16 July 2005 | jotix100
With the magnificent setting of the French Riviera, "To Catch a Thief" is beautiful to look at. Alfred Hitchcock, the absolute master of suspense, appears to be having a lot of fun with this playful account of the rich and famous in their playground. The film is greatly enhanced by the magnificent photography of Robert Burke whose camera does wonders to show us that beautiful part of France.
The film begins with a teasing sequence where one sees a black cat running wildly on the roofs of villas, and later on, hysterical ladies are seen screaming when they realize they have been burglarized. The police links John Robie to the robberies since it appears it's his own modus operandi. In order to fool the authorities that are following him, John boards a bus full of ordinary people bringing things to the market and we catch a glimpse of Hitchcock himself, sitting in the back of the bus, next to John. This is the amazing opening for this film, which shows a lighter Hitchcock, out for a good time.
We then meet the rich Stevens, mother and daughter, who are vacationing at the posh Carlton Hotel in Cannes. The insurance agent, Hughson, introduces Robie to them. Hughson wants the Stevens women to be careful with their jewelry; at least, have them keep their gems in the hotel's safe, which they will not hear of. This seems to be an excuse for bringing together John and Frances, a beautiful and elegant woman who makes a point to show how much she hates having even a conversation with Robie, who will display all his charm and ultimately win her over.
The best asset in the film is the elegant and ravishing Grace Kelly, at the height of her beauty. Ms. Kelly was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen. In a way, it seems almost as though this film was prophetic in what would happen in her life. First, becoming the fairy tale princess of Monaco, and later on, to die in the same highway one sees her racing her car. Ms. Kelly, dressed by the incomparable Edith Head shows an innate elegance and a great flair to carry clothes in such a wonderful manner.
Cary Grant, as John Robie, was at his best portraying the debonair former jewelry thief, a man with a past that had not committed a robbery for many years now, but whose fame preceded him everywhere. Mr. Grant and Ms. Kelly make a great romantic couple whenever we see them. Mr. Hitchcock got a lot out of these two actors and in the process, gives his fan something to care for.
John Williams is excellent as the insurance agent trying to protect his clients. Mr. Williams was a superb actor who almost seems not to be acting at all. The same can be said for the chic Jessie Royce Landis, who always showed she was a smart and elegant actress.
While this is a film so different from most of his other films, Mr. Hitchcock shows a great affinity for comedy in it. This proved to be a pause in his distinguished career to amuse his public. How well he succeeded!