RIP ROD TAYLOR

Rod Taylor with Teppi Hedren in the 1963 movie Birds

Actor Rod Taylor passed away earlier in the day at the age of 84. Let’s get it straight…. I have not watched a lot of movies starring Rod Taylor and yet I write this because of the only movie I have seen of his – Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. The other movies, 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 really well, protecting the ladies in spite of 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 on 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. 

RIP Rod Taylor 

To Catch a Thief

One of the exciting races in Formula One calendar is the Monaco Grand Prix. Located in the French Riviera, the race held in Monte-Carlo attracts crowd from all around the world. The famous Casino, along with the yacht parties which go on till the wee hours of morning are just some of the attractions that makes this race very exciting and a royal affair.
I had an opportunity to visit this place this summer and one of the first things that hit me as a Formula One buff is the pleasure to visit one of your favourite circuits, which is in fact built around the existing public roads of Monaco. Although, I missed the race by a good two months, it was a kick to make 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 the 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 burglary committed and police suspects him to be the one, as the jewel thefts were reminiscent of John Robie in his hey days. 
John Robie ‘The Cat’
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 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. 
Jessie Stevens with her daughter Frances
During the course of the movie there is a famous car scene (Car scene is an important 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. They are on their way to the picnic grounds which is the backdrop of the most famous scene of this movie- Grace Kelly offers him a choice of breast or thigh from her basket of goodies and he in his own charismatic style responds “The choice is yours”. 

The famous car scene 
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. This movie opened with mixed reviews because of the delay in releasing and went on to be the biggest hit of the first half of the 1950’s. 

Brigitte Auber as ‘Danielle’
With the failure (not to the standards of Cary Grant of 1940’s) of many of his movies in early 50’s, Cary Grant had decided to retire himself from the movies. 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 the displeasure of Betsy Drake, 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. 

One of the many romantic scenes in the movie
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 troubles believing in and took the role of a thief to catch the real thief. In real-life, Cary Grant had previously announced his retirement from films twice and 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 who was half his age. In the film, Robie in order to prove his innocence participated 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. 

Grace Kelly playing the role of a beautiful blonde
In his usual style of making cameos, the director Alfred Hitchcock about 10 minutes into the movie is seen sitting next to John Robie in a bus. The movie 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). 


 Cary Grant (L) and Alfred Hitchcock (R)
Produced by Paramount Pictures, the story for the movie was inspired by the 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

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 on the book to court her. She comes from a wealthy background, a factor that drew Johnny towards Lina. She had to elope since there was no way her father played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke would approve their marriage. After a wonderful 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 also engrossed himself reading a lot of 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 in a strange manner. He holds the glass of milk which is glowing and Lina feels, the milk is poisoned.
Fearing for her life, she decides to leave to her mother’s place and Johnny hesitantly insists he would drive her.

The highlight of the movie and probably the best scene is the last one as they drive along the road, with Johnny speeding up the car, driving 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 didnt murder Beaky, instead he was reading murder mysteries to commit sucide as he was ashamed of his inability to pay off the debts and face prison.


Joan Fontaine as Lina 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 scene at the post office.

The ending of this movie was altered to keep the 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 someone to an Oscar winning performance. Joan Fontaine won the Oscar for Best Actress.
Released in 1941, Suspicion was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Music.

Notorious

The on-screen romance of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman was seen for the first time in the Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller ‘Notorious’. This film is highly rated for its screenplay. Some of the scenes involving Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman was breathtaking, the famous being the on/off again kiss scene, the scene was shot in compilant with the Hayes code, that prevented at that time a kiss scene to be no more than three seconds.
Alicia, the character played by Ingrid Bergman plays an undercover agent to the US Government in order 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 sucide 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 shot in Brazil, where Sebastian (Claude Rains) along with 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 to uncover the malicious intentions of Sebastian and Co. One can also see ‘Christ the Redeemer’, one of the 7 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 finest lines in the movie. Cary Grant, unusually not with his humour wit, displays an angry look in the entire movie. Its such a rarity that, one is not able to see him smile, still manages to pull off romantic scenes with such ease and guile.
Released in 1946, this movie was nominated for two Oscars in the Best Supporting Category for Claude Rains and for 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. Shot in a single set, this movie throws up a lot of interesting scenarios and a series of long takes. This movie is loosely based on a real-life murder committed by University of Chicago students famously known as Leopold & Loeb case.

The movie stars James Stewart as Rupert Cadell. The debatable theory of Superior vs Inferior is the theme and the whole movie revolves around the hideous intentions being masked by this theory.
James Stewart has the final say and in his own way, explains while being ashamed of his theory ‘Superior vs Inferior’.
Hitchcock doesn’t make a live cameo, instead, his profile on a neon sign board outside the window. Apart from James Stewart, John Dall as Brandon Call, Farley Granger as Philip Morgan has dialogues and are the main characters of the movie. Dick Hogan as David Kentley is the subject around which the movie 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.

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 the 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. A party is hosted by Brandon at his place to ensure everything is normal. He makes a mistake by inviting Rupert Cadell who unveils the mystery when many concerns were raised by the absence of David in the party.
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.