To Catch a Thief (1955) - Illustrated Reference

To Catch a Thief was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and premiered on 3rd of August 1955. Starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis and John Williams. Screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Music by Lyn Murray. 106 mins.

A series of jewelry robberies in the French Riviera and the police suspect retired cat burglar John Robie “The Cat” is back at work. Robie convinces Lloyds of London insurance man H.H.Hughson a copycat burglar is on the loose and sets out to catch the thief himself.

Hollywood Reporter - December 1951, there is an announcement that Alfred Hitchcock had purchased David Dodge's novel To Catch a Thief for $15,000. Daily Variety - December 1953, it's announced that the first of three pictures made by Hitchcock under a new contract at Paramount would be To Catch a Thief. The novel's title is taken from the old saying, "It takes a thief to catch a thief."

Frances Stevens: You want a leg or a breast?
John Robie: You make the choice.

Cary Grant (1904-1986) / John Robie

Born in Bristol, England, Cary Grant was Oscar Nominated Best Actor in Penny Serenade (1941) and None But the Lonely Heart (1944). He won an Honorary Oscar in 1970 - "For his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues."

Cary Grant’s films include – She Done Him Wrong (1933), The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), Monkey Business (1952), An Affair to Remember (1957), The Pride and the Passion (1957), Houseboat (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Operation Petticoat (1959), That Touch of Mink (1962), Charade (1963), and Walk Don’t Run (1966).

Frances Stevens: Are you sure you were talking about water skis? From where I sat it looked as though you were conjugating some irregular verbs.

Grace Kelly (1929-1982) / Frances Stevens

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956 and became Princess Grace of Monaco.

She received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Mogambo (1953) and won Best Actress for The Country Girl (1954).

She also starred in High Noon (1952, Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), Green Fire (1954), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Swan (1956) and High Society (1956).

Jessie Stevens: Sorry I ever sent her to finishing school. I think they finished her there.

Jessie Royce Landis (1896-1972) / Jessie Stevens

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jessie Royce Landis played Cary Grant’s mother in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). Her films include – My Foolish Heart (1949), The Swan (1956), My Man Godfrey (1957), Bon Voyage (1962) and Airport (1970).

John Williams (1903-1983) / H.H.Hughson

Born in Buckinghamshire, England, John Williams films include – Dial M for Murder (1954), Sabrina (1954), D-Day The Sixth of June (1956), Island in the Sun (1957) and The Young Philadelphians (1959)

Charles Vanel (1892-1989) / Bertani

Born in Rennes, France, Charles Vanel’s movie career spanned 80 years! His first film appearance was in Jim Crow (1910) and his last in Wings of Desire (1987) and 160 movies in-between.

John Robie: Danielle, you are just a girl. She is a woman.
Danielle: Why buy an old car if you can get a new one cheaper? It will run better and last longer.

Brigitte Auber (1928-) / Danielle Foussard

Born in Paris, France, the only other American film Brigitte Auber has appeared in is The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).

Frances Stevens: Look, John. Hold them. Diamonds... The only thing in the world you can't resist. Then tell me you don't know what I'm talking about.
John Robie: You know as well as I do: this necklace is imitation.
Frances Stevens: Well, I'm not.

One of the most famous sequences in the film is the love scene between Cary and Grace during the firework display. Joseph Breen was director of the PCA (Production Code Administration) at the time and objected to the use of fireworks during a scene of lovemaking because “the symbolism was too pointed” but despite his objections Hitchcock left the fireworks in.

To Catch a Thief was Grace Kelly’s third and last film for Hitchcock, she had also starred in Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, both 1954.

Hitchcock obviously adored the beautiful actress and had wanted to work with her again on Marnie (1964) and she was interested but she was also Princess Grace of Monaco and finally told Hitch she couldn’t do it.

Some sources note that Grace met her future husband Prince Rainier during filming of To Catch a Thief, while others state she met him at the Cannes film festival.

Grace Kelly died in an automobile accident in September 1982, she apparently had a stroke while driving through the French Riviera’s winding roads very similar to the ones featured in the film's famous chase scene. Her daughter Stephanie was with her at the time, Grace lost control of the wheel and drove off the road and went crashing down a mountainside. Her daughter survived the accident but Grace died of her injuries the following day.

French actor Charles Vanel could not speak English and all his lines were dubbed later.

Hitchcock cast Brigitte Auber as "Danielle" after seeing her in a film called Sous le ciel de Paris. "I chose her because the character had to be sturdy enough to climb all over the villa roofs. I wasn't aware that between films Brigitte Auber worked as an acrobat."

At one point in the film Jessie Royce Landis stubs out her cigarette on the unbroken yolk of a fried egg. Hitchcock disliked eggs, he said once “I'm frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me. Is there anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid?”

Hitchcock’s cameo is about 20 minutes in, on a bus sitting next to Cary Grant.

To Catch a Thief was chosen for 1955’s Royal Command Performance in London in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. One film is chosen each year for this event.

Alfred Hitchcock received a Golden Lion nomination by the Venice Film Festival.

John Michael Hayes script was nominated by the Writers Guild of America.

To Catch a Thief was nominated for three Oscars – Best Costume, Best Art Direction and winning for Best Cinematography.

To Catch a Thief isn’t a Hitchcock masterpiece. Hitch was on holiday here. The film is worth watching to see Cary Grant at his most suave and debonair and Grace Kelly at her most beautiful. Even between masterpieces Hitch has expertly crafted an enjoyable romantic thriller.

"Hitchcock's talent is here; but not, I think, his mischievous, blood-sniffing heart." (Dilys Powell)

"Since the coming of the big screen and varied scopes there has been a growing number of productions that give the stay-at-home tourist a vicarious trip to far places. "To Catch a Thief" fits rather handily into this travelog group.

It's not the suspense piece one usually associates with the Alfred Hitchcock name, but there are compensation factors, including the star teaming of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly , to indicate healthy boxoffice in most playdates." (Variety)

"The script and the actors keep things popping, in a fast, slick, sophisticated vein. Mr. Grant and Miss Kelly do grandly, especially in one sly seduction scene. If you've never heard double-entendre, you will hear it in this film. As the chap from Lloyds, John Williams is delightfully anxious and dry, and Jessie Royce Landis is most amusing as Miss Kelly's low-down American mom.

Brigitte Auber is fetching and funny as a frightfully forward French girl, and Charles Vanel has the air of a rascal as a local restaurateur."To Catch a Thief" does nothing but give out a good, exciting time. If you'll settle for that you should give it your custom right now." (Bosley Crowther, New York Times)

"It was a lightweight story" (Hitchcock)

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11 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Steve, another brill hub, the photos are just amazing. I'm looking at Grace Kelly and thinking of what might have been had her life taken a different path - she has 'star' written all over her. I prefer 'North By Northwest' as a Cary Grant movie but he's good in this one too. All of these hubs about great 'oldies' have me reminiscing for movies past - I need to go to TCM and start using my Sky+ box a bit more! Voted up, etc,etc.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Jools, appreciate the comment and vote. Not one of the great Hitchcock films but Grace Kelly really shines in this. And Cary Grant is good value as the ex-cat burglar. A fun film but like you I prefer North by Northwest. I had so many posters from the film I could have filled up the hub with them.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

No time to read this now, but just wanted to pop in and say that the background to this film has always fascinated me. I love the film, but it is last in my preference for both leads and their Hitch films.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Flora, the biggest problem I had with this film is there was very little interesting info about it, so I wrote about Grace Kelly. But it's the posters and photos that are the meat of this hub the text is just gravy. Thanks for posting.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

One of my favorite Cary Grant movies. Kelly and Grant make a great screen couple. Grant was semi-retired but Hitchcock got him back on screen with this movie. Just imagine if Grant would have stayed retired. James Stewart would have played Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest, Charade might not have been made...same for Operation Petticoat or Father Goose.

There are so many scenes in this movie that I like...the fireworks scene with Kelly and Grant, the picnic, the swimming scene...the list could go on and on.

Awesome photos and posters(the meat) and I liked the gravy as well....voted up and across the board.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Hmmm. There is a black cat in this film that Grant's character owns.

This movie is a lot of fun. I think my favourite poster is the second last one. I would say the set up for the last one is the best, but Kelly is not in it. But I have a soft spot for blue posters.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce, appreciate the comment and vote. I think this was Hitch's most colourful film, the scenery is great and so is the use of colour. Like Singin' in the Rain the remastering was top notch for the DVD release.

Btw I made 40 cents yesterday on the Hubsense program, not bad I suppose, you can imagine what the really popular hubbers are doing.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Flora, did Cary Grant have a black cat in this film or was it just following him around? I'm trying to remember. I'll watch the film again tomorrow.

That blue poster was pretty cool, I like it. But no Grace. Oh well. :)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

The cat lived in his home. Whether or not they actually belonged together or they put up with each other I couldn't tell.


Breen Bergstrome 4 years ago

This is another of my all-time favourite movies...adventure and glamour with two of the best actors in the business. Grace Kelley sizzles with every co-star but this connection is over the top.

I guess my favourite poster is the French "La Main au Collet". Shows Grace in her gorgeous sensuous self and Cary Grant's apparent dispassion?/detachment?/what is it...

Thanks for a trip to the "big screen". Flora doesn't have a copy of it so we have to rent a dvd..I've wanted to see it again for a long time.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Breen, thanks for commenting, much appreciated. Some of the European movie posters have been pretty spectacular. I was going to watch the film at the weekend but we had visitors and I never got round to it. I was planning to keep an eye out for the black cat Flora mentioned. I think it turns up on the roof with Cary at the climax too.

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