“To Catch A Thief” by Fiona Conway
If you’ve only ever watched the most iconic Hitchcock lms, his style of cinema likely conjures a very specic image in your mind. What do you see? Perhaps you are imagining a dizzying staircase sequence, an adrenaline rush atop Mount Rushmore, or the least relaxed shower scene in the history of cinema. In all likelihood you are imagining these bits and pieces of scenes set to the tune of suspenseful music, possibly all in black and white or with birds swooping in and out of frame. These are all classic Hitchcockian images, and if lms like “The Birds” and “Psycho” are why you love Hitchcock, you are in the majority. In this post, however, I want to talk about a Hitchcock lm that I do not believe is discussed enough. Hitchcock scholars seem to shy away from critical discussion of this movie because it is such an outlier compared to his other works, and movie lovers like myself often forget that this glamorous French Riviera romance was actually a Hitchcock creation. I am speaking, of course, about “To Catch a Thief”.
“To Catch a Thief” is a 1955 romantic mystery/thriller starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The events within all transpire against the elegant backdrop of the French Riviera, and in an unimaginable feat of cinematic artistry, the costume and set design of this lm are somehow able to rival the beauty of its setting. You may be wondering why, if this lm is classied as a thriller, I called it an outlier compared to other Hitchcock lms. While “To Catch a Thief” absolutely contains classic Hitchcock elements (ie. suspense, an overbearing mother, the blonde bombshell, and mistaken identity, to name a few), it doesn’t take itself as seriously as most other Hitchcock movies. The pace of this lm is leisurely and even meandering at times, and the crimes around which the lm revolves are so ridiculously bourgeois that we as an audience don’t feel much urgency towards the resolution of Grant’s precarious position. Instead, the viewer is more likely to watch the events of “To Catch a Thief” with a sort of curious bemusement. With this lm, we can sit back and enjoy the visual feast that Hitchcock oers in the form of sweeping coastal views and a lavish masquerade ball, all while rooting for the Grant/Kelly romance and chuckling at the whims and follies of the many colorful characters within. In essence, To Catch a Thief is an outlier because it is, in my opinion at least, the most fun Hitchcock Film out there.
So why should you watch “To Catch a Thief” when there are countless movie options to choose from, Hitchcock directed or otherwise? For starters, it’s wildly entertaining. The luscious scenery and compelling relationships between the characters draw the audience in, and as you watch it you feel like you’re there with them. We are simultaneously enjoying the southern French seaside, and feeling the anxiety brought to the community by the ever-present jewel thief. This lm is not just a
“guilty pleasure” summer-romance type, though. It is – after all – a Hitchcock lm, and the suspense elements and storytelling happening within engage the audience at every moment. It’s dicult to include specic plot points here to pique your interest, because the last thing I want to do is reveal too much or give away a spoiler, but I think it’s safe to give you a few highlights nonetheless. In “To Catch a Thief” we see a speedy car chase on winding mountain roads, a copycat burglar, a police raid, and vast quantities of clever dialogue. I think the dialogue alone should be enough to warrant more critical analysis of this lm; the conversations between characters tend to be light, witty, and humorous, but almost always have a deeper signicance than what we notice at rst. After seeing this movie for the rst time, it wasn’t the beautiful mise-en-scéne or even the suspenseful plot that drew me back for a second viewing – it was the dialogue.
Now that summer is on the horizon and the semester is coming to a close, if you have some time to sit down for an old movie night, consider settling in to watch “To Catch a Thief”. It’s beautiful and intriguing, and it’s easy to see why famed costume designer Edith Head named “To Catch a Thief” as her favorite project (Style in Film). So throw some popcorn in the microwave, grab a blanket and a friend, and get ready to watch a movie that is totally unexpected from the master of suspense, because although “To Catch a Thief” is as well-composed as any Hitchcock lm, I can guarantee it’s not like any of his movies you’ve ever seen before.
Hitchcock, Alfred, and John Michael Hayes. To Catch a Thief.
“Style in Film: To Catch A Thief.” Classiq, classiq.me/style-in-lm-to-catch-a-thief.