To Catch A Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)


Cary Grant (John Robie), Grace Kelly (Frances Stevens). Screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Rating: PG. Running time: 106 minutes.

Oh Hitch, you old genius. Every time I think I’ve devoured your filmography and haven’t missed a trick on your IMDb page, another springs out of the history box and shouts ‘watch me!’ I thought Notorious and Spellbound would be the last two gems I found – both excellent contributions to his oeuvre with A-list stars, but for some reason never mentioned alongside Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest et al. as examples of his finest work. Then the other night I noticed that TCM, as part of a Hitchcock season, were showing ‘To Catch A Thief.’ Cary Grant? Grace Kelly? 1955? Made right after Dial M and Rear Window? How had I not heard of this before?! Sky+ was quickly put to use.

It turns out this little known piece is quite possibly his funniest, despite carrying all his classic and common themes: criminals on the run, mystery, mistaken identity and outrageous flirting between beautiful people. To Catch A Thief is like 007 meets the Marx brothers, Cary Grant being the cross between Bond and Groucho. I don’t think Hitch ever worked with a smarter screenplay, and I haven’t forgotten just how good his dialogue often is. The one liners roll off Grant’s tongue with such remarkable speed and consistency you’d be forgiven for forgetting the other pleasure on offer: the sight of him picnicking with Grace Kelly overlooking the French Riviera, and those two smooching as fireworks fly in the background.

Grace has that typical heavenly aura about her that goes with the name, looks and voice, but she’s not alone in getting attention here because of her appearance. It’s great to see Grant himself use ‘lady techniques’ to go about his sneaky business, just standing looking handsome and cracking jokes until a woman he wants to talk to can no longer resist him. It isn’t just his lines or bizarre situation that makes things so funny, though. It’s also that frown he perfected so well that we’re used to from North by Northwest, that he pulls out of the bag every time anything absurd, only-in-films happens to him. This is a great, forgotten treat.

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