that Robert Burks (cinematography) and Edith Head (costumes) had something rich and colourful to play with in To Catch a Thief. As for Grace Kelly, the loss was great enough when she turned her back on Hollywood in 1956 to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco. If we hadn’t had this film we would have lost one of the loveliest battles of wills between two of Hollywood’s most beautiful actors.
I love the fact that between Rear Window and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and The Wrong Man (1956), Hitchcock threw in a champagne comedy-thriller like this and the odd-The Trouble With Harry (1955); and that between the psycho-drama Vertigo and the psycho-thriller Psycho, Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman devised the comedy-suspense-chase-thriller to end all comedy-suspense-chase-thrillers, North by Northwest (1959).
The plot is also quite cleverly contrived, blending a hunt instead of the normal chase, and some terribly witty dialogue between the wonderful Jessie Royce Landis as Grace Kelly’s mother and Cary Grant. There are some tremendous scenes in To Catch a Thief: several between Frances and Robie, a couple between the three actors and a great scene between Jessie Stevens (the mother) and Robie when Frances loses her cool and accuses Robie of stealing her mother’s diamonds.
Even the serious scene where a remorseful Grace Kelly sits in her car outside a cemetery and gives a tearful apology to Cary Grant is tremendous. She’s an excellent actress and I always feel her contrition is completely believable.
To like or love this kind of film though takes an appreciation of the best comedy-dramas of the 1950s. If you know and love glossy films like Designing Woman (1957) and Charade (1963), then To Catch a Thief could be your glass of champagne.