Actor Rod Taylor passed away earlier in the day at the age of 84. Let’s get it straight…

I have not watched many movies starring Rod Taylor, yet I write this because of the only film I have seen of his – Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds.’ The other movie, Sunday in New York with Jane Fonda and The Time Machine, is pending, and I hope to watch them sooner than I thought I would.

Coming back to the Birds, yes, the movie was all about Tippi Hedren and those ‘birds’ – zillion of them gone crazy. However, playing a lawyer, Rod Taylor as ‘Mitch Brenner’ enacted well, protecting the ladies despite the birds taking the limelight.

The fascinating part of the movie was that it had no real motive at the end of it all. This was a movie that showcased what birds, lots of them can achieve if they go bonkers. I will write another post on ‘Birds’ and what I felt about it; for now, it is time to bid goodbye to the life of this talented Australian actor who could have achieved much more and was last seen playing the role of Winston Churchill in Inglorious Bastards. 

To Catch a Thief (1955)

One of the exciting races in the Formula One calendar is the Monaco Grand Prix. Located in the French Riviera, the race held in Monte-Carlo attracts a crowd worldwide. The famous Casino, the yacht parties that go on till the wee hours of the morning, are just attractions that make this race very exciting and a royal affair.

I had an opportunity to visit this place this summer. One of the first things that hit me as a Formula One buff is the pleasure of visiting one of your favourite circuits, which is built around the existing public roads of Monaco.

Although I missed the race by a good two months, it was a kick to do a lap around the circuit. The drive to Monaco from the Nice-Cannes highway reminded me of yet another favourite of mine, movies. One movie that instantly came to my mind was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 thriller ‘To Catch a Thief.’

The story goes this way; John Robie, played by Cary Grant, is a retired jewel thief who was famous for his cat burglary, which earned him the name ‘The Cat.’

After having served as an undercover for the French Government during World War II, John Robie is a happy, relaxed leading a peaceful life in his vineyards along the French Riviera.

This was until one day, he reads about a series of burglaries committed, and police suspects him to be the one, as the jewel thefts were reminiscent of John Robie in his heydays.

High on the list is an American Millionaire, Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), who, along with her beautiful daughter Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly), is on a tour of Europe to search for a suitable husband for Frances.

To prove his innocence, John must become a jewel thief, and he takes the help of Frances and the insurance agent of Lloyds, Mr. H.H. Hughson, to catch the thief, the real thief who had committed a series of thefts in a typical John Robie manner.

A car chase is an integral part of all the four collaborations of Hitchcock and Cary Grant) where Grace Kelly (incidentally, on the very same road that, years later, would lead to her death) drives Grant down the famous and winding Three Corniches along the Cote d’Azur.

An example of Grant’s charisma is in the picnic scene- Grace Kelly offers him a choice of breast or thigh from her basket of goodies, and he, in his charismatic style, responds, “The choice is yours.”

In the end, John Robie manages to catch the copy cat who turns out to be a young girl (Danielle) played by Brigitte Auber, daughter of one of his former colleagues. The movie opened with mixed reviews due to delays in releasing and became one of the biggest hits of the 1950s.

Keeping the box-office standards of Cary Grant of the 1940s, many of his movies in the 1950s didn’t meet expectations. Therefore Cary Grant had decided to retire himself from the film.

With his age being 50, he felt the movie industry had moved on with the emergence of youth like Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. He spent some good time with his wife Betsy Drake, who was half his age before making a comeback when he heard the script of ‘To Catch a Thief.’

Much to Betsy Drake’s displeasure, he went ahead and started shooting this movie at the French Riviera. Betsy Drake accompanied him to the shoot, as she was less than thrilled of him doing love scenes with Grace Kelly.

This movie mirrors Cary Grant’s real-life in many aspects. In the film, the so-called cat burglar insists he is retired, moved on something which the police authorities have trouble believing in, and took the thief’s role to catch the real thief.

Cary Grant had previously announced his retirement from films twice in real life, yet he was out there shooting for this movie.

In the movie, Robie is attracted to a beautiful blonde who is half his age; in real life, he was married to a beautiful blonde, Betsy Drake, half his age.

Another mirroring point, Robie proves his innocence in one last robbery to prove his innocence, and in real life, he came out of retirement to make one last movie to prove he was still the star of the highest order.

In his usual style of making cameos, Alfred Hitchcock, about 10 minutes into the movie, is seen sitting next to John Robie on a bus. The film was nominated for four Oscars (Best Cinematography Colour, Best Art Direction, Best Set Decoration Colour, and Best Costume Design Colour) and won a single Oscar for Best Cinematography Colour (Robert Burks).

Produced by Paramount Pictures, the movie’s story was inspired by David Dodge’s novel of the same name. Set in the picturesque French Riviera, this was the last Grace Kelly movie for Alfred Hitchcock (previous being, Dial M for Murder and Rear Window). She later married Prince Rainier of Monaco and became Princess of Monaco till her death in 1982 due to a car accident.

Released in 1955, To Catch a Thief was a sort of ‘comeback’ movie for Cary Grant, who went on to act for few more years till he finally retired in 1966 at the age of sixty-two.

Suspicion (1941)

Travelling on a first-class compartment with a third-class ticket, Johnny Asgarth, played by Cary Grant, meets the shy Lina Mclindlaw essayed by Joan Fontaine. She is beauty personified, and Johnny uses every trick in the book to court her.

She comes from a wealthy background, a factor that drew Johnny towards Lina. Since no way she had to elope, her father, played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, would approve their marriage. After a fantastic honeymoon, she discovers the mess Johnny is in. She feared for their future due to his reckless attitude and constant gambling tendencies.

Each time she feared, he used to calm her down with his charm. He was broke and in desperate need of money and engrossed himself reading many murder mysteries.

He had a good friend in Beaky, who did have money, and they had made plans to start a business. Beaky dies under mysterious circumstances, and Lina suspects her husband to have played a role in it. Her suspicion overrules her senses to an extent where she feels the tag of being the next target. She suspects Johnny to kill her and take the money from her insurance.

Her state of mind could be summed up with a scene where Johnny gets her a glass of milk. Interestingly, the scene is shot strangely. He holds the milk glass, which is glowing, and Lina feels the milk to be poisoned.

Fearing for her life, she decides to leave to her mother’s place, and Johnny hesitantly insists he would drive her.


The movie’s highlight and probably the best scene are the last one as they drive along the road, with Johnny speeding up the car and moving close to the cliffs. Lina anxiously and fearfully expects her death, watches Johnny take a shortcut, and finds her door opened. He lends his hand to close the door; she feels he is trying to push her out. In the end, he manages to drag her back and stops the car.

He questions her behaviour and clarifies; he didn’t murder Beaky. Instead, he was reading murder mysteries to commit suicide as he was ashamed of his inability to pay off the debts and face prison.

As Lina, Joan Fontaine impresses with her acting skills, charm, and elegance in this movie. Cary Grant plays the role where there is love in the heart and trouble in his mind. A cameo from Alfred Hitchcock, where he is seen posting a letter in a post office scene.

This movie’s ending was altered to keep Cary Grant’s heroic image he had with the audience.

This film marked the first instance of Alfred Hitchcock producing and directing a movie. This also happens to be the only time he has directed an actor to an Oscar-winning performance. Joan Fontaine won the Oscar for Best Actress.

Besides, it was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Music.

Notorious (1946)

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman’s on-screen romance was seen for the first time in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller ‘Notorious.’

This film is highly rated for its screenplay. Some of the scenes involving Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman were breathtaking, the famous being the on/off again kiss scene, the scene was shot in compilant with the Hayes code, that prevented a kiss scene from being no more than three seconds.

Alicia, the character of Ingrid Bergman, plays an undercover agent to the US Government to repay the moral debt. This was for the spying activities of her father. Her father was a German spy, and he ends his life committing suicide while in prison. The Government agent, T.R. Devlin, played by Cary Grant, carries out a mission to trap other spies, most notably Sebastian.

Most of the movie is shot in Brazil, where Sebastian (Claude Rains) and his other partners in crime are operating their mission. A top-secret project under a Wine Manufacturer’s name. The story unfolds with Ingrid Bergman playing the undercover and helping the US Government uncover Sebastian and Co’s malicious intentions. One can also see ‘Christ the Redeemer,’ one of the current seven wonders at Rio in the movie.

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo comes during the party at Sebastian’s house. The director is having a drink.

Watch out for the final scenes where an intoxicated Bergman has some of the movie’s most refined lines. Cary Grant, unusually not with his humour wit, displays an angry look in the entire film.

Its such a rarity that one cannot see him smile still manages to pull off romantic scenes with such ease and guile.

This 1946 movie was nominated for two Oscars in the Best Supporting category for Claude Rains and Best Story (Original Screenplay).

Rope (1948)

The narration of a movie based on a ‘prop’ is interesting. This movie happens to be the first ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ movie in colour. The film was shot in a single set; this movie throws up many exciting scenarios and a series of long takes. This movie is loosely based on a real-life murder committed by University of Chicago students known as the Leopold & Loeb case.

The movie stars James Stewart as Rupert Cadell. Superior vs. Inferior’s debatable theory is the theme, and the whole film revolves around the hideous intentions being masked by this theory.

James Stewart has the final say and, in his way, explains while being ashamed of his theory ‘Superior vs. Inferior.’

Hitchcock doesn’t make a live cameo; instead, his profile on a neon signboard outside the window. Apart from James Stewart, John Dall as Brandon Call, Farley Granger as Philip Morgan are the movie’s main characters. Dick Hogan as David Kentley is the subject around which the film unfolds.

Sir Cedric Hardwicke makes an appearance for a while as David’s father. Joan Chandler completes the movie cast of a young actress missing the list.

(DISCLAIMER) The story is about a young student named David Kentley being strangled by a ‘ROPE’ by his friends Brandon Call and Philip Morgan. The reasons are not known and are not a matter of concern as far this movie goes. The only point was the intellectual superiority.

The body is hidden inside a chest where supposedly books were meant to be kept. Brandon hosts a party at his place to ensure everything is normal. He makes a mistake by inviting Rupert Cadell, who unveils the mystery when David’s absence in the party raised many concerns.

The movie was an adapted version of the same title in 1929 by Patrick Hamilton.

Released in 1948, the movie Rope was one of Hitchcock’s ‘Infamous five lost’ movies.