Summer Movie Favorites: To Catch a Thief

by Camille Borodey

Alfred Hitchcock had a legendary film career that spanned over 50 years. While “To Catch a Thief” may not be considered one of his top films, those who find that “Psycho” and “The Bird” are a little too scary or that “Vertigo” is too psychologically intense, this 1955 romantic thriller is a fun mystery while being less spine-chilling than some of Hitchcock’s other films. Plus, the dazzling French Rivera backdrop and the sizzling chemistry between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly make “To Catch a Thief” a light-hearted and humorous summer romp.

Unlike many Hitchcock films, which often revolve around murder, “To Catch a Thief” is a whodunit involving a string of burglaries. Cary Grant plays John “The Cat” Robie, a retired jewel thief who now lives a comfortable life in a luxurious villa. When a string of thefts occur among wealthy women in the French Rivera, Robie is quickly made a suspect, and before the police can track him down, Robie escapes to Cannes. After enlisting the help of an insurance agent, H. H. Hughson (John Williams), Robie goes undercover in order to clear his name. While undercover, Robie befriends two Americans, Jessie Stevens (a performance with delightful comedic timing from Jessie Royce Landis), a nouveau riche widow who also owns tons of expensive jewelry, and her beautiful daughter Frances (Grace Kelly).

Grant is sly and charming in the leading role, and despite a notable age difference, the banter between Grant and Kelly and their seductive scenes are really the highlight of the film. Grant had briefly retired from acting before being convinced to star in “To Catch a Thief,” and he claimed Kelly was “possibly the finest actress I’ve ever worked with.” Later in his career, when asked who his favorite leading lady was, Grant replied, “Well, with all due respect to dear Ingrid Bergman, I much preferred Grace. She had serenity.”

For Grace Kelly, “To Catch a Thief” was her third and final collaboration with Hitchcock, and it’s my favorite performance from her. As Frances, she’s fun, flirtatious, and plays a crucial role in helping John solve the jewel thief mystery and clear his name. When Kelly is first introduced, she dons a blue chiffon gown while truly embodying the epitome of a Hitchcock blonde: cool, confident, and sophisticated. In a notable scene where John and Frances are touring the countryside, France tells John that she and her mother are “not royalty, just wealthy people with a bank account.” This statement is ironic because just a year after the film’s release, Grace Kelly became royalty after marrying Rainier III, Prince of Monaco.

Much of To “Catch a Thief” was filmed in Southern France and the Mediterranean coast and features stunning views and architecture. The movie won Best Cinematography at The Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Art Direction, and Edith Head received a nomination for her fabulous costume designs.

Sillier, lighter, and maybe more nonsensical at times than some of Hitchcock’s other work, “To Catch a Thief,” still offers the suspense and mystery that people enjoy in his movies. This romantic mystery is a breezy and enjoyable film and a must-watch for the summer.
(Stream movie on Amazon Prime & Paramount+)

Posted in