Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tonight's Movie: To Catch a Thief (1955)

What could be a better viewing choice for Halloween night than an Alfred Hitchcock movie?

Tonight's movie, TO CATCH A THIEF, is one of my earliest film memories. It was the first Hitchcock film I ever saw. It was also one of several Cary Grant movies I watched over and over as a young child; TOPPER, HOUSEBOAT, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, THE BISHOP'S WIFE, PENNY SERENADE, and OPERATION PETTICOAT are some other Grant titles which are among my earliest movie memories.

Although I'd previously seen TO CATCH A THIEF roughly half a dozen times, I hadn't watched it in the recent past, so it seemed quite fresh to me tonight. There were even a few things I'd forgotten. And some of the dialogue certainly went over my head when I watched the film as a child...!

It was interesting to watch it in a new context; for instance, this year I've seen John Williams, who plays the insurance man, in DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) and SABRINA (1954). It was fun to revisit TO CATCH A THIEF with a greater appreciation for Williams' acting.

TO CATCH A THIEF also ties in nicely with last night's movies, LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957) and the aforementioned SABRINA (1954): they're all mid-'50s films set at least partly in France, and TO CATCH A THIEF and SABRINA share Paramount, John Williams, and costume designer Edith Head in common.

The plot of TO CATCH A THIEF is familiar to many film fans. John Robie (Grant), a reformed cat burglar, is suspected of a string of jewel robberies along the Riviera. Robie teams with an insurance executive (Williams) to try to find the real burglar and clear his name. Robie meets wealthy American Francie Stevens (Grace Kelly), who immediately believes he's the cat burglar and isn't the least bit concerned; in fact, she finds Robie wildly attractive...

TO CATCH A THIEF is colorful escapist entertainment featuring two great stars and a director who were all at the peaks of their careers. Grant and Kelly are elegance personified, and they also each have a great comedic touch.

The cast also includes Jessie Royce Landis as Kelly's mother. In 1959 Landis played Grant's mother in NORTH BY NORTHWEST; in reality Landis was only seven years old when Grant was born!

TO CATCH A THIEF was shot in VistaVision and Technicolor by Robert Burks. It runs 106 minutes.

TO CATCH A THIEF has had three different DVD releases. The 2002 release was accompanied by some featurettes. The 2007 Collector's Edition had an improved picture and a commentary track by Peter Bogdanovich.

This year's 2-Disc Centennial Collection release has a superb picture -- this is the edition I watched -- and a commentary by University of Southern California professor Drew Casper, along with a mix of new and old featurettes, described by DVD Talk. My daughter sat in on most of Casper's Hitchcock classes the year the featurette on the DVD was filmed, although she wasn't able to be present at Norris Theater on that particular night.

TO CATCH A THIEF has also had multiple releases on VHS.

Grace Kelly is TCM's November Star of the Month, and TO CATCH A THIEF will be playing on TCM on November 13th and 26th, 2009. It's also scheduled on February 21, 2010, during the annual 31 Days of Oscar festival.

The trailer can be seen here.


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