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Wayback Wednesday: To Catch a Thief (1955)

Is this how jewel thieves live? BRB, going to take up a life of crime. 

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us are getting pretty sick of looking at the inside of our houses. So, to escape the everyday humdrum of these four walls, I decided to take a journey to the South of France. Through the power of cinema, that is. Not that you could, but please, don’t try booking any flights right now. Speaking of, if watching the entirety of To Catch a Thief (1955) doesn’t make you want to book a flight to the French Riviera, nothing else will. Seriously. If nothing else, watch To Catch a Thief for the overall fabulousness of Southern France. Bonus, you’ll also be watching an expertly-crafted thriller full of romance and suspense.

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Credit: / Paramount Pictures

Based on the novel of the same name by David Dodge, To Catch a Thief follows John “The Cat” Robie, a retired jewel thief living on the French Riviera. When a string of recent copycat robberies suggest Robie to be the culprit, he sets out to catch the thief. Along the way, he encounters Frances Stevens, a rich young woman with suspicions of her own.

I’d have to put more thought into it but off the top of my head, I think Alfred Hitchcock MAY be my favourite director. I mean, I also adore Billy Wilder, Nancy Meyers, Christopher Nolan, Blake Edwards, and a TON of others, but Hitchcock is the name with whom I associate the majority of my favourite movies with. Rear Window (1954), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963)…truly, the Master of Suspense is aptly named, and To Catch a Thief is no exception. It goes without saying, but as usual, Hitchcock creates a movie that effortlessly enthralls viewers in a web of deception and mystique. What I appreciate most about Hitchcock’s direction though, is that he’s great at setting up a story quickly. Not with exposition-laden dialogue, but with the classic and always favourable method of showing over telling. Within the first few minutes, you completely understand the story, tone, and stakes of To Catch a Thief, a testament to Hitchcock’s legendary prowess as a storyteller.

Starring as John and Frances respectively are two of Hitchcock’s most famous and frequently used actors: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Wow, what a pairing. I’ve already gushed over Grant in both my reviews for The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and Charade (1963) – which you can check out, here and here – but it bears repeating: Cary Grant is just the greatest. I mean, look at his movies I’ve reviewed so far. His career includes iconic movies from three different decades! In To Catch a Thief, Grant is as suave and charming as always, perhaps the most I’ve ever seen him. His performance as John is elegant and intriguing, constantly keeping you on your toes. By the way, I don’t know how I missed this in past viewings, but his character has one hell of a cool backstory. I mean, a circus trapeze artist who goes by “The Cat” and begins to steal from the rich and give to the poor? He’s basically a comic book anti-hero and I’d love to see one starring The Cat.

Kelly is the perfect match for Grant. She exudes just as much suave and charm as he does, with an added dose of tenacious fire to boot. Like many actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Kelly takes a character that could have easily been written off as just a pretty-faced love interest, and endows her with an incredible amount of spirit and character. She’s witty, curious, sharp, smart, and not afraid to get her hands dirty, making for a well-rounded and endearing lead. You can’t say this about many actresses, but Kelly is a true star. She just has this indefinable quality that makes her stand out in a crowd. The amazing costumes (which we’ll get into) help as well, of course. A stunning duo in every sense of the term, Kelly and Grant share a romantic chemistry that is the ultimate companion to this fast-paced, mysterious, thriller.

Hitchcock’s movies always feel very theatrical. They have the astounding pacing, acting, sets, and costumes that you would expect to find in the finest of stage productions. You guys, the sets and the costumes in this movie are something else. There’s something about this movie’s glamorous set pieces, and the fact that it’s clearly shot all on location, that just transports you into another world. The gorgeous French landscapes and scenery are pure escapism, like stepping into the pages of an otherwordly story. I mean, his villa in the beginning? Fuck yes to this gorgeous stonework, lush flowers and adorable black cat lounging in a chair! I’d move in tomorrow. Y’know, if I were disgustingly wealthy and could travel right now.

Hitchcock clearly surrounds himself with the best of the best, which explains why the fabulous Edith Head is the movie’s costumer. Probably one of the most celebrated and famous costume designers in film history, the pieces Head creates for To Catch a Thief are jaw-dropping. Every suit, and especially every gown, are so timelessly beautiful, that you could easily wear any one of them today and be the best-dressed person in the room. Elegance and style are key elements of To Catch a Thief, and like the rest of the movie, they’re handled with the utmost excellence.

As with all successful whodunnits, even though I know who the culprit is, I still find To Catch a Thief endlessly rewatchable. No matter how many times I see it, I still enjoy being swept along on this ride of suspense, mystery, and romance. If you’re a movie fan looking to sample more of Hitchcock’s impressive filmography, To Catch a Thief is a great place to start. Or hey, if you just need to escape from your everyday life for a couple hours, this tale of cat and mouse is the perfect solution. It’s positively criminal how good this movie is.

Have you seen To Catch a Thief? Are you an Alfred Hitchcock fan?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!






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