Wild Young Minds: 'To catch a thief': passionate yet predictable

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

'To catch a thief': passionate yet predictable

Due to the recently filmed Alfred Hitchcock biopic, new interest has aroused for his oeuvre. Hitchcock made many psychological thrillers and had a significant style. ‘To Catch a Thief’ (1955) was one of his later productions. It is an exciting yet predicable film.

To Catch a Thief’ stars the graceful (no name would fit her better) Grace Kelly and the manly yet too dark-skinned Cary Grant. The film takes place in the French Riviera, where John Robie (Cary Grant) is settled, after spending many years being a notorious burglar, specialized in stealing jewellery. He was called ‘The Cat’ for his smooth movements. He lives a rather peaceful life, until he hears that there has been a huge increase in burglaries in the neighbourhood. Evidently, someone is copying John’s way of performing. The police indeed suspect that ‘The Cat’ is back again.

John looks for protection from his former companions. He fails, since they all think he is guilty.
This makes him determined to find out who’s the thief himself. Meanwhile, Francie Stevens (Grace Kelly) makes her entrance in John’s life. She’s the daughter of the extremely rich Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), who is on top of the list of possessors of expensive diamonds. Her daughter is a sophisticated and reserved lady. Hitchcock always had a love for icy cold blondes and Grace Kelly is the embodiment of coldness.

It turns out Francie has a thing for adventure as well. John and Jessie spend more and more time together, but Jessie soon begins to suspect John. They meet on the 14th of July and she tempts him with the finest jewellery she has, to make him admit he’s ‘The Cat’. The tension between them is obvious. As the fireworks fill the sky, she throws herself passionately in his arms. The next morning she finds out her mother’s jewels are stolen. She sees John as the perpetrator and calls the police. John escapes and is determined to catch the thief. A few nights later, a thrilling persecution takes place at a ball and John finds out who the real ‘Cat’ is.

The identity of the thief is not a major surprise. This also applies to the progress of the film. It is clear as a bell that Jessie will fall for John, though he’s more interested in catching the thief. Nonetheless, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant make a splendid couple. The tension between them carries the film. Every scene is sparkling and stylish, which probably is also due to the period in which it was filmed. Grace Kelly and Cary Grant are convincing the entire time, which isn’t always the case in old movies.

It is characteristic of a Hitchcock film that it always includes some extremely fake scenes. You either love them or you hate them. For instance, there’s a scene when John and Jessie are in a car persecution. You see the most beautiful landscapes, but it is obvious they are edited as background. This makes the persecution very unbelievable and diminishes the tension drastically.   
All in all, ‘To Catch a Thief’ is a feast for the eye, but also a bit predicative. The actors are well-chosen. Grace Kelly is perfect as the icy Jessie and Cary Grant plays the leading part like no one else could’ve played it. The tension of the story doesn’t come out very well but the passionate scenes between John and Jessie are truly captivating. This classic Hitchcock film has to be seen. It may not be Oscar worthy, but it will do fine on a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

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