After a long period of dark and serious films, Hitchcock tried his hand a something fun and frothy for the first time since Mr. and Mrs. Smith nearly fifteen years earlier. But unlike that last attempt, To Catch A Thief is very enjoyable.
Retired cat burglar John “The Cat” Robie (Cary Grant) is framed by new wave of jewellery robberies. On the run from the ever-inept police, he escapes to safety with the aid of his old flame Danielle (Brigitte Auber) and sets out to prove his innocence.
In order to catch this new cat burglar red-handed, Robie becomes close to wealthy widow Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Francie (Grace Kelly). While initially ice cold towards him, Francie’s attraction to Robie swells after she learns of his devious and thrilling old ways. But when Mrs. Stevens’ diamonds vanish in the night, it’s no longer fun and games in Francie’s eyes.
The driving force of To Catch A Thief comes from the pairing of two dream leads: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (this proved to be her final Hitchcock film as she gave up acting due to her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956). The chemistry between them is electric and every line of the innuendo-crammed dialogue between them is marvelously corny.
“You want a leg or a breast?” Kelly ask, presenting him with a picnic. “You make the choice,” replies Grant unblinkingly. Bond would be proud.
While the film can’t be called a “comedy”, strictly speaking, it’s an enjoyable romp around gorgeous French scenery that serves as a great little call-back to some of the lighter films of Hitchcock’s late British years.
The central “who is the imposter cat burglar” mystery plays out in a fairly boring fashion without any great twists and turns, despite all the suave turtlenecks Cary Grant can squeeze into. But when the leads are this fun and the dialogue is this flirty, who cares?
“I have a feeling that tonight you’re going to see one of the Riviera’s most fascinating sights,” promises Kelly. Then, after a pause, “I was talking about the fireworks”. “I never doubted it,” reassures Grant. Sure, mate. Sure.