Saturday, May 22, 2010

'To Catch a Thief' is one of Hitchcock's best

To Catch a Thief (1955)
Starring: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, John Williams, and Brigitte Auber
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars

Long-retired catburglar and jewel thief John Robie (Grant) teams up with an insurance agent (Williams) to catch a copy-cat thief who has the police hunting him. Robie conceives using a rich American and her massive diamonds as bait for the mystery thief--a mistake, because Robie soon finds that the woman's beautiful, thrill-seeking daughter, Frances (Kelly), wants to catch a thief of her own.

"To Catch a Thief" is a romance film with a mystery plot and some nice action sequences thrown in. It features perhaps the most believable romance featured in any Hitchcock film, as it is one that seems to grow between Grant and Kelly's characters as the story progresses, instead of springing onto the screen from left field as it does in "Notorious", for example.

Grant and Kelly are working with nuanced characters and great dialog in this film--and their bantering is perhaps some of the wittiest that is featured in any of Hitchcock's movies. Their onscreen chemistry was also fabulous, and this, coupled with the gorgeous photography and moody lighting of first the fireworks scene and shortly thereafter the confrontation between Robie and the sexy young heiress after her mother's jewels have vanished, end up creating some of the best-looking scenes in any of Hitchcock's films. (The shot of Frances, her face in shadow while the diamonds around her neck that she is trying to seduce Robie with sparkle brilliantly is pure visual poetry.

This may not be the sort of movie that comes to mind when someone says "Alfred Hitchcock", because while all the elements are there, they are not in the proportions that one expects--there is more romance than drama, and more comedy than suspense--but this is perhaps what makes it such a fantastic movie. Hitchcock made a movie featuring all the elements that are present in just about every movie he made, yet he uses them in ways that makes this movie stand alone.

Although it is more than 50 years since "To Catch A Thief" was released, it remains a fresh and vital picture that is as entertaining today as it was then. It is a film that has stood the test of time, and which is truly deserving of the label "classic."

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