I have a bone to pick with this movie.
Sure, it’s Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in the French Riviera.
Yeah, it’s Alfred Hitchcock in his prime, but, the movie lacks…..something.
Released in 1955, To Catch a Thief stars Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Jessie Royce Landis in what could be the worst of the three films Kelly did with Hitchcock. I don’t mean that in a malicious way; I believe, objectively, that the plot in this film compared to Dial M for Murder and Rear Window is hands down the weakest of the Kelly/Hitchcock films.
My main gripe?
Cary Grant plays John “The Cat” Robie, a retired cat burglar who now lives a secluded life on the French Riviera.
After a string robberies that were made to imitate his style, Robie immediately returns to being public enemy number one. The police show up to his seaside villa to arrest him, but Robie manages to escape out the back.
Naturally, running away from police builds up an appetite, so, John visits a restaurant.
He walks into the kitchen and instantly recognizes the staff. The cooks, busboys, and sous chefs are all old buddies from John’s French Resistance days.
They harbor a bit of resentment towards John because they were granted parole based on how patriotic they were. Because of John’s new ‘adventure,’ they’re all under suspicion of colluding as long as ‘The Cat’ is still active. Things get hostile for a minute, then calm down when the police see Robie and he makes a run for it.
Conveniently enough, the restaurant’s owner’s teenaged daughter named Danielle (played by Brigitte Auber) shuttles him away to safety.
Robie desperately wants to clear his name.
In order to do that, he seeks the help of a man named H.H Hughson (played by John Williams.) Hughson is an insurance man who gives Robie a list of, as he puts it, the “most expensive jewelry owners currently on the Riviera.”
First on that list? A woman named Jessie Stevens (played by Jessie Royce Landis) and her very charming daughter Frances (played by Grace Kelly.) John, posing as an Oregon lumber magnate, strikes up a conversation with them later that night at dinner.
So the trio and John start a dialogue about a multitude of different subjects. The discussion, embarrassingly, culminates in Jessie Stevens asking John why he hasn’t made a move on her daughter.
Frances, or “Francie” as her mother calls her, originally shows no interest. However, that all changes when John walks her back to her hotel room and Francie proceeds to give him a good night kiss.
The next morning, Robie receives a note claiming that his life in danger as he’s tanning on the beach with Frances. Danielle walks by with an inquisitive look on her face as she dives into the water. John, not one to miss out, follows her.
Danielle goes on to tell Robie that there are a group of ex-convicts that are out to kill him.
Later that day on a picnic, Frances tells John that she knows he isn’t an American businessman. In fact, not only does she know that he’s John Robie “The Cat”, she also begs him to be his accomplice. Robie, bending but not breaking, maintains his innocence and agrees to meet Frances in her hotel room later that night.
If you’ve seen this movie, then you know that this next scene is THE scene.
Robie shows up to Frances’ hotel room and Frances tries to tempt him with the jewels she’s wearing. Jokes on her though, John quickly recognizes that her necklace is fake. As the moment progresses and the fireworks build up behind them, the pair shares a very passionate kiss as the screen fades to black.
This quiet moment lasted for about 8 hours.
The morning after Frances and John’s rendezvous, she storms his hotel room asking where her mother’s jewels were. Robie admits that he’s “The Cat” but, he didn’t steal the jewelry. Francie doesn’t care, she calls the police anyway. But, before they got there, John has already slipped out of the window.
Sick and tired of being accused of a crime, John decides to surveil the area for that night. In case something goes wrong, Robie calls the police as a preventative measure.
Well, what do you know, something does happen.
John struggles with an attacker and accidentally shoves him off the building.
The next scene we see is everyone gathered around a casket. The man inside is Danielle’s father, Foussard. While walking out of the cathedral, a policeman tells John that they’ve identified the body and that he’s cleared of all suspicion.
“Oh, no!” says John.
Robie claims it couldn’t have been Foussard because he had a peg leg. Understandably, the police let him go to find the real ‘Cat’ later that night at a masquerade party.
It turns out that at the gathering, everything falls into to place for John.
In the end, John catches the woman *gasp* that was posing as him (it was Danielle), clears his name, and starts a long-term relationship with Frances.
How perfect is that?
The Bone I Have To Pick With This Movie
Where do I begin? I love Cary Grant and Grace Kelly equally. I love their movies. I love them in this movie together, but, this film lacks something.
I know, I know, there are A LOT of folks who adore this movie. I don’t want to take that away from anybody, but, there are some glaring issues in this movie for me.
My main issue with it is that it’s non-existent. It’s very compelling for the first 20 or so minutes and then it sort of….drops off. There were a lot of ‘lull’ moments in the film. At times, I didn’t really care about the side stories, I just wanted to know who stole the darn jewels.
Heck, even Hitchcock called this picture a “lightweight” story.
I never felt that anyone was in real danger in this movie. In Dial M, and Rear Window I was genuinely afraid for certain characters. Not once did I believe that Cary Grant was going to get harmed in any way in this film.
The moments between Cary and Grace, however, were excellent and dripping with innuendo, as only Hitchcock can do. But, other than that, it didn’t give that same thrill that I got from other films from Hitch.
In the end, my opinion is just an opinion. I may not enjoy this movie as much as other Hitchcock features, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. The shooting locations are gorgeous and the coincidence of Grace Kelly shooting one of her last movies in Monaco isn’t lost on me.
I do enjoy the film, I truly do. Sometimes, movies you think you were going to like don’t always go the way you plan, and that’s okay.
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