#4 – To Catch a Thief (1955)
Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Jessie Royce Landis
Director: Alfred Hitchcock, Producer: Alfred Hitchcock, Production Company: Paramount Pictures
When mysterious jewel burglaries start terrorizing the French Riviera, the number one suspect is a retired jewel thief formerly known as the Cat. Since the crimes are so similar to his own style, the former burglar turned French Resistance hero decides to catch the real thief to prove his innocence. To do so, he tries to predict the thief’s next move, befriending an oil millionairess and her beautiful daughter in the process.
This suspense film is from 1955, the first year of the Shurlock Era, so it is another excellent example of the early shenanigans which the post-Breen Production Code Administration (PCA) allowed early in Geoffrey Shurlock’s tenure. Although an Alfred Hitchcock film, this movie is not that violent, nor is it unduly suspenseful. The only murder which takes place is not excessively gory. Crimes are not shown in excessive detail. The major problem in this film is not something intrinsically connected to a crime movie. It is the overt suggestion that John Robie (Cary Grant) and Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly) have an illicit affair one night. This is more than just a hinted implication subtly left for more discerning viewers. The cinematography, dialogue before and after, and especially Francie’s behavior make this idea an undebatable point. When we first see Francie, she is very cool, yet she bids John goodnight with an unexpected kiss. The next day, Francie carefully arranges several romantic situations, using her interest in his jewel robber past as an excuse for blatant flirtation. This lustful relationship culminates that evening, when Francie persuades John to have dinner in her darkened hotel room with her. As John stares at her, she tempts him with the necklace she is wearing, although the jewels are just a metaphor for her personal charms. As they kiss passionately, the camera cuts to shots of the spectacular fireworks display outside the window. In case the symbolism isn’t immediately perceived, there are several more shots alternating between the lustful kissing and the fireworks. The scene eventually fades from their kiss to pyrotechnics. Lest you suspect that you may be reading things into this situation, there are plenty of lines delivered in later scenes which drive home the implication. Although he is known as the master of suspense, To Catch a Thief is an example of how Alfred Hitchcock used the suggestion of illicit romances as frequently as he used suspense. This famous British director referred to his tussles with Joseph Breen as containing the excitement of horse racing. Unfortunately, once fellow Brit Geoffrey Shurlock was his opponent, Hitch had much less sport, and his films had much more problems.
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