Saturday, August 20, 2011

To Catch a Thief (1955)

To Catch a Thief has the distinction of being the first Hitchcock film I ever saw (as a child of 10), so it has a special place in my heart. It's fairly lighthearted as Hitchcocks go and is probably the closest thing to a true whodunit that Hitchcock ever filmed, which makes it a distinctive entry in the canon. Of course, since it stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly and is set in the French Riviera, it fairly reeks of charm and refinement, and when combined with the good story and snappy dialog, it can hardly fail to please viewers looking for an entertaining romp. If you're looking for the heavy drama and real danger of some of Hitchcock's more iconic films, however, you may find this one somewhat lacking.

Cary Grant plays a reformed cat burglar who finds himself in trouble with the law once more when someone starts committing a new string of crimes copying his MO. With the police and all his old friends equally convinced of his guilt, Grant soon discovers that the only way to clear his name would be to catch the real thief himself, and so he sets out on an unlikely quest to beat the criminal at his own game. With the help of a Lloyds insurance agent, Grant insinuates himself into high society so he can be near the people who have jewelry worth stealing. Unfortunately a thrill-seeking socialite (Grace Kelly) uncovers his true identity, but instead of handing him over to the police, she wants to get in the excitement of helping him on a heist. Once she realizes he's innocent, though, she settles instead on scheming with him to catch the real thief.

This was filmed to be a visual spectacular, filmed entirely in Monaco and the French Riviera at a time when on-location shooting was just coming into vogue. Grace Kelly is also as her best as a sometimes-icy socialite yearning for adventure, and of course it was during the filming of this movie that she caught the eye of Prince Ranier of Monaco, whom she would eventually marry. It also features her driving recklessly on precipices not far from the very ones that would claim her life tragically, so it gets points for eerie foreshadowing. Cary Grant is sublime in this picture because he gets to showcase his great physical prowess in addition the charm, sophistication, danger, and exasperation he always portrays so well in his characters.

In all, I rate this film a 7.7.

Buy it on DVD:
To Catch a Thief

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