Friday, July 23, 2010

Cary Grant Will Steal Your Heart in "To Catch a Thief"

Cary Grant is in town, in the form of “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” and “To Catch a Thief” at the Normal Theater. “Mr. Blandings” was there last night and will be there tonight, with “To Catch a Thief,” my choice between the two, on Saturday and Sunday.

I’m not sure if all this Cary Grant action is in honor of “Mad Men” and its 4th season premiere on Sunday, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Don Draper, the mysterious ad man in “Mad Men,” is the heir apparent to Cary Grant’s John Robie, international jewel thief and romantic icon. The movie came out in 1955, so the milieu is a little too early for “Mad Men,” which is up to 1964 this year, but the elegant, dangerous, dishy feel is definitely there.

The movie itself, with its bad boy hero and criminal hijinks, spawned some of my favorite TV shows of days past, like “It Takes a Thief” and “Remington Steele.”

Here’s what you need to know about the first ten minutes of “To Catch a Thief”:

John Robie (played by Cary Grant at his most delicious) was a hero in the French Resistance and then a famous jewel thief called The Cat. (Cat = cat burglar, you see?) He’s supposedly retired, but there have been a rash of new burglaries on the Riviera with his name all over them. The French police try to bring him in, but he stages a ruse and escapes. During the escape, much fabulous scenery is displayed, and director Alfred Hitchcock pops up as a passenger on the bus next to the beautiful Monsieur Robie.

Et voila! After that exposition, we’re off and running. Robie gets ten days from the local constabulary to find the real culprit(s) or go straight to jail, he finds his old criminal associates to see if one of them is back in business using his signature moves, and he forges an alliance with a friendly insurance man who can furnish a list of potential victims, including a wealthy widow (the wonderful Jessie Royce Landis) and her dewy daughter (an unbelievably lovely Grace Kelly). The person who has taken his place as The Cat isn’t too pleased he’s hanging around mucking things up, either.

As Robie sums it up, “The police want me in jail, my old friends want me dead, and The Cat wants me out of town.”

I have a fondness for the romance and dash of jewel thievery plots. I have a fondness for the romance and dash of Cary Grant. “To Catch a Thief” takes full advantage of both, with Hitchcock offering plenty of scenery for everybody in terms of the Riviera and its vistas, Cary Grant in a bathing suit and a dinner jacket more than once, and a fabulous array of outfits designed for Grace Kelly by Edith Head. Ms. Kelly could walk down Fifth Avenue dressed like that today and the fashion reporters would still swoon.

“To Catch a Thief” depends almost entirely upon style, seduction and the joy of watching two impossibly beautiful people play cat-and-mouse with each other. I must admit I am not the world’s biggest Grace Kelly fan, and the first time I saw “To Catch a Thief” when I was young, I found her vapid and uninteresting, as well as not nearly good enough for Cary Grant.

Upon rewatching, I like her a lot better than I did then. It’s not just her beauty, but the mischievous humor she projects. She and Mr. Grant are a good match, even if he is clearly too old for her. (He was often too old for his leading ladies, and it doesn’t seem to matter a bit.)

All in all, "To Catch a Thief" is a fun, frothy way to spend 106 minutes. And a great way to get ready for Don Draper & Co. to return on Sunday.


  1. Yeah, I don't know why I had premature posting. But the whole thing is there now!

  2. Terrific!

    It's an interesting thing about Cary Grant's late-career leading ladies, isn't it? (I'm sure vast numbers of articles have been written on it.) Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint... I think it helps that we never feel that it could have been an unpleasant or unwilling situation for them. I mean, who wouldn't want to have Cary Grant making you the most important person in his life?

  3. It was so much the norm then, though. Audrey Hepburn or Leslie Caron with Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly with Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly with Bing Crosby... I did think, watching "To Catch a Thief" that it's a pity Cary Grant couldn't have done C. K. Dexter Haven the second time, too. I know he didn't sing like Bing Crosby, but Bing is no Dex.

    My other thought was that it's been much too long since I saw "It Takes a Thief" and I really wish that one would make it to DVD. The clothes alone would make it worthwhile. That and Fred Astaire. :-)

  4. And in fact Cary Grant did sing, early in his career as a jack-of-all-trades onstage. His singing of "Do You Remember" (it's in That's Entertainment) is just fine for the purpose.

    And we all know the story that he was conscious himself that it was getting unseemly with Audrey in Charade. So he asked for a script rewrite so that she could always pursue him rather than the other way around.