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|
|Edited 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 retired infamous jewel thief or "cat burglar," nicknamed "The Cat," who now tends to his vineyards in the French Riviera. The modus operandi of a recent series of robberies leads the police to believe that the Cat is involved; they attempt to arrest him, and he adeptly gives them the slip.
He seeks refuge with the old gang from his French Resistance days, a group paroled based on patriotic war work as long as they keep clean. Bertani, Foussard, and the others blame Robie while they are all under suspicion while the Cat is at large. 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, an Englishman H. H. Hughson (John Williams), who reluctantly obtains a list of the most expensive jewels currently on the Riviera. Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Frances (Grace Kelly) top the list. Robie strikes up an acquaintance with them — delighting Jessie even as Frances offers a pretense of modesty. Robie and Frances meet Danielle at the beach, and Robie must keep up the pretense of being a rich American despite Danielle's preference that he be separated from Frances.
Frances is not afraid of a little mischief. 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 sky.
The next morning, Jessie discovers her jewels are gone. Robie is accused by Frances of being used to steal her mother's jewelry. The police are called but 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.
Foussard’s funeral is marred by Danielle's open accusation with Robie's quiet attendance that he is responsible for her father's death. Outside the graveyard, Frances apologizes to Robie and confesses for him her love. Robie wants to continue his search, for the Cat, and asks that she arrange his attendance at the masquerade ball the coming weekend during which he believes will strike again.
At the ball, Frances 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 Frances and the Moor as they dance the night away. Finally, Frances 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 and demand he halt. He flees as they shoot at him, but he manages to corner his foe with jewels in hand. Unmasked, his nemesis turns out to be Foussard's daughter, Danielle. She slips off the roof, but Robie grabs her hand before she can fall. He forces her to confess to the police of the father-daughter involvement and that Bertani was the ringleader of this gang.
Robie speeds back to his vineyard and Frances 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.
- "Two Interviews About To Catch a Thief" by Tifenn Brisset, Film International magazine Vol. 11, No. 6, 2013, pages 13-21. Interviews with French script supervisor Sylvette Baudrot conducted September 2011 and actress Brigitte Auber, September 2011, March 2013, regarding their work on the film and with Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock. Discussion of a different ending and script differences. Twelve color photographs, nine pages.
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- Historic reviews, photo gallery at CaryGrant.net