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1 review, 9 user ratings

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To Catch a Thief
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by Jay Seaver

"In which Grace Kelly will steal oxygen from your lungs."
5 stars

"To Catch a Thief" is almost certainly the sunniest move Alfred Hitchcock ever made, both literally and figuratively. And while his reputation is built on stories of overt or hidden bleakness, this pure caper with Cary Grant Grace Kelly is just as much a joy to watch as any movie.

It takes place on the French Riviera, where all is wonderful - except that someone is breaking into wealthy tourists' hotel rooms and stealing their jewels, leaving no trace behind. Suspicion immediately falls on John "The Cat" Robie (Grant), an American who committed a similar series of crimes before the war, but was let out of jail for his heroic activities in the underground. He proclaims his innocence but sneaks past the police to investigate things himself and assure the other members of his old gang that he hasn't broken their parole. He convinces insurance agent H.H. Hughson (John Williams) to give him some leads on who has jewelry worth stealing, settling on nouveau riche Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) as the most likely target - although her most precious jewel is beautiful daughter Frances (Kelly).

Jessie despairs about her daughter's propriety - "I'm sorry I ever sent her to finishing school. I think they finished her there", she says. Part of the joy of the movie, and perhaps the very best thing about it, comes from how this may not actually be the case, as Frances is soon showing herself to be much more forward than the polite society girl she appears to be, easily a match for Robie or Danielle (Brigitte Auber), the young and aggressive daughter of one of his old partners in crime (Jean Martinelli). It's a welcome and somewhat surprising take on the character based on the actress - for all the completely accurate words that many people have written over the past sixty-odd years about how astonishingly beautiful Grace Kelly is/was, she was seldom as <I>sexy</I> as she is here, owning her status as an object of men's desire and working it, whether via double entendres or a series of Edith Head outfits. She banters quicker than usual, with a sharper wit, and that the film is never heavy-handed about whether the buttoned-up or mischievous Frances is the disguise for the other gives Kelly the chance to make her wonderful for being both.

Kelly doesn't have all the fun, of course - Cary Grant gets to be nearly as witty even when playing the role of the straight man, casually deadpan when explaining Robie's past and somehow never allowing the character's nonchalant confidence to become annoying smugness or boring perfection. Jessie Royce Landis and John Williams give enjoyable spark to their takes on the brash American woman and the measured Englishman, basic character types with far more life than usual here. Charles Vanel, Jean Martinelli, and especially Brigitte Auber - along with a host of pantomiming background players - are nonchalantly delightful as the crooks-cum-caterers/restauranteurs who mostly ignore Robie's protestations of innocence whether because they've registered their displeasure and made their threats and don't need to get worked up about it or because they figure a man who steals diamonds is far more romantic than one who grows grapes.

That's part of what makes this more like a typical Alfred Hitchcock movie than it may otherwise appear, a "wrong man" story where the relatively low stakes (nobody has accused John of anything violent or stealing from those who cannot afford it) means folks are more or less willing to let things happen at a leisurely pace, so Hitchcock and screenwriter John Michael Hayes can just occasionally give things the occasional push forward to get to the next fun set of scenes, until things become just urgent enough to lead to a climax. It's a playful picture, with cheerful cuts to a black cat walking along a roof between burglaries and a cheeky use of fireworks to indicate that at the moment, Robie's thoughts aren't on crime at all.

It's also just fun to look at - people would come to this sort of movie in the mid-1950s in part to see far-off places come to life more than they would in a magazine, and "To Catch a Thief" is a pretty great movie to live in vicariously. It's a visit to a beautiful place with beautiful people, and just enough adventure and danger to make it exciting.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=3054&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/18/13 15:24:53
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User Comments

9/02/13 Geraldine Not my favorite Grant/Hitchcock movie but still a classic. 4 stars
12/14/07 Pamela White Cary makes a great theif, fantastic 5 stars
9/02/05 Zack againg hitchcock did a wonder to this film 5 stars
6/10/04 Sean Scanlan Another Cary Grant masterpiece 5 stars
5/20/04 Sean Scanlan Another fantastic movie from Alfred Hitchcock 5 stars
4/05/02 R.W. Welch A pleasant, lightweight romp on the Riviera with a couple likeable stars. 4 stars
8/06/01 Mr. Hat Hitchcock's best movie. 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Lighter than most Hitch vehicles. Grace Kelly is more than worth the watching. 4 stars
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  03-Aug-1955 (PG)

  N/A (PG)

  19-Apr-1956 (PG)

Directed by
  Alfred Hitchcock

Written by
  John Michael Hayes

  Cary Grant
  Grace Kelly
  Jessie Royce Landis
  John Williams

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