To Catch a Thief
Cast & Crew
Jessie Royce Landis
After a series of daring, nighttime jewel thefts creates panic among the Riviera's wealthy elite, American-born John Robie, a reformed burglar who used to be known as "The Cat," becomes the police's only suspect. When police detectives come to question him at his hilltop villa near Cannes, John cleverly eludes them. John then races to see his old friend, Bertani, a restaurateur with whom he fought in the French Resistance and whose employees are all ex-convicts like John. Although Bertani is sympathetic to John's plight, the other restaurant workers treat him hostily, fearing that his apparent transgression will cast suspicion on them. Feeling that his only recourse is to catch the thief himself, John asks Bertani for information about his rich customers. Instead, Bertani offers to put John in contact with a man who two days before asked for the same information. As John is leaving the restaurant, he is spotted by the still-pursuing police detectives. Foussard, one of Bertani's workers, helps John flee and delivers him to his teenage daughter Danielle, who takes John out in a motor boat. The flirtatious Danielle then drops John off at the Carlton Hotel beach, where unknown to him, he is observed by a beautiful woman. At the hotel, John receives a phone call from Bertani, instructing him to meet the man, H. H. Hughson, at the flower market in Nice. There, John explains his situation to Hughson, an English insurance investigator from Lloyds of London, a company that has been hard hit by the recent thefts. Though a bit wary, Hughson agrees to supply John with a list of the thief's probable targets. John then is chased by detectives through the flower market, but again avoids capture. The next day, at John's villa, Hughson hands John his list of clients and admits he is dining with two of them, American tourists Mrs. Jessie Stevens and her grown daughter Frances, who are staying at the Carlton. Posing as an Oregon lumber magnate named Conrad Burns, John connives to meet Jessie and Francie, the woman from the beach, while they are gambling in a casino. Although he shows no particular interest in Francie, the widowed Jessie, impressed by his manliness, encourages him to pursue her spoiled, refined daughter. At first, Francie acts indifferent to John, then surprises him with a seductive goodnight kiss. Despite increased security at the hotel, another jewel theft occurs that night. The next morning, John, who has checked into the hotel, receives a note warning him that his life is in danger, and as he is sunbathing on the beach with Francie, Danielle walks by. John follows her into the water, and they swim out to a platform, where Danielle informs John that Bertani's ex-convicts have been threatening to kill him. Later, Francie drives John to inspect one of the villas on Hughson's list, which he claims he is interested in renting. While inspecting the layout of the expansive Silvers villa, John accuses Francie of being insecure about men. Unfazed by John's criticisms, Francie insists that they picnic together, but while driving, John realizes they are being followed by the detectives. Stepping on the gas of her sporty convertible, Francie engages the policemen in a wild chase on the steep, winding Riviera roads and finally loses them. Later, as they picnic, Francie reveals that she knows John's real identity and begs him to make her his accomplice. John maintains his pose, however, but agrees to meet her later in her hotel room. Francie, who normally shuns jewelry, greets John wearing an extravagant diamond necklace and tries to taunt him with it. After John points out that the gems are fake, he and Francie kiss, growing increasingly passionate as a fireworks display lights up the night sky. The next day, however, Francie storms into John's room, demanding he return her mother's jewelry, which was stolen during the night. Although John admits he is The Cat, he protests his innocence and slips out to the roof when Francie summons the police. John, who has received yet another warning note, then meets with Hughson and asks him to bring the police to the Silvers villa after midnight, as he expects the burglar to be there. While waiting on the villa grounds, John is grabbed by two attackers. In the ensuing struggle, John causes one of the attackers to plunge off a bridge into shallow water. The police identify the dead man, Foussard, as The Cat and clear John of suspicion. John, however, tells the police that Foussard, who had a peg leg, could not be the burglar and arranges with an apologetic Francie to attend an upcoming costume ball at the Sanford estate. Wearing an exotic costume complete with black mask, John accompanies the Stevenses, who are dressed in Louis XIV-era gowns. During the ball, which is being monitored by costumed policemen and catered by Bertani, John excuses himself, then apparently returns and dances with Francie late into the night. Hughson actually has replaced John, who is waiting on the roof for The Cat. Finally, John spots the burglar and gives chase. John soon nabs the masked thief, who turns out to be Danielle. While trying to escape John's grasp, Danielle slips off the roof, but catches the gutter before falling. John grabs her hand and threatens to let go unless she tells the police down below that she and her father were working with Bertani. After Danielle confesses and is rescued, Francie finds John at his villa and forces him to admit with a kiss that he needs her after all. The triumphant Francie then states that "Mother will love it here."
Jessie Royce Landis
Wee Willie Davis
Paul "tiny" Newlan
Otto F. Schulze
Guy De Vestel
Adele St. Maur
Philip Van Zandt
Lola De Tolly
W. C. Davidson
C. O. Erickson
John P. Fulton
John Michael Hayes
Joseph Macmillan Johnson
August Van Koughnet
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
To Catch a Thief
However, the trip and movie had to pay for themselves. Hitch already had box-office gold in Grace Kelly, making her third consecutive appearance in one of his films. The gold would go to platinum, however, if he could nab the perfect actor for the lead, Cary Grant.
Grant, unfortunately, had just announced his retirement from acting. For Hitchcock, though, he would at least hear him out over a poolside lunch. The director outlined the plot for the star; a jewel thief who became a hero in the French Resistance is suspected of taking up his old ways when a series of robberies plague the wealthy set. To keep the gendarmes off his back, he has to track down the real bandit. Grant agreed to read the script although he warned Hitchcock not to get his hopes up. Hitch kept the bombshell until the end of the meeting. "It might help you as you're reading, Grace Kelly has agreed to play the girl and a good part of the picture will be shot on the Riviera." Cary Grant may have been set on retirement, but he was only human. Who could turn down a job offer like that?
For the screenplay, Hitchcock collaborated with John Michael Hayes, who had penned his previous film, Rear Window. Hayes remarked (in The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto), "On To Catch a Thief he [Hitchcock] got involved in the script work every day, which had not been true of Rear Window. The work was a pleasure for most of the time. What made us a good team was that he had such brilliant technique and knowledge of the visual, and ego and conviction; and I think I was able to bring him a warmth of characterization." As a result the dialogue was extremely playful and witty, particularly memorable for its many sexual puns and double entendres. For example, there's the picnic scene when Kelly offers Grant some cold chicken, "Do you want a leg or a breast?"
Grant: "You make the choice."
Kelly: "Tell me, how long has it been?
Grant: "Since what?"
Kelly: "Since you were in America last."
Or the famous fireworks scene where Kelly approaches Grant in her sexy, strapless evening gown and says, "If you really want to see fireworks, it's better with the lights off. I have a feeling that tonight you're going to see one of the Riviera's most fascinating sights. I'm talking about the fireworks, of course."
Other memorable scenes from To Catch a Thief include the elaborate costume ball which Hitchcock wanted to film merely to showcase Kelly's shimmering gold gown and Grant's unmasking of the thief on the rooftop. "John Michael Hayes recalled that, during the filming of the final rooftop sequence, Hitchcock summoned him up to the high scaffolding. "Look at them all down there," the director said to his writer. "They think we're discussing something important or profound. But I only wanted to find out whether you're as frightened of heights as I am." (From The Dark Side of Hitchcock).
As expected, there was a potent on-screen sexual chemistry between Grant and Kelly. But while Grant may have been tempted by his co-star off screen she was definitely off limits. Besides, Grant was accompanied by his wife Betsy and Kelly by her boyfriend Oleg Cassini. However, Kelly's future husband was an off screen presence. During shooting in Monaco, Kelly spied a beautiful, walled garden she wanted to tour but arrangements with the owner, Prince Rainier, could not be made in time. Within a couple of years, Kelly would marry the Prince and be mistress of that garden.
Kelly's marriage was a boon to Monaco's royalty but a loss for movie acting as Grant learned during filming. "She reduced acting to its simplest form. Grace made acting look easy, the way Joe Louis made boxing look easy, so simple. Sometimes you see an artist work and you say, 'Oh, I could do that.' It's only those who have worked the hardest and longest who can make it look that simple."
Grant's praise could extend to To Catch a Thief as well. Critics, searching for deep meaning and themes in Hitchcock's work, were put off by this movie's effervescence, all beautiful people in elegant costumes delivering sexy, suggestive dialogue in lush, Technicolor surroundings. It all looks so easy but Grant and Hitchcock both knew that such ease could only be achieved by masters who know their craft very well.
Producer/director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: John Michael Hayes based on the novel by David Dodge
Cinematographer: Robert Burks
Editor: George Tomasini
Music: Lyn Murray
Cast: Cary Grant (John Robie), Grace Kelly (Frances Stevens), Jessie Royce Landis (Jessie Stevens), John Williams (H.H. Hughson), Charles Vanel (Bertani), Brigitte Auber (Danielle Foussard).
C-107m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Brian Cady
To Catch a Thief
You want a leg or a breast?- Frances
Sorry I ever sent her to finishing school. I think they finished her there.- Mrs. Stevens
From where I sat it looked as though you were conjugating some irregular verbs.- Frances
I've never caught a jewel thief before. It's very stimulating.- Frances Stevens
You are a man of obvious good taste in everything. Why did you...- H. H. Hughson
Why did I take up stealing? To live better, to own things I couldn't afford, to acquire this good taste that you now enjoy and which I should be very reluctant to give up.- John Robie
Then you are frankly dishonest.- Hughson
I try to be.- John Robie
about 10 minutes in, sitting next to John Robie on a bus.
There are subliminal shots of a black cat the first few times that John appears. John's nickname is "the cat" because of his stealth ability.
The boat that Danielle and John travel in early in the film is named the "Maquis Mouse'': a play on Maquis (the French underground) and Mickey Mouse.
When Grace Kelly and Cary Grant pull off the road for a picnic, is said to be the exact same spot where Princess Grace had a fatal crash and died in 1982 driving home to Monaco.
Francie's car is a Sunbeam Mark Alpine roadster.
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 "symbolism...is 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.
Released in United States Fall September 1955
Released in United States on Video February 1, 1989
Released in United States Fall September 1955
Released in United States on Video February 1, 1989