Tuesday, August 27, 2019

To Catch a Thief Delivers Charming & Easygoing Caper Antics

Alfred Hitchcock is well-known for delivering movies that chill you to the bone. Sequences in his filmography like the shower scene in Psycho, for instance, are iconic for their power of utterly terrifying viewers. This makes his 1955 motion picture To Catch a Thief an interesting oddity in his catalog of work. What we have here is a feature that has brief flashes of being a thriller but primarily prides itself on being an easygoing romantic heist movie. Yes, I said easygoing. That's not a word you'd normally associate with the works of Hitchcock, which typically are extremely intense pieces of cinema. Like I said, To Catch a Thief is an interesting oddity in Hitchcock's resume.

To Catch a Thief begins with a series of jewel robberies being committed in the French Rivera by somebody patterning their techniques off famous jewel thief John "The Cat" Robie (Cary Grant). In fact, the authorities totally believe John Robie committed these robberies and are all too excited to arrest him. Robie maintains his innocence, however, and vows to catch the actual culprit. To do this, he teams up with insurance man H.H. Hughson (John Williams) and begins to befriend people he believes are the next likely victims for this new jewel thief. This leads him to getting romantically infatuated with Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly), a crafty lady capable of seeing through Robie's facade.

To Catch a Thief isn't a great movie, but it is the kind of breezy affair you can't help but enjoy, perfect Sunday afternoon entertainment. The most memorable part of the movie may be how this is one of the rare Hitchcock movies to be shot in color and boy does To Catch a Thief make use of that. Gorgeous colorful European landscapes and luscious views of a sparkling blue ocean fill up the frame in To Catch a thief and make individual shots look like a postcard came to life. The costume design similarly makes frequent use of vibrant colors, particularly in a climactic costume party that Robie attends.

Even nighttime can't stifle To Catch a Thief's colorful sensibilities as seen in a beautifully blocked scene where Stevens and Robie discuss thievery-related affairs in a dimly lit room while fireworks explode outside. There's also the lovely visual flourish of having the rooftops Robie walk around on in the dead of the night be draped in bright shades of green. Put simply, To Catch a Thief is a gorgeous looking feature and it's clear that Hitchcock and cinematographer Robert Burks are making ample use of the visual opportunities afforded by the fact that this particular motion picture is shot in color. If you come to To Catch a Thief for anything, come for the gorgeous visual elements, particularly some stunning shots of European vistas.

The screenplay, penned by John Michael Hayes, isn't quite as radiantly crafted, particularly in terms of making supporting players like Frances Stevens (I know, an underwritten female lead in a Hitchcock movie, you're shocked) as distinctively realized as possible. Though it comes up short in terms of providing entertaining side characters, the script still mostly gets the job done in providing fun caper antics and Hayes' dialogue for the lead character is especially enjoyable. An extended monologue where Robie provides his own motivation for why he pursued the career path of a thief is an especially fine showcase for this aspect of the script. It's also a great place for Cary Grant to shine as a performer.

Grant, covered from head-to-toe in a heavy-duty tan, takes to this role like a duck to water, the part of a clever former scoundrel with a heart of gold is one he delivers he believability and charisma a-plenty. It's not a role that sees Grant stretching himself considerably as an actor but that doesn't really matter when his performance in this charming. His chemistry with Grace Kelly is also solid and Kelly herself does decent work in an underwritten role while supporting players John Williams and Jessie Royce Landis equip themselves well to the vibe of this light-hearted romp. Like the film itself, much of the performances in To Catch a Thief won't bowl you over but they will provide plenty of diverting entertainment.

No comments:

Post a Comment