Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.
Although To Catch a Thief is a Hitchcock film and stars Cary Grant, this movie seems to belong to Grace Kelly due to her personal connection to the location shots. To Catch a Thief was filmed half on the Paramount lot and half on location in the south of France, in and around Monaco. She married Prince Rainier and became Princess on Monaco in 1956 after making her last movie High Society. In To Catch a Thief there are several scenes of her driving the southern coast of France. In 1982 she died from a car accident as she was driving along the southern coast of France.
Kelly looks very much the part of a Princess in To Catch a Thief as she plays, Frances, the daughter of a wealthy American woman on vacation on the French Riviera. Edith Head drapes her in all kinds of regal looking garb. She meets and becomes fascinated with former cat burglar John Robie. A new series of jewel robberies are going on and everyone, including Frances, thinks Robie is up to his old profession.
In one of the most memorable scenes in the movie Frances tries to tempt, tease and seduce Robie by having him alone in her hotel room while she wears a big diamond necklace. “Doesn't it make you nervous to be in the same room with thousands of dollars worth of diamonds, and unable to touch them?" She coos to John. Later in the same scene she says seductively, “ Look, John. Hold them. Diamonds... The only thing in the world you can't resist." The scene plays out with fireworks going off in the background as obvious symbolism. Robie gets romantically close to Frances and says, “You know as well as I do: this necklace is imitation." “Well I'm not." Frances responds and they kiss as Hitchcock cuts away to the fireworks going off.
Where as that is a classic love scene between two amazing movie stars, it does expose the weakness of the movie. With the love story so prevalent, there is little tension to be found. Both stars are so damn likable that it does not matter if either one is the actual criminal or not. It is fun watching them play out their game of deception but the suspense is just not there to really have you on the edge of your seat let alone be truly concerned with any of the characters.
The scenery is spectacular. To Catch a Thief takes full advantage of the location shots. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography. It looks so beautiful there that it makes complete sense that Kelly would give up her career to live in such an attractive location.
A great romance but not great intrigue.
I disagree with you Eric; this is much more Grant’s movie than Kelly’s. She is not even in the first half hour. I agree that it is not so obviously a Hitchcock movie though, as the romance is much more prevalent than the intrigue. But with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly on the French Riviera how could it not be one of the most romantic movies ever made?
To Catch a Thief is one hell of a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Not only does it feature two of the most gorgeous stars ever to grace the screen but the setting is like a third character. Hitchcock made good use of many panoramic shots from an airplane. The color palette is flawless, especially during the climactic costume ball.
As Eric said, however, the plot is pretty light weight. It’s definitely more character driven than plot propelled, which is unusual for Hitchcock. And it is easy to guess who the new “Cat” is. Cary Grant is at his most suave as John Robie, former cat burglar and member of the French Resistance during the war. They even use a bit of Grant’s real life background, both he and John Robie were acrobats on stage in their youths. Kelly’s Frances Stevens is a spoiled rich girl looking for love and a thrill. She finds both in the arms of Robie. Watch this one for the chemistry between the two stars but not as an ideal example of the talents of Alfred Hitchcock.
He wants her jewels, but it isn't her diamonds he's after.
I did think about Grace Kelly's ultimate fate during the scene when she is speeding along the coast, but Patrick you're right when you say that this movie belongs to Cary Grant. Kelly is gorgeous, but Grant's character is the lead and much more interesting than her spoiled little rich girl. And like you also say Patrick, this is Grant at his most suave. I used to think it funny that Ian Fleming wanted Grant to play James Bond, but watching this movie and North By Northwest, I start to see what he had in mind.
There are some beautiful shots of the Riviera, but I hate the way they film the driving scenes. Like a lot of older movies whenever you see Grant and Kelly in a car here, you can tell that they're not really driving, but that it's just a film being run behind them. It's so obvious here because they keep cutting between the long shots that were filmed on location and the faked scenes in the car and it's very jarring.
Like you both, I was also disappointed by the lack of tension in the movie. It starts very intriguing with Robie being set-up as the thief, but it quickly evolves into a love story, which is nice enough, but never lives up to that initial introduction. I wanted to see more of the Cat climbing across the roofs of Nice.
They should definitely have developed the plot more. The script could have used some tightening. At the beginning Robie is running from the police and he's trying to dodge them in clever ways, but then he very shortly is captured by them. After the next cut though he's been released and Grant has a throwaway line about how he's got 10-days before he has to go to trial, which kind of negates all that tension they were trying to build up before. And the big reveal at the end and the little ruse they pull to bring out the real thief, is pretty flimsy and obvious.
The scene with the fireworks and the diamonds Eric refers to is a classic. Like a lot of Hitchock's films it's laced with innuendo. They're not talking about jewelry in that scene at all.
Who says movie stars aren't worth their money? This is one movie that succeeds almost purely on the charisma of its two leads. Two unknowns or less likable actors in the parts and this movie could easily have been awful.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (1955)