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New York Times (05/Aug/1955) - To Catch a Thief




To Catch a Thief

It takes a thief to catch a thief. That's the old saying, anyhow. And that's the thesis Alfred Hitchcock is exhibiting in his new mystery-thriller-romance at the Paramount. With Cary Grant playing the catcher and Grace Kelly playing — well, we won't say! — "To Catch a Thief" comes off completely as a hit in the old Hitchcock style.

We're not saying much about Miss Kelly, other than to observe that she is cool and exquisite and superior as a presumably rich American girl traveling with her mother in Europe in quest (her mother says) of a man. To say more might tip you as to whether she is what you suspect her to be — the jewel thief whom Mr. Grant is stalking through the lush gambling-rooms and gilded chambers of French Riviera villas, casinos and hotels.

As a matter of fact, we shouldn't even tell you that you may rest entirely assured Mr. Grant himself is not the slick cat-burglar he says he is out to catch, as a matter of self-protection and to help an insurance man from Lloyds. What with his being an acknowledged old gem thief, living in a villa high above Cannes and chumming with a covey of ex-convicts, he could be almost anything.

Well, he isn't the thief. That much we'll tell you. He's the fellow who genuinely tries to use his own knowledge of cat-burglary to nab the thief who has been terrorizing Cannes and causing hysterics and conniptions among the always ineffectual police. But then there are enough other suspects — ex-convicts, French thugs and pretty girls, not to mention that nervous Lloyds fellow — to let us write off Mr. Grant.

In his accustomed manner, Mr. Hitchcock has gone at this job with an omnivorous eye for catchy details and a dandy John Michael Hayes script. Most of his visual surprises are gotten this time with scenery — with the fantastic, spectacular vistas along the breath-taking Cote d'Azur.

As no one has ever done before him, Mr. Hitchcock has used that famous coast to form a pictorial backdrop that fairly yanks your eyes out of your head. Almost at the start, he gives you an automobile chase along roads that wind through cliff-hanging, seaside villages. The surprise is that it is seen from the air! If you have ever been on the Riviera, you can imagine how brilliant this is, in color and VistaVision, splashed on that giant screen.

All the way through the picture, he gets this sort of thing — shots from great heights down yawning chasms, glimpses of ruins high on hills, views across Mediterranean harbors and, usually, in the background, the blue sea. And he winds up with a surge of production — a costume party at a villa outside Cannes — that should make the Marquis de Cuevas turn green.

True, there are times when the color is not always so good as it should be, and Mr. Hitchcock's camera man (or somebody) has a bad time with slow dissolves and fades. He has not mastered VistaVision. It has almost mastered him.

But the script and the actors keep things popping, in a fast, slick, sophisticated vein. Mr. Grant and Miss Kelly do grandly, especially in one sly seduction scene. If you've never heard double-entendre, you will hear it in this film. As the chap from Lloyds, John Williams is delightfully anxious and dry, and Jessie Royce Landis is most amusing as Miss Kelly's low-down American mom. Brigitte Auber is fetching and funny as a frightfully forward French girl, and Charles Vanel has the air of a rascal as a local restaurateur.

"To Catch a Thief" does nothing but give out a good, exciting time. If you'll settle for that at a movie, you should give it your custom right now.