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To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief(1955)

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The working title of this film was Catch a Thief. The novel's title was derived from the old saying, "It takes a thief to catch a thief." In December 1951, Hollywood Reporter announced that producer-director Alfred Hitchcock had purchased David Dodge's novel for $15,000. Daily Variety announced in December 1953 that To Catch a Thief would be the first of three pictures made by Hitchcock under a new contract at Paramount. According to Paramount production files contained at the AMPAS Library, Alec Coppel worked on the script for about a week in mid-November 1954, shortly before the final set of retakes was done. Production files indicate that the following locations were used during filming: Cannes, including the Carlton Hotel and the Goldman villa, Tourrettes, La Turbie, Eze, Gourdon, Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer, and Speracedes, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco, including the Hotel Metropole; and Mt. Wilson, CA. The fireworks footage was staged in Long Beach, CA. The production cost approximately $2,847,000, and was roughly $500,000 over budget, according to Paramount records.
       According to MPAA/PCA files contained at the AMPAS Library, the film's MPAA certificate was issued on condition that "in all prints...the following alteration will be made: In the love scenes between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in Miss Kelly's hotel room, the lovemaking on the sofa will be terminated by a dissolve before the couple lean back towards the corner of the sofa." In a July 9, 1954 letter to Paramount executive Luigi Luraschi, PCA director Joseph I. Breen asked that the fireworks display in the same scene be eliminated, complaining that the " pointed." Despite Breen's objections, Hitchcock retained the fireworks, and the scene has become one of the director's most famous.
       To Catch a Thief was Grace Kelly's third Hitchcock picture, after the 1954 Warner Bros. film Dial M for Murder and Paramount's 1954 Rear Window ( entries). Paramount borrowed Kelly from M-G-M for the production. According to modern sources, it was her fifth loan-out in eight months and was accomplished primarily because M-G-M wanted William Holden, a Paramount contract star, for one of its pictures. Modern sources note that Kelly, who married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956 and became Princess Grace, saw one of her homes-to-be, the Grimaldi estate, for the first time while on location in the Riviera. Although one modern source contends that Kelly met Prince Rainier while filming To Catch a Thief, most biographical sources claim that they met at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. Modern sources also comment that Kelly was obligated to do her own driving during the high-speed chase scene, even though she was not a confident driver. Kelly died in 1982 from injuries suffered in a car crash on a similar winding Riviera road.
       In a modern interview, Hitchcock dismissed To Catch a Thief, the first picture he ever shot in France, as a "lightweight story." He also stated that he cast Brigitte Auber as "Danielle" after seeing her in a Julien Duvivier picture called Sous le ciel de Paris. "I chose her because the personage had to be sturdy enough to climb all over the villa roofs. At the time, I wasn't aware that between films Brigitte Auber worked as an acrobat." Cary Grant also had been an acrobat in his youth. A Hollywood Reporter news item adds Dorine Austin and Ruth Oklander to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo in the film by appearing as the man sitting next to a woman holding a bird cage.
       To Catch a Thief was a commercial success and helped revive Cary Grant's sagging career, according to modern sources. Grant, who was 50 at the time of filming, had not made a film since the 1953 M-G-M picture Dream Wife . In September 1955, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain chose To Catch a Thief for screening at the annual royal command performance, according to a Hollywood Citizen-News news item. The film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Color) and was nominated for Best Art Direction (Color) and Best Costume Design (Color). In 1963, it was reissued with Hitchcock's 1958 hit Vertigo. The television series It Takes a Thief, which was broadcast on the ABC network from 1968 to 1970 and starred Robert Wagner, was loosely based on To Catch a Thief.