To Catch a Thief (1955)

To Catch a Thief (1955), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

After a string of spectacular jewel thefts on the Riviera, everyone suspects former cat burglar and Resistance hero Cary Grant. It's the old double chase: he hunts the real thief while the police hunt him. In fact, everyone is a detective chasing someone in this film.

Grace Kelly, poised like a statuary goddess, seems proper and reserved at first, until we learn she is a wild rich girl eroticaly excited to know an actual jewel thief. Grant does his best to fend her off:


You know, I have about the same interest in jewelry that I have in politics, horse racing, modern poetry or women who need weird excitement. None.

It's worth quoting some extracts from the famous fireworks scene, where all the foreplay achieves some completion:


Kelly: I have a feeling that tonight you're going to see one of the Riviera's most fascinating sights... I was talking about the fireworks!

Grant: I never doubted it.

Kelly: The way you looked at my necklace, I didn't know...


Kelly: Even in this light, I can tell where your eyes are looking... Look, John. Hold them. Diamonds... The only thing in the world you can't resist. Then tell me you don't know what I'm talking about... Ever had a better offer in your whole life? One with everything?...

Grant: I've never had a crazier one.

Kelly: Just as long as you're satisfied...

Grant: You know as well as I do: this necklace is imitation.

Kelly: Well, I'm not.

She's mad the next morning but her comically vulgar but honest mother isn't having it. Mother: "Just what did he steal from you?" Daughter: "Oh, Mother!" (Meaning, we both know he didn't make off with your virginity).

This is certainly Hitchcock's most glamorous film and has to be among his most visually spectacular. Famously, he hated location shooting, but the Côte d'Azur was his favorite vacation spot. It's an overwhelming travelog of beach and water, fine houses and beautiful aerial shots.

The climatic scene of rooftop chasing and struggling takes us into a particularly Hitchcockian dimension. It recalls the surreal Dali sets from Spellbound (1945), hanging from the roof edge in Vertigo (1958) (still in the future) and intense moments from other films.

Everyone says that Grace Kelly was, for Hitchcock, "The Woman", the one he tried to recreate in other actresses. "Ice that melts", he said. Those twisty roads she drives in this film: she died there 27 years later. She had a stroke and crashed her car. She had been Princess of Monaco for 26 years.

Today, blue light is always used for night scenes; he uses green.

I never noticed before: the speedboat in the first part is named the Maquis Mouse. Maquis = French Resistance.

Edith Head costumes; her favorite picture.

Available on Blu-ray with a gorgeous image. This may be the first time a Blu-ray has made me like a film more. The excited commentary track by a film scholar is sometimes a bit academic, but has good info and many insights.