To Catch a Thief (1955) is minor Hitchcock. Let's get that out of the way. But even minor works by an indisputed master can look awfully major when you stack them next to regular ol' films which is why we keep hitting Hitchcock in this series. There's a clickbait article going around (no I'm not linking) that argues that The Shallows (Blake Lively vs shark) is a better film than The Birds (Tippi Hedren vs, well, birds). Which is crazy talk but film twitter always always takes the bait.
True story: the last two films I screened were The Shallows (2016) and To Catch a Thief (1953) and I would have never thought to pair them until this silly shark vs birds kerfuffle which erupted immediately after I had just seen both of the movies. Truth bomb: The Shallows is a really good "B" movie (I don't mean grade, but yes: B) but it's awfully slight. It's just girl, shark, a few good scares, smart direction, and not much meat to chew on beyond "wow, that was kinda good." To Catch a Thief is a pretty good "A" movie (I don't mean grade) and it's somewhat slight. But here's the thing. People aren't going to be talking about The Shallows in 2070. Please note: People are still talking about Hitchcock's entire oeuvre a half-century plus later.
Even in a trifle like To Catch a Thief, which is maybe too long considering it's shy on plot and stakes, is a joy to watch for a number of reasons, the first of which is its surprisingly robust sense of humor. [More...]
To Catch a Thief is also very very beautiful and it's easy to see why it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography. We'll pretend it's for Robert Burks amazing use of garish greens, mysterious purples, and dangerously black silhouettes (a warm up for Vertigo surely) rather than the gorgeous travelogue shots Oscar voters surely fell for.
Like many Hitchcock films it benefits considerably from major charismatic starpower in this case a bronzed Cary Grant who is aging very well in the mid 50s and Grace Kelly seconds after her 1954 peak.
It's colorful, engaging, funny, interesting, and beautifully designed by the filmmaker and his department heads. This is why Hitchcock movies endure. They're always freaking feasts for the eyes, nerves, and brain. And every once in a while they're feasts for heart or the libido, the latter being the case here as it's easily one of Hitchcock's very sexiest.
If you really want to see fireworks it's better with the lights out. I have a feeling tonight you're going to see one of the Riviera's most fascinating sights.
...I was talking about the fireworks.
On that sexy note: the film's best scene (amply represented in these Best Shot selections from the club which you can see below) is a long seduction sequence in which Grace Kelly invites Cary Grant over to watch fireworks (*wink wink*). Once he's there she tries to draw the wild cat out of this man pretending to be an Oregon lumber entrepeneur. It's not that she's not interested in his wood, but she knows him to be a famous thief. He denies it but she has several power moves up her sleeve including mood lighting, crazy hot diamonds, and dialogue so ripe with come-ons, the fireworks are actually happening inside the room. Needless to say, she catches her thief.
Best Shot Club
Click on the photos for accompanying articles
You're probably wondering why I chose this. It's a nice landscape shot but what makes this so special?
-I Want to Believe
If the actual plot is less than expected, the visual elements of the film more than make up for it...
-Sorta That Guy
Kelly, Grant, Alfred Hitchcock and Edith Head are the sort of names that, when combined, necessarily result in something insurmountably watchable...
A simple portrait of his character's lavish lifestyles - a picnic in the hills of the Rivera...
-Science of Phantoms
The sequence is almost luridly sexual without even toeing the line of the era’s decency standards...
This scene single-handedly raises the movie a letter grade...
One of the steamiest scenes from any of Hitchcock’s films.
A great moment for Jessie, who’s probably the most entertaining character.
It's so stunningly lit, and the camera moves so perfectly...
-Dancin Dan in the Movies
(BEST SHOT IS EVERY TUESDAY NIGHT)
The next two films were readers choice. You voted in the poll so pick a shot and join us.
July 5th Working Girl (1988) I am mystified that this won the poll so I will try to look at it with new eyes. I don't remember it being visually interesting (?) but we shall see. At least there are Oscar nominated performances to revisit. (Streaming on Netflix starting July 1st)
July 12th Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Howard Hawks sublime musical comedy with Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell in tip-top delicious form. (Streaming on Netflix starting July 1st)
July 19th Zootopia (2016)