It Takes a Thief (1968 TV series)
|It Takes a Thief|
Fred Astaire and Robert Wagner, 1969.
|Created by||Roland Kibbee|
|Theme music composer||Dave Grusin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||66 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Jack Arnold
|Producer(s)||Gene L. Coon
Glen A. Larson
|Running time||51 min.|
|Original run||January 9, 1968 – March 24, 1970|
It Takes a Thief is an American action-adventure television series that aired on ABC for two and a half seasons between January 9, 1968, and March 24, 1970. It starred veteran movie actor Robert Wagner in his television debut as sophisticated thief Alexander Mundy, who works for the U.S. government in return for his release from prison. For most of the series, Malachi Throne played Noah Bain, Mundy's boss.
It was among the last of the 1960s spy television genre, although Mission: Impossible continued for several years. It Takes A Thief was inspired by, though not based upon, the 1955 Cary Grant motion picture To Catch a Thief, directed by Alfred Hitchcock; both of their titles stem from the English proverb "It takes a thief to catch a thief."
It Takes a Thief, which was created by television writer Roland Kibbee, featured the adventures of cat burglar, pickpocket, and thief Alexander Mundy, who steals to finance his life as a polished playboy and sophisticate. He is in prison when the U.S. government's SIA (secret intelligence agency) proposes a deal to Mundy: steal for the government in exchange for his freedom. Mundy is puzzled, and asks, "Let me get this straight. You want me to steal?" In the main opening titles, his new SIA boss, Noah Bain, uses the catch phrase, "Oh, look, Al, I'm not asking you to spy. I'm just asking you to steal." In pre-production, the title began as Once a Crook.
The series opened with its pilot episode, a ninety-minute (with commercials) special premiere titled "A Thief is a Thief is a Thief," whose source story Kibbee wrote and dramatized and which Leslie Stevens directed. When the series was released into syndication in the 1970s, the pilot episode was withheld from the series' syndication package, and was expanded into a 99-minute feature film for overseas release and was eventually released in a separate domestic syndication package, under the title Magnificent Thief. This feature film version of the pilot episode was released on home video in the 1990s.
Later, in the series' third season, Throne was replaced by Edward Binns as Mundy's SIA boss, Wallie Powers. Also during the third season, Fred Astaire played Alistair Mundy, Alexander's father, also a master gentleman-thief, who says bemusedly, at the start of each episode in which he appears, "I've heard of stealing from the government, but for the government?" It was the Astaire-less episodes of this final year that featured Wagner's "You want me to steal?" line. Astaire played the lead character in the episodes in which he appeared, rather than Wagner.
The following is drawn from Dean Brierly's writings in Cinema Retro magazine on Friday, July 18. 2008.
- "For all Wagner's abilities, however, It Takes a Thief was its most effective when Throne made his powerful presence as Noah Bain manifest. Wagner's stage-trained primary cast-mate, whose trademarks included a deep distinctive voice, was a working actor in many "cult" television productions during the 1960s and 1970s. His burly physique and stolid slab-like face enabled Throne to excel as gruff authority figures, and his keen intelligence and surprisingly wide emotional range added fascinating layers to his performances. The potent onscreen chemistry he and Wagner displayed gave a real edge to their characters' adversarial relationship. Bain, whom Magnificent Thief had shown to be the police detective who had brought about Mundy's arrest and imprisonment, was hard-nosed, with a ruthless streak, and he frequently threatened to return Mundy to prison if the latter stepped out of line. Yet he also maintained a healthy respect for Mundy’s criminal talents, as well as a grudging affection for the master criminal himself."
Ironically, Throne’s own rebellious streak proved to be what resulted in his leaving the show. As Throne explained: “They had this idea of shooting the whole season in Italy, but they wanted me to stay behind and give Wagner’s character...orders over the phone. I told them if I didn’t go I’d quit, and I did. The show didn’t last another half a season.” Throne was incorrect, as the third season was a full one, and when part of it was in the event filmed in Europe, Binns made the trip. He is especially prominent in the episode which introduced Astaire as Alistair Mundy, and guest-starred Italian actor Adolfo Celi.
Susan Saint James appeared on five episodes. Charlene Holt appeared in 3 episodes. Other guest stars included prominent former Hollywood motion picture figures such as Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Paul Henreid, Fernando Lamas and Ida Lupino.
DVD releases 
On November 15, 2011, Entertainment One released It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. The 18-disc set features all 66 episodes of the series, several bonus features, an interview with Robert Wagner] and a special feature length cut of the pilot episode. On the network Antenna TV, Wagner appears in a commercial publicising the release of the DVD set.
On October 2, 2012 Entertainment One released The Complete First Season on DVD. It also had the feature length cut of the pilot episode.
- It Takes a Thief at the Internet Movie Database
- Weiner, Ed; Editors of TV Guide (1992). The TV Guide TV Book: 40 Years of the All-Time Greatest Television Facts, Fads, Hits, and History. New York: Harper Collins. p. 174. ISBN 0-06-096914-8.
- "IT TAKES A THIEF NOW PLAYING ON A COMPUTER NEAR YOU"
- It Takes a Thief: The Complete First Season
- It Takes a Thief: The Complete Second Season
- It Takes a Thief: The Complete Third Season
- "Program Schedule". Retrieved 6 November 2011.
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