To Catch a Thief (1955)

103 or 106 mins | Mystery, Romance | September 1955

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Catch a Thief . The novel's title was derived from the old saying, "It takes a thief to catch a thief." In Dec 1951, HR announced that producer-director Alfred Hitchcock had purchased David Dodge's novel for $15,000. DV announced in Dec 1953 that To Catch a Thief would be the first of three pictures made by Hitchcock under a new contract at Paramount. According to Paramount production files contained at the AMPAS Library, Alec Coppel worked on the script for about a week in mid-Nov 1954, shortly before the final set of retakes was done. Production files indicate that the following locations were used during filming: Cannes, including the Carlton Hotel and the Goldman villa, Tourrettes, La Turbie, Eze, Gourdon, Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer, and Speracedes, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco, including the Hotel Metropole; and Mt. Wilson, CA. The fireworks footage was staged in Long Beach, CA. The production cost approximately $2,847,000, and was roughly $500,000 over budget, according to Paramount records.
       According to MPAA/PCA files contained at the AMPAS Library, the film's MPAA certificate was issued on condition that "in all prints...the following alteration will be made: In the love scenes between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in Miss Kelly's hotel room, the lovemaking on the sofa will be terminated by a dissolve before the couple lean back towards the corner of the sofa." In a 9 Jul 1954 letter to Paramount executive Luigi Luraschi, PCA director Joseph I. Breen asked that the fireworks display in the same scene be eliminated, complaining that the "symbolism...is pointed." Despite Breen's objections, Hitchcock retained the ... More Less

The working title of this film was Catch a Thief . The novel's title was derived from the old saying, "It takes a thief to catch a thief." In Dec 1951, HR announced that producer-director Alfred Hitchcock had purchased David Dodge's novel for $15,000. DV announced in Dec 1953 that To Catch a Thief would be the first of three pictures made by Hitchcock under a new contract at Paramount. According to Paramount production files contained at the AMPAS Library, Alec Coppel worked on the script for about a week in mid-Nov 1954, shortly before the final set of retakes was done. Production files indicate that the following locations were used during filming: Cannes, including the Carlton Hotel and the Goldman villa, Tourrettes, La Turbie, Eze, Gourdon, Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer, and Speracedes, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco, including the Hotel Metropole; and Mt. Wilson, CA. The fireworks footage was staged in Long Beach, CA. The production cost approximately $2,847,000, and was roughly $500,000 over budget, according to Paramount records.
       According to MPAA/PCA files contained at the AMPAS Library, the film's MPAA certificate was issued on condition that "in all prints...the following alteration will be made: In the love scenes between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in Miss Kelly's hotel room, the lovemaking on the sofa will be terminated by a dissolve before the couple lean back towards the corner of the sofa." In a 9 Jul 1954 letter to Paramount executive Luigi Luraschi, PCA director Joseph I. Breen asked that the fireworks display in the same scene be eliminated, complaining that the "symbolism...is pointed." Despite Breen's objections, Hitchcock retained the fireworks, and the scene has become one of the director's most famous.
       To Catch a Thief was Grace Kelly's third Hitchcock picture, after the 1954 Warner Bros. film Dial M for Murder and Paramount's 1954 Rear Window (see above entries). Paramount borrowed Kelly from M-G-M for the production. According to modern sources, it was her fifth loan-out in eight months and was accomplished primarily because M-G-M wanted William Holden, a Paramount contract star, for one of its pictures. Modern sources note that Kelly, who married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956 and became Princess Grace, saw one of her homes-to-be, the Grimaldi estate, for the first time while on location in the Riviera. Although one modern source contends that Kelly met Prince Rainier while filming To Catch a Thief , most biographical sources claim that they met at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. Modern sources also comment that Kelly was obligated to do her own driving during the high-speed chase scene, even though she was not a confident driver. Kelly died in 1982 from injuries suffered in a car crash on a similar winding Riviera road.
       In a modern interview, Hitchcock dismissed To Catch a Thief , the first picture he ever shot in France, as a "lightweight story." He also stated that he cast Brigitte Auber as "Danielle" after seeing her in a Julien Duvivier picture called Sous le ciel de Paris . "I chose her because the personage had to be sturdy enough to climb all over the villa roofs. At the time, I wasn't aware that between films Brigitte Auber worked as an acrobat." Cary Grant also had been an acrobat in his youth. A HR news item adds Dorine Austin and Ruth Oklander to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo in the film by appearing as the man sitting next to a woman holding a bird cage.
       To Catch a Thief was a commercial success and helped revive Cary Grant's sagging career, according to modern sources. Grant, who was 50 at the time of filming, had not made a film since the 1953 M-G-M picture Dream Wife (see above entry). In Sep 1955, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain chose To Catch a Thief for screening at the annual royal command performance, according to a HCN news item. The film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Color) and was nominated for Best Art Direction (Color) and Best Costume Design (Color). In 1963, it was reissued with Hitchcock's 1958 hit Vertigo . The television series It Takes a Thief , which was broadcast on the ABC network from 1968 to 1970 and starred Robert Wagner, was loosely based on To Catch a Thief . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Jul 1955.
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 1953.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jul 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 Jul 55
p. 5.
Hollywood Citizen-News
21 Sep 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 54
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1954
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 54
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 1963.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Jul 55
p. 513.
New York Times
4 Aug 55
p. 17.
New York Times
5 Aug 55
p. 14.
Time
15 Aug 1955.
---
Variety
15 20 Jul 1955
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Alberto Morin
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Asst cam
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Props
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial coach
Asst prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Scr supv
Tech adv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel To Catch a Thief by David Dodge (New York, 1952).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Catch a Thief
Release Date:
September 1955
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 3 August 1955
New York opening: 4 August 1955
Production Date:
31 May--4 September 1954
addl scenes: 14 September--15 September 1954, 1 December--2 December 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
22 August 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5277
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
103 or 106
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17226
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After a series of daring, nighttime jewel thefts creates panic among the Riviera's wealthy elite, American-born John Robie, a reformed burglar who used to be known as "The Cat," becomes the police's only suspect. When police detectives come to question him at his hilltop villa near Cannes, John cleverly eludes them. John then races to see his old friend, Bertani, a restaurateur with whom he fought in the French Resistance and whose employees are all ex-convicts like John. Although Bertani is sympathetic to John's plight, the other restaurant workers treat him hostily, fearing that his apparent transgression will cast suspicion on them. Feeling that his only recourse is to catch the thief himself, John asks Bertani for information about his rich customers. Instead, Bertani offers to put John in contact with a man who two days before asked for the same information. As John is leaving the restaurant, he is spotted by the still-pursuing police detectives. Foussard, one of Bertani's workers, helps John flee and delivers him to his teenage daughter Danielle, who takes John out in a motor boat. The flirtatious Danielle then drops John off at the Carlton Hotel beach, where unknown to him, he is observed by a beautiful woman. At the hotel, John receives a phone call from Bertani, instructing him to meet the man, H. H. Hughson, at the flower market in Nice. There, John explains his situation to Hughson, an English insurance investigator from Lloyds of London, a company that has been hard hit by the recent thefts. Though a bit wary, Hughson agrees to supply John with a list of the thief's probable targets. John ... +


After a series of daring, nighttime jewel thefts creates panic among the Riviera's wealthy elite, American-born John Robie, a reformed burglar who used to be known as "The Cat," becomes the police's only suspect. When police detectives come to question him at his hilltop villa near Cannes, John cleverly eludes them. John then races to see his old friend, Bertani, a restaurateur with whom he fought in the French Resistance and whose employees are all ex-convicts like John. Although Bertani is sympathetic to John's plight, the other restaurant workers treat him hostily, fearing that his apparent transgression will cast suspicion on them. Feeling that his only recourse is to catch the thief himself, John asks Bertani for information about his rich customers. Instead, Bertani offers to put John in contact with a man who two days before asked for the same information. As John is leaving the restaurant, he is spotted by the still-pursuing police detectives. Foussard, one of Bertani's workers, helps John flee and delivers him to his teenage daughter Danielle, who takes John out in a motor boat. The flirtatious Danielle then drops John off at the Carlton Hotel beach, where unknown to him, he is observed by a beautiful woman. At the hotel, John receives a phone call from Bertani, instructing him to meet the man, H. H. Hughson, at the flower market in Nice. There, John explains his situation to Hughson, an English insurance investigator from Lloyds of London, a company that has been hard hit by the recent thefts. Though a bit wary, Hughson agrees to supply John with a list of the thief's probable targets. John then is chased by detectives through the flower market, but again avoids capture. The next day, at John's villa, Hughson hands John his list of clients and admits he is dining with two of them, American tourists Mrs. Jessie Stevens and her grown daughter Frances, who are staying at the Carlton. Posing as an Oregon lumber magnate named Conrad Burns, John connives to meet Jessie and Francie, the woman from the beach, while they are gambling in a casino. Although he shows no particular interest in Francie, the widowed Jessie, impressed by his manliness, encourages him to pursue her spoiled, refined daughter. At first, Francie acts indifferent to John, then surprises him with a seductive goodnight kiss. Despite increased security at the hotel, another jewel theft occurs that night. The next morning, John, who has checked into the hotel, receives a note warning him that his life is in danger, and as he is sunbathing on the beach with Francie, Danielle walks by. John follows her into the water, and they swim out to a platform, where Danielle informs John that Bertani's ex-convicts have been threatening to kill him. Later, Francie drives John to inspect one of the villas on Hughson's list, which he claims he is interested in renting. While inspecting the layout of the expansive Silvers villa, John accuses Francie of being insecure about men. Unfazed by John's criticisms, Francie insists that they picnic together, but while driving, John realizes they are being followed by the detectives. Stepping on the gas of her sporty convertible, Francie engages the policemen in a wild chase on the steep, winding Riviera roads and finally loses them. Later, as they picnic, Francie reveals that she knows John's real identity and begs him to make her his accomplice. John maintains his pose, however, but agrees to meet her later in her hotel room. Francie, who normally shuns jewelry, greets John wearing an extravagant diamond necklace and tries to taunt him with it. After John points out that the gems are fake, he and Francie kiss, growing increasingly passionate as a fireworks display lights up the night sky. The next day, however, Francie storms into John's room, demanding he return her mother's jewelry, which was stolen during the night. Although John admits he is The Cat, he protests his innocence and slips out to the roof when Francie summons the police. John, who has received yet another warning note, then meets with Hughson and asks him to bring the police to the Silvers villa after midnight, as he expects the burglar to be there. While waiting on the villa grounds, John is grabbed by two attackers. In the ensuing struggle, John causes one of the attackers to plunge off a bridge into shallow water. The police identify the dead man, Foussard, as The Cat and clear John of suspicion. John, however, tells the police that Foussard, who had a peg leg, could not be the burglar and arranges with an apologetic Francie to attend an upcoming costume ball at the Sanford estate. Wearing an exotic costume complete with black mask, John accompanies the Stevenses, who are dressed in Louis XIV-era gowns. During the ball, which is being monitored by costumed policemen and catered by Bertani, John excuses himself, then apparently returns and dances with Francie late into the night. Hughson actually has replaced John, who is waiting on the roof for The Cat. Finally, John spots the burglar and gives chase. John soon nabs the masked thief, who turns out to be Danielle. While trying to escape John's grasp, Danielle slips off the roof, but catches the gutter before falling. John grabs her hand and threatens to let go unless she tells the police down below that she and her father were working with Bertani. After Danielle confesses and is rescued, Francie finds John at his villa and forces him to admit with a kiss that he needs her after all. The triumphant Francie then states that "Mother will love it here." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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