Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Fun in the Sun: Excitement on the French Riviera in Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief" (1955)

 

Romance, adventure and intrigue, plus dashing Cary Grant and delectable Grace Kelly. All of this along with a tour of the glittering French Riviera courtesy of Alfred Hitchcock. Who could resist such high style fun in the sun - and moonlight?

What rapidly turns into an adventure begins with a mundane shot of a sedate travel agency where a colorful poster in its window proclaims, "If you love life, you'll love France." The scenario shifts quickly, plunging into the poster image of the Riviera and then, suddenly, to the face of a middle-aged woman who is screaming frantically as she discovers her jewels have been stolen. Running to the sea-view balcony of her hotel suite she cries out over the Promenade des Anglais, "Help, help, police!"  It soon comes out that the Riviera has lately been plagued by a rash of robberies all having the earmarks of a legendary jewel thief, now retired, by the name of John Robie (Cary Grant), once known as "the Cat."

A lighthearted thriller spiced with wit and sly innuendo, To Catch a Thief blends mystery, romance and a breathless romp through the South of France and the Principality of Monaco. It's a wonderful ride that takes off when the local police speed to John Robie's home in the hills of the Cote d'Azur to question him. The one-time jewel thief has been living a quiet, simple-but-elegant life at his villa, the Villa des Bijoux, in the village of Saint-Jeannet, but his tranquility is about to be disrupted...


During his years as a "cat burglar," Robie mastered the art of the stealthy entrance and exit, and so when the police arrive, he creates a diversion and slips out his bedroom window to avoid further grilling and possible arrest. Now he is intent on discovering who is copycatting his well known modus operandi.

Making his way to the Riviera, Robie first seeks out a gang of cronies who work at Bertani's restaurant on the Quai Antoine ter. Bertani (Charles Vanel) and staff are, like Robie, former thieves and crooks who fought together in the resistance during World War II. Robie is hoping to get some support and possible guidance, but gets nothing but grief from this surly crew. A clever fellow, John Robie is not one to run out of ideas. He checks in with the daughter (Brigitte Auber) of one of Bertani's men - to no avail - and then solicits help from H.H. Hughson (John Williams), an insurance man from Lloyds of London desperate to see the jewel robberies come to an end. Through Hughson, Robie meets the wealthy Stevens women, sleek blonde Francie (Grace Kelly) and her lovely, no-nonsense mother (Jessie Royce Landis), a woman with a collection of very fine jewelry.

From the Monte Carlo Harbour to Nice's Cours Saleya flower market, to the Hotel Carlton International and its beaches, the cliffs of the village of Beausoleil and the ballroom of the Chateau de la Croix-des-Gardes, every vista in every direction is spectacular. And as this fabulous travelogue unfolds, a mystery is gradually solved and a romance blooms.


Some have called To Catch a Thief  'Hitchcock light.' Perhaps, but I would liken its lightness to the sensations of buoyancy and effervescence one experiences with a glass or two of good champagne. In fact, To Catch a Thief and champagne make splendid companions on a balmy afternoon or evening when fun-and-a-movie is on the menu.

  ~

This is my contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Assn.'s Fun in the Sun Spring Blogathon, Click here for links to all participating blogs

20 comments:

  1. What a great choice for Fun in the Sun! I have seen To Catch a Thief and enjoyed it thoroughly. And I love your screenshots. I'm glad you included Cary Grant lounging so suavely on the beach. And by the way, what's wrong with Hitchcock-Light?!

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    1. Nothing at all wrong with Hitchcock-light as far as I'm concerned. I think To Catch a Thief would get a lot more love if Hitchcock didn't have such a remarkable filmography. It tends to get lost among the masterworks, but literally sparkles as the perfect thriller/romcom.

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  2. Well, it doesn't get any better than this, does it? I love everything about this film, but mostly how it looks - just beautiful beyond description. It truly makes you want to be there so badly. As an aside, I was in Cannes a few years ago and in the hotel above my bed was a huge photo of Cary and Grace in a mad kiss. Perfect, no?

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    1. I would step into this movie if I could.

      You must've had some interesting dreams in that hotel room.

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  3. One of my favorites Lady Eve, its landscape make me feel nostalgic for my natal environment. And of course the costumes designed for Grace Kelly are one of Edith Head's very best efforts. It is entertaining with enough mystery to keep you guessing (unless you've seen it a dozen times like me). A great choice for the blogathon well presented.

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    1. Christian, is that you? French birthplace, costume design - sounds like you...in any case, thank you. Loved writing about this one - and, like you, I've seen it at least a dozen times.

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  4. This movie is beyond gorgeous and a wonderful choice for the blogathon. Really enjoyed this, Lady Eve.

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    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed my romp through To Catch a thief.

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  5. Christian EsquevinMay 20, 2022 at 1:00 PM

    One of my favorites Lady Eve, its landscape make me feel nostalgic for my natal environment. And of course the costumes designed for Grace Kelly are one of Edith Head's very best efforts. It is entertaining with enough mystery to keep you guessing (unless you've seen it a dozen times like me). A great choice for the CMBA blogathon well presented. I'm repeating the comment since I was listed as "Anonymous" above

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    1. I recognized you - France, Edith Head, "it had to be you"

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  6. It's hard to think of a better Fun Under The Sun entry than To Catch a Thief. One of my favorites too! Effervescence is the perfect word for it. - Tynan @ 4 Star Films

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    1. I'm glad we agree, Tynan. This was the first - and only - film that came to mind when the blogathon theme of "fun in the sun" was announced.

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  7. I haven't seen "Thief" in eons. And all the things you mention about this escapist suspense/romance makes me realize it's time to revisit! Cheers, Rick

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    1. Yes, treat yourself to some sophisticated fun in the sun on the Riviera, Rick!

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  8. A great choice for this blogathon, such a fun movie escape. Whenever I'm at the beach, casting my eyes, discreetly behind sunglasses, at men with tattoos, bling, and paunches, I actually find myself thinking of that shot of Cary Grant, his magnificent body stretched out on the sand. He looks completely comfortable, despite the absence of an enormous Coleman cooler, a lounging chair with seven different adjustments, a canopy under which he has set up complete outdoor living room, or even a lowly beach towel. Sexy and self-sufficient.

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    1. Yes...that shot of Cary Grant. He is so identified with well-dressed elegance and sophistication that it's a bit of a shock - and a delight - to discover he looked just as "at home" - and sexy - on a beach in bathing trunks.

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  9. Hitchcock lights are those that are more fun to rewatch--that's why this is such a perfect choice! I particularly enjoyed the mother in this one. And, of course, it's such a feast for the eyes.

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    1. Jessie Royce Landis is perfectly cast here - and in a somewhat smaller role in North by Northwest. Wish she'd been in more Hitchcock films. As to Hitchcock "lights," this is, in my opinion, the best of them.

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  10. Never get tired of watching this one

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