To Catch a Thief
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|To Catch a Thief|
Original film poster
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Produced by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Screenplay by||John Michael Hayes|
|Based on||To Catch a Thief
by David Dodge
Jessie Royce Landis
|Music by||Lyn Murray|
|Editing by||George Tomasini|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||106 minutes|
|Box office||$4.5 million (US rentals original release)
To Catch a Thief is a 1955 romantic thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock from a screenplay by John Michael Hayes, which was very loosely based on the 1952 novel of the same name by David Dodge. The movie stars Cary Grant as a retired cat burglar who has to save his reformed reputation by catching a new "cat" preying on the wealthy tourists of the French Riviera. Grace Kelly stars opposite him as his romantic interest in her final film with Hitchcock.
John Robie (Cary Grant) is a notorious but retired jewel thief or "cat burglar," nicknamed "The Cat," who now tends to his vineyards in the French Riviera. A series of robberies that closely resemble his style leads the police to believe that the Cat is up to his old tricks again. They come to arrest him, and he adeptly gives them the slip.
He immediately seeks refuge with his old gang from his days in the French Resistance, a group of ex-cons whose patriotic work led to grants of parole that depend on them keeping their noses clean. Bertani, Foussard, and the others are all under a cloud while the Cat is at large, and they blame Robie. Still, when the police arrive at Bertani’s restaurant, Foussard’s daughter Danielle (Brigitte Auber) spirits her old flame to safety.
Robie's plan is to prove his innocence by catching the new cat burglar in the act, so he enlists the aid of an insurance man of Bertani's acquaintance, H. H. Hughson (John Williams), an Englishman who reluctantly obtains a list of the most expensive jewels currently on the Riviera. The first owners listed are Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Francie (Grace Kelly). Robie strikes up an acquaintance with them — delighting Jessie even as Francie offers a pretense of modesty, while Danielle bares her jealous claws.
Francie is not afraid of a little fun. Although she sees through Robie’s cover as an American industrialist, the considerable charms of this thief are worth catching. She dangles before him her jewels, teases him with steamy tales of rooftop escapades, exposes herself as a feline of a special breed: an accomplice who might share his passion and be available to his sordid desires. Fireworks fill the night and can even be seen in the sky.
The next morning, Jessie discovers her jewels are stolen, and Francie suddenly feels that Robie has taken advantage of her. She accuses him of using her to steal her mother's jewelry. The police are called and he is back on the lam.
To catch the new burglar Robie stakes out an estate at night and finds himself struggling with an attacker who loses his footing and tumbles over a cliff. It is Foussard, who dies in the fall. The police chief publicly announces that Foussard was the jewel thief, but, as Robie points out to him in the presence of the abashed Hughson, this would have been impossible: Foussard had a prosthetic leg and could not possibly climb on rooftops.
Robie's quiet attendance at Foussard’s funeral is marred by Danielle's open accusation that he is responsible for her father's death. Outside the graveyard, Francie apologizes to Robie and confesses her love for him. She arranges to help him attend a masquerade ball the coming weekend.
At the ball, Francie is resplendent in a gold gown, Robie unrecognizable behind the mask of a Moor. The police hover nearby. Upstairs, the cat burglar silently cleans out several jewel boxes. When Jessie asks the Moor to go get her "heart pills," Robie’s voice tips off his identity to the authorities. Upon his return the police wait out Francie and the Moor as they dance the night away. Finally, Francie and the Moor go to her room, and the mask is removed: it is Hughson, switched to conceal Robie’s exit.
On the rooftop Robie lurks. His patience is finally rewarded when he is joined by another figure in black. But just as his pursuit begins, the police throw a spotlight on him. Again he flees and shots ring out, but he manages to corner his foe with jewels in hand. Unmasked, his nemesis turns out not to be a man after all. Danielle is "The Cat," and she confesses that she has been working for her father and Bertani.
Robie speeds back to his vineyard and Francie races after to convince him that she has a place in his life. He agrees, but seems less than thrilled that she intends to include her mother.
This was Hitchcock's first of five films in the widescreen process VistaVision, and Grace Kelly's final film with him. He would later cast her in Marnie (1964), but by then she was Princess Grace of Monaco, and withdrew when it became clear that popular will disapproved of her making another film.
The costumes were by Edith Head, including Kelly's memorable golden gown for the film's costume ball.
In the original screenplay, Bertani is arrested for masterminding the crimes, John and Danielle forgive each other, and she is then taken into custody before the police drop the charges against John. Although Hayes fought to keep this ending intact, Hitchcock cut to the last scene as soon as his innocence is established.
Jessie Royce Landis plays Cary Grant's potential mother-in-law and in North by Northwest his mother although she was only seven years his senior and listed in her studio biography as 10 months younger.
To Catch a Thief is the only Hitchcock film released by Paramount that is still owned and controlled by Paramount. The others were sold to Hitchcock in the early 1960s and are currently distributed by Universal Studios; the exception to the "reversion to Hitchcock" rule was Psycho, which Universal bought directly from the director in 1968.
- Best Cinematography (Robert Burks)
- Best Art Direction (Hal Pereira, Joseph McMillan Johnson, Samuel M. Comer, Arthur Krams)
- Best Costume Design (Edith Head)
- De Rosa, Steven (2001). Writing with Hitchcock: The Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571199909.
- Orengo, Nico (2006). La Guerra del Basilico (The Basil War (in Italian). Einaudi. ISBN 880618296X.
- Spoto, Donald (1999). The Dark Side of Genius. Da Capo. ISBN 0-306-80932-X.
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- Historic reviews, photo gallery at CaryGrant.net