An ex-thief must clear his name in this touristy if somewhat middling Hitchcock film set in Southern France, but the scenery is amazing to look at, and the flirtatious energy between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly imbues it with mild erotic tension.
Cast: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis
Plot: When a reformed jewel thief is suspected of returning to his former occupation, he must ferret out the real thief in order to prove his innocence.
Awards: Won Best Cinematography & Nom. for 2 Oscars – Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design; Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Mistaken Identity
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Alfred Hitchcock’s follow-up to one of his greatest films, Rear Window (1954), was a middling effort in comparison, though Cary Grant and Grace Kelly combined their star power to make it more compelling, not least through their flirtatious energy.
Grant famously was lured out of retirement to star in this—he would, of course, go on to act in films like An Affair to Remember (1957), Hitchcock’s own North by Northwest (1959) and Charade (1963). Kelly, on the other hand, would retire shortly after when she married and became the Princess Grace of Monaco.
To Catch a Thief, shot in Southern France after the director thought it would be nice to take a holiday there, has a typical ‘wrong man’ storyline: Grant plays an ex-thief who must clear his name after being accused of stealing jewels from several rich people in a series of high-profile burglaries.
“Even in this light, I can tell where your eyes are looking.”
It is a rather talky piece, and Hitchcock’s trademark suspense rarely emerges fully, but the film still contains some memorable set-pieces, including a car chase down a narrow, winding road in the heart of a French town, a cat-and-mouse climatic sequence involving a rooftop in the dead of night, and a seductive montage of fireworks.
The vibrant colours and scenery of Southern France are amazing to look at, courtesy of Robert Burks’ Oscar-winning cinematography, making Hitchcock’s film a touristy affair.
While it isn’t a purely satisfying film by the director’s high standards, To Catch a Thief is a great example of how to create mild erotic tension that just about sizzles underneath a deceptive drama of manners.