John Robie (Cary Grant) is a wanted man. Once known as "The Cat," the former jewel thief thought he had paid his debt to society by serving his prison sentence in active military duty during World War II. Now, even after staying clean for fifteen years, a rash of recent robberies along the French Riviera has local authorities dusting off his file. Because the modus of operation is so similar, the police drop by his home hoping To Catch a Thief.
Knowing his innocence will be questioned until the copycat criminal is found, Robie determines to catch the impostor himself. That means anticipating the next victim of the real burglar.
Using his gentleman's demeanor, Robie pretends to be an American lumber tycoon, and cozies up to Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), a wealthy and diamond-bedecked widow. However, his ruse runs into complications when Mrs. Steven's very eligible daughter Frances (Grace Kelly) figures out his true identity. Pampered and bored, the heiress pounces on the opportunity for some adventure. Using all her seductive powers, the bedazzled blonde sets her own trap to catch a tiger by the tail.
With romantic sparks flying as high as fireworks over the Mediterranean, the headstrong pair exchange velvet-gloved sexual innuendos. All the while, the audience is torn between wanting to believe in the handsome man's reformation, yet fearing his charm is insufficient for his lack of remorse over past indiscretions.
Although it suffers from slight glamorization of crime and portrayals of smoking, drinking, and gambling amongst the society set, the film still presents an engaging cat and mouse whodunit. Those familiar with the real life story of Grace Kelly and her royal marriage will also find the scene where she drives recklessly along a winding stretch of road to be an eerie foreshadow of the car accident that claimed her life in 1982.
Skillfully directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this well-constructed story from 1955 really shines with intelligent characters and subtle threats. Relying on mounting suspense instead of escalating violence - this movie is a rare catch indeed in the mystery/thriller genre.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
In a conversation between John Robie (Cary Grant) and a representative of the insurance company responsible for covering the costs of the stolen jewelry, the ex-thief accuses the agent of being dishonest. He sites taking ashtrays and towels from hotel rooms and fudging expense allowances as his proof. Why do we justify some types of dishonesty, but not others? Is there really a difference?
When Frances criticizes her mother for gambling, Mrs. Stevens retorts, “Everyone likes to gamble, and you will too when the stakes are right.” What did she mean? How is risk taking like gambling? How did John Robie apply this same line of reasoning to the insurance industry?
Parents may want to tell their children about the extraordinary life of this movie’s starlette. Actress Grace Kelly became a real life Princess when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco and went to live in the city-state not far from where To Catch a Thief was filmed. She died in 1982 in an automobile crash on a winding Riviera road - just like the one she is portrayed as driving on in this film. Check her biography for more information.
Home Video Notes
Home Video Notes: To Catch a Thief
Release Date: 6 March 2012
To Catch a Thief releases to home video (Blu-ray), with the following bonus extras:
- Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper, Hitchcock Film Historian
- Edith Head: The Paramount Years
- Interactive Travelogue
- Theatrical Trailer
- A Night with the Hitchcocks
- Unacceptable Under the Code: Film Censorship in America
- Writing and Casting To Catch A Thief
- The Making of To Catch A Thief
- Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly
- Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An Appreciation