Grant finds Grace as an ex Cat Burglar
Quite rightly Alfred Hitchcock earned the moniker of "Master of Suspense" he gave us a long list of movies which have not only become classics but inspired numerous directors to try and emulate his style and grasp of movie making. But Hitchcock didn't just make all out suspense's he varied things adding wit as well as toning down the suspense to deliver movies which still had all the Hitchcock style but almost feel like simple, easy to watch dramas. For me "To Catch a Thief" starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly fits into that category because whilst technically a thriller is also a romance with a touch of wit. It's fun, it has the stars and is a visual treat but because it doesn't really have that edge of your seat touch of suspense that you almost expect from a Hitchcock movie it just doesn't quite feel right.
When a thief starts to rob the rich of their jewellery on the French Riviera, the finger of suspicion immediately focuses on American John Robie (Cary Grant - The Bishop's Wife) who having once been a master cat burglar has been retired for numerous years. With the police wanting to arrest him for these new crimes Robie sets about discovering who this new thief who manages to emulate his style is. With a list of potential victims Robie meets Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis - Airport) who is holidaying in Europe with her daughter Frances (Grace Kelly - Rear Window) who immediately has eyes for the debonair Robie.
It has to be said that "To Catch a Thief" has one of the most straight forward storylines going and there is an almost obvious side to things. After the introduction to John Robie and the meeting with Frances Stevens it's very obvious that they will end up together, there is no way it would be any different. As such part of what works about "To Catch a Thief" is the way Frances basically captures Robie and the romance forms over a series of simple but beautifully shot scenes. It almost feels wrong that a Hitchcock movie would end up feeling more like a romantic drama but it does work, especially as he installs his wit into the romance.
But "To Catch a Thief" despite feeling predominantly a romantic drama still has a sense of mystery about it as we watch Robie try to discover who the new thief is. It's the sort of thing you expect from Hitchcock and as such there are a few twists in the storyline causing you to wonder who this new thief is and whether it is Frances or someone else. It sort of feels a little weak because the focus of the movie is on the romance but when the focus swaps to the mystery it adds that extra element that you want.
As was normal for a Hitchcock movie "To Catch a Thief" has a big name cast most significantly Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Cary Grant delivers that charm which was his trademark, he's debonair but with that bad side of being a master thief. It makes him dangerous and Grant carries off the character perfectly and he's equally matched by Grace Kelly who radiates beauty in every single scene, a movie princess soon to be one in real life. Yet there is also that naughty side to her, the willingness to take risks which makes her character interesting. The sort of cat and mouse games between Robie ad Frances is a joy to watch and the naturalness between Grant and Kelly makes it work.
But Cary Grant and Grace Kelly are not alone and H.H. Hughson is fun to watch as the slightly dodgy insurance agent whilst Jessie Royce Landis is amusing as Frances's mother Jessie. The only real negative is the performance of Charles Vanel as Bertani, it is very obvious that his voice has had to be dubbed and makes those scenes he is in feel wrong, almost stilted.
Whilst "To Catch a Thief" has a star cast the thing which catches you is the location, the beautiful French Riviera which provides a glorious backdrop too much of the drama. In a way it was unusual for Hitchcock to shoot on location, preferring the control he had in the studio, but the various scenes in "To Catch a Thief" which are shot on the French Riviera make it feel big and expansive delivering the whole atmosphere of the Riviera which just couldn't be recreated in the studio.
What this all boils down to is that "To Catch a Thief" is a very entertaining movie which is more of a romantic drama that a suspense which makes it a little different to what you expect from a Hitchcock movie. It still has a few twists and turns as well as the whole Hitchcock style, but you end up watching it for the cat and mouse games of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.