TO CATCH A THIEF (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: from the book To Catch a Thief by David Dodge/John Michael Hayes; cinematographer: Robert Burks; editor: George Tomasini; music: Lyn Murray; cast: Cary Grant (John Robie (The Cat)), Grace Kelly (Frances Stevens), Jesse Royce Landis (Mrs. Jessie Stevens), John Williams (H.H. Hughson), Charles Vanel (Bertani), Brigitte Auber (Danielle Foussard), Jean Martinelli (Foussard), Georgette Anys (Germaine); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alfred Hitchcock; Paramount; 1955)
“The heart of the film hinges on the enjoyable Côte d’Azur romance between Kelly and Grant.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“Hitchcock Champagne” poured out in generous portions and in a lighthearted manner. The film, billed as a comedy-mystery, is a clever exercise in the art of genial comedy that is nevertheless more romantic than anything else–enhanced by double entendres as a form of eroticism. This is one of Hitch’s least deceptive mysteries, yet it remained intriguing throughout because of its stars. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly make for a great on the screen couple, and when things go flat you can count on the odd touch by Hitch to enliven things. It also has three memorable scenes: a cigarette squashed out in an egg, cross-cutting the stars embracing with a fireworks display, and the flashy 18th century costume ball. Cinematographer Robert Burks’ lush locale shots of the Riveria are stunningly gorgeous, much like a travelogue of an ideal spot to take a holiday.
The film opens as the former jewel thief of the rich, the American expatriate known as The Cat, John Robie (Cary Grant), is approached in his Riviera villa by the local police about a recent spate of jewel robberies. Rather than risk being questioned in the Nice police station, Robie outfoxes the fuzz and escapes to his French Resistance pals at Bertani’s restaurant. Their story revolves around how they were all in prison together when the Germans blew up their prison and they escaped to become members of the Resistance. At the end of the war, they were all pardoned because of their excellent war record and promised not to return to a life of crime. They are now upset that The Cat has after 15 years of retirement returned to his old profession. But Robie proclaims his innocence, and says the copycat burglar knows him very well and has made his life unbearable as a prime suspect. Robie informs Bertani (Charles Vanel) that his plan is to catch the thief in the act, but now needs help in escaping from the police. One of Bertani’s waiters, the wooden-legged Foussard, gets his 19-year-old feisty daughter Danielle (Brigitte Auber) to take Robie by boat to Cannes. While there Robie meets with H.H. Hughson (John Williams), of the Lloyds of London, who has insured the wealthy jewel holders of the Riviera and is anxious to catch the cat burglar. Going on the notion that it takes a thief to catch a thief, Robie partners with the insurance agent and gets a list of prime clients who are potential victims and learns where they store their valuable jewels. On top of the list of potential targets is a visiting widowed American oil millionairess Mrs. Jessie Stevens (Jesse Royce Landis) and her beautiful finishing school grad spoiled daughter Frances (Grace Kelly). Frances knows that Robie’s the notorious cat burglar, but has the hots for him because of his manliness and tags along with him by testing him to see if he’s really retired from his profession. In the end, the real cat burglar is declawed and Frances steals Robie’s heart as they plan on a future marriage.
The heart of the film hinges on the enjoyable Côte d’Azur romance between Kelly and Grant, and that works out in a grand manner. Everything looks and feels so beautiful and fluffy; it’s a work of great craftsmanship and delicacy, like a tasty quiche.
REVIEWED ON 3/4/2005 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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