Monday, October 26, 2015

To Catch a Thief

Based on the novel by David Dodge, To Catch a Thief is the story of a reformed cat burglar who is being accused by the authorities over a series of copycat burglaries on rich tourists in the French Riviera as he tries to find out who the copycat is. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and screenplay by John Michael Hayes, the film plays into a man who uses his old skill as a thief to try and find this thief who is trying to ruin the reformed life he’s already created just as he falls for a beautiful young woman. Starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Charles Vanel, and Brigitte Auber. To Catch a Thief is a gorgeous yet compelling film from Alfred Hitchcock.

The film plays into a former thief who had spent more than a decade trying to live a different and more honest life where a series of copycat burglaries on many rich tourists have occurred prompting him to find out who the real thief is before the authorities catch him. While it is a film with a simple premise, it plays into a man who is forced to use his old skills to find out who has been stealing jewels from these rich women vacationing in the French Riviera and why he’s being targeted by everyone including old friends he had from the French Resistance. Along the way, he is aided by an insurance agent who gives him names into people who might be next where he would fall for a young woman who is suspicious about his true identity.

John Michael Hayes’ screenplay takes it time to set the story up where it starts off with a cat burglary and then cut to a woman screaming about losing her jewels where it would escalate prompting the authorities to look after John Robie (Cary Grant) at his villa. Knowing what is going on and the fact that the police don’t trust him even if he is telling the truth forces him to seek the help of his old friends in the Resistance yet they reluctantly do so because they believe he might get them in trouble. With the aid of the insurance agent Hughson (John Williams), Robie pretends to be an American businessman so he can get close to a rich American tourist in Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Frances as he believes they are next. Yet, he becomes close to Frances who is suspicious about him as she knows about these burglaries. Still, she is charmed by him where she would play a key role into helping him uncover the identity of the copycat.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is ravishing in terms of the setting that he creates as it is shot on location in the French Riviera but also has an air of style in the way he presents the element of suspense. Notably the scenes where these burglaries occur as it often features an image of a cat walking on the roof as it plays into what is happening where it prompts the film to come into place. While Hitchcock makes the French Riviera and its towns characters with a lot of gorgeous wide shots, it is really more of a backdrop to the world that Robie lives in where he has to find somewhere safe where he wouldn’t be captured by the authorities. Using lots of medium shots and close-ups, Hitchcock definitely plays up some of the film’s humor but also finds way to play up its suspense such as a few chase scenes in the mountains in the Riviera as well as some moments that play out in some of the villas. The romantic scenes between Robie and Frances are presented in a stylish yet playful manner while it would also have some subtle references into how far they go into their attraction. The film’s climax is among one of the most inventive where it’s lavish as well as gripping to see who is this copycat as it is a sequence that is just fun to watch. Overall, Hitchcock creates a thrilling and exhilarating film about a thief trying to capture a copycat to clear his own name.

Cinematographer Robert Burks does amazing work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography in capturing the lush colors of the French Riviera in its daytime exterior settings to its usage of lights for the scenes at night to play into the suspense and drama. Editor George Tomasini does brilliant work with the editing as it is stylish in its rhythmic cuts to play into some of the humor as well as slowing things down for its suspenseful moments. Art directors J. McMillan Johnson and Hal Pereira, with set decorators Sam Comer and Arthur Krams, do fantastic work with the look of the hotel rooms some of the characters stay as well as the villa that Robie lives in.

Costume designer Edith Head does excellent work with the design of the gowns that Frances wear as well as her mother to play into their posh lifestyles as well as the costumes for the film‘s climatic costume ball. Sound editors Howard Beals and Bill Wistrom do terrific work with the sound to play into many of the locations as well as the sparse moments in the burglary sequences. The film’s music by Lyn Murray is superb for its orchestral-based score with some lush string arrangements as it has some soaring themes for the romantic moments along with some intense pieces for its suspenseful moments.

The film’s remarkable cast include some notable small roles from Rene Blancard as the police commissioner, Georgette Anys as Robie’s housekeeper Germaine, Jean Martinelli as an old friend of Robie in a restaurant employee named Foussier, and Charles Vanel as the restaurant owner Bertrani who reluctantly helps Robie out to evade the police. Brigitte Auber is wonderful as Foussier’s daughter Danielle as a young woman who knows Robie as she suspects that he’s up to no good. John Williams is excellent as Hughson as an insurance agent who wants to help Robie find the stolen jewelry in the hopes that his insurance company can save face where he is one of the few that believes that Robie is telling the truth.

Jessie Royce Landis is fantastic as Mrs. Jessie Stevens as Frances’ mother who is this very fun woman that likes to drink Bourbon as she knows what is going on as she wonders what will happen as she also think that Robie is innocent. Grace Kelly is amazing as Frances Stevens as this woman who is wary of Robie’s presence as she is a woman of style but also a witty personality where she can also be the smartest person in the room. Finally, there’s Cary Grant in a brilliant performance as John Robie as a former cat burglar who is accused over recent thefts as he is forced to use his old skills to find the thief where it’s a performance that has Grant be charming but also display some humility as it is one of his finest performances.

To Catch a Thief is a spectacular film from Alfred Hitchcock that features incredible performances from Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Along with a brilliant supporting cast and a crafty premise, the film isn’t just one of Hitchcock’s quintessential films but also one of his most entertaining. Especially for its inspiring usage of the locations and his approach to subtlety in the romantic elements of the film. In the end, To Catch a Thief is a sensational film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - The 39 Steps - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) - The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) - (Rebecca) - (Foreign Correspondent) - (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) - Suspicion - (Saboteur) - (Shadow of a Doubt) - Bon Voyage - Lifeboat - (Spellbound) - (Notorious) - (The Paradine Cage) - Rope - (Under Capricorn) - (Stage Fright) - Strangers on a Train - I Confess - Dial M for Murder - Rear Window - (The Trouble with Harry) - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film) - (The Wrong Man) - Vertigo - North by Northwest - Psycho - The Birds - Marnie - (Torn Curtain) - (Topaz) - (Frenzy) - (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2015


Paul S said...

That's what amazes me about Hitchcock. Even his lesser known works are far better than the thrillers of today! Terrific review.

thevoid99 said...

Hitchcock could make something mediocre but it would still be better than anything else. He's a master. No one can outdo a master. Thanks.

Ruth said...

I saw this a couple of years ago as I was catching up to some Hitchcock films. I find it so frivolous and rather forgettable. I mean both leads are so gorgeous but narratively it's just ok, the only thing I remember was that I kept thinking about Grace Kelly's car accident during all the driving scenes. Oh and the scenery certainly is nice to look at, too.

thevoid99 said...

@Ruth-Yeah, those driving scenes do remind me of what happened to Grace Kelly. That was a bit scary. Still, I think this was a fun film though I think there's some better films by Hitchcock.