To Catch a Thief, 1955 – ★★★

#13 in the Reverse Hitchcock project.

Teaming with John Michael Hayes as scriptwriter, and Cary Grant and Grace Kelly as stars, this amusing tale of con artistry starts strongly with posters in a travel agent’s window, a number of French people reacting to jewellery robberies, and a sumptuous house with a black reclining cat, leading of course to an article on cat-burglars.

Then our hero, Grant, revealed from behind in a beautiful garden vista. A man of wealth, then, but gained honestly? The fact he loads a gun at the sight of visitors would suggest otherwise. Then he’s up on the roof, just like that cat, and then he’s away – and what an opening six minutes for a film which is just as much about showcasing a location, in this case the French Riviera, and Monaco (where Miss Kelly, of course, would return as Princess the following year).

This was the second film Hayes would write for Hitchcock, following their successful teaming for ‘Rear Window’. This one has more in common with their final collaboration, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, though, which also relies on location shooting and some essence of style over substance.

‘To Catch a Thief’ is definitely a stylish film, from the jewellery displayed on those in small roles, the spotlessness of interiors, and the choice of decorations in the interior. However Grant’s sweater causes an irritating herringbone effect when watched on DVD, which is a shame.

In the cast we also Jessie Royce Landis (here Kelly’s mother, where she had been Grant’s mother, memorably, in ‘North by Northwest’), and a varied French cast, including Charles Vanel, the impish Brigitte Auber, and Georgette Anys.

The herringbone top gets jettisoned at the twenty minute mark to be replaced by tartan shorts. And they said Cary Grant was a man of style …! But no, the top is back when he’s tossing a coin in the market. And that activity attracts an English chap in a bowler hat, an insurer, a betting man, perhaps, and this makes our cat burglar the bait.

This film is a lot of fun, a light prospect which prefigures that off-the-wall film which followed (‘The Trouble With Harry’) and also had a plot feel which reappeared in ‘Family Plot’ a couple of decades later.

Now we see the glamorous Grace, looking tanned and majestic in beautiful clothes, but notably no gems, unlike her mother, who flaunts her diamonds. A naughty and gratuitous shot for Hitch, when Grant loses his card in cleavage and thus engages his prey, of mother and daughter, and gets to them with a drink.

And then the ice princess thaws, and there’s a lazy jazz purr on the soundtrack …

The fun in this film is seeing Kelly’s toying with Grant once she sees through the pretense of his being a wealthy lumber man. She’s the cat herself, prowling and teasing, and that’s a buzz to watch. Sorting out the mystery of who the thief might be, if Grant has really gone straight, is secondary to seeing Kelly in some frankly gorgeous costumes, and it is perhaps best to view this as an enjoyable travelogue with some semblance of a plot.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews