My Favorite Classic Movie: To Catch a Thief (1955)

What does it take to make a “favorite” classic movie? For me, the ingredients are Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, and a whole lot of glamour.

To Catch a Thief, released in 1955, is not objectively the greatest movie of all time. It’s not Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest film, nor the best of either of its two legendary stars. But when forced to choose a single favorite movie, my mind always goes to this one. It’s the type of film that I can put on when I’m in a bad mood to cheer myself up, or when I’m in a good mood and feel like re-watching a familiar old favorite.

Simply put, I adore this film! It’s a stylish, light mystery-thriller that never fails to entertain. Today, in celebration of National Classic Movie Day, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite things about it.

THE CAST

Cary Grant is my favorite actor — quite a standard choice, but who can deny his talent? From screwball comedies to romantic dramas to tense thrillers, I’ve never seen a bad performance from him. With over two decades of Hollywood experience under his belt by the time this film came about, he’s still in top form here. His performance as John Robie, an infamous former jewel thief, oozes charm and mystery.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Grace Kelly brings the height of elegance to her character of Frances Stevens, and she matches her leading man in terms of charm. She brings to the character of Frances a personality that is cool, collected, and sophisticated, but also playful and lively, with wit to spare.

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(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Together, Grant and Kelly make a captivating pair, with strong chemistry. As two of the biggest names in Hollywood, it was a good choice (business-wise and creatively) to finally pair them up.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

The supporting cast is wonderful as well. Jessie Royce Landis offers up a few laughs (and steals a few scenes) as Frances’ mother, Jessie Stevens. John Williams is great as the slightly-anxious insurance agent, H. H. Hughson. Brigitte Auber brings persistence and a self-assured nature to her character of Danielle, would-be romantic rival to Frances and daughter of one of Robie’s old business partners. The whole cast is perfectly selected.

THE CINEMATOGRAPHY

From shadowy shots of cats strutting across roofs (in the opening montage) to beautiful countryside and seashore views and, of course, that famous fireworks scene, To Catch a Thief is visually stunning. Every time I watch this film, I feel the urge to hop on a time-travel-equipped plane for a trip to mid-century France. Bright technicolor photography brings the French Riviera to life in a dazzling way, adding even greater allure to a film which boasts a legendary director, an intriguing story, and two disgustingly attractive lead actors.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

THE COSTUMES

A very talented cast, and a very talented crew! With costume design by the great Edith Head, it comes as no surprise that To Catch a Thief‘s visual appeal is bolstered by the characters’ clothing. From swimwear to casual summertime clothes to stunning gowns, there’s not a single misstep in this film’s costume design.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

What better uniform for a breezy summer day than a classic striped shirt in red or blue? John Robie and Danielle (seen above) are living proof of this style’s effortless appeal.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Frances’ yellow beachwear and big sunglasses are the epitome of cool. Perfectly on-trend for the mid-’50s, it’s clear from Frances’ fashionable swimsuit and accessories that she’s a woman of style and grace.

Frances and her mother are wealthy, well-dressed ladies. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Frances and her mother are both wealthy, well-dressed ladies. Mrs. Stevens wears flashy jewelry — an eye-catching necklace, multiple bracelets, multiple rings, and large earrings — and fur. Frances, on the other hand, opts for fewer accessories, coordinating her stunning blue dress with a matching clutch and shawl.

Though she wears a couple of iconic gowns, this black-and-white daytime resort ensemble might be my favorite of Frances' outfits. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Though she wears a couple of iconic gowns, this black-and-white daytime resort ensemble (complete with matching hat) might be my favorite of Frances’ outfits.

Like the cinematography, the costume design inspires wishful thinking in the viewer: If only I could travel to mid-century France, and if only I could fill my closet with Frances Stevens’ wardrobe!

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This post was written for the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon, in celebration of National Classic Movie Day (May 16). To read more entries from this blogathon, visit Classic Film & TV Cafe, where you’ll find a schedule of all of the wonderful contributions!

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