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. 

The Bishop’s Wife

If there is one particular theme I like in movies, it is the theme of Christmas. Movies with such a theme instill a sense of belief and gives a lot of people some hope. A hope to lead life. If it wasn’t through life, it was through movies, people found hope and even today, movies is widely considered to be a medium where people find hope.

After a long gap, Loretta Young (The Bishop’s Wife) is sharing the screen space with Cary Grant (Dudley). To be precise, their last movie together was Born to be bad released in 1934. David Niven plays the role of a bishop whose role is mainly limited to ambiguity between the funds for the new cathedral, family and his principles.



Why is this movie special? Is it because, it has Cary Grant playing one of the most refreshing roles of his life?

Cary Grant in his role as Dudley plays the character of an angel. An angel who sometimes resembles our inner voice. In this chaotic world, one hardly listens to our inner voice; since its an opinion or a thought restricted to ourselves. But when a feel good thought comes as a suggestion from others, we normally pick it up and on a higher percentage scale apply them. In short, people who are optimistic about lives listen to such suggestions and go about leading their lives catalysed by such thoughts or ideas.
Even if it is for a short time, it is the jump start one needs to refresh and get out of cross roads. Professor, The bishop’s wife, Mrs Hamilton and few others are the ones who had lost hopes in their respective lives and the same were restored by an angel. Dudley says, “Angel can be anyone on the street. Someone you dont know but can bring in a lot of change in the way we would like to lead our lives.”

The other side of the coin, cynicism exists as displayed by the Bishop, who refuses to believe in miracles, though being the mortal messenger of the almighty. He was so adamant in building the cathedral, he even went to the extent of compromising his principles to raise the funds.

His true prayers (raising funds) were finally answered; though not in a way he wanted. But who would question the method of an angel? He certainly did, but did’nt succeed to over power the methods. Dudley, the angel spends most of his time with Julia, the Bishop’s wife and their kid Debby, yet manages to answer the prayers of the Bishop. Strange method indeed. The problem of funds were never looked in, and this movie epitomises the true human nature emphasising the importance to win over someone’s heart in order to get what we truely want. Dudley won the heart of Mrs Hamilton, who finally relented to the angel’s advice and decided to shed her ego. Donating her money, she helps the Bishop to build his dream, the cathedral, a place which would provide shelter to the needy.



Dudley had to leave once the prayers were answered but it was tough as he was attached to bishop’s wife, cursed himself for being an angel; as he realised being an immortal it was impossible to beat a mortal to win over a mortal’s heart.

Directed by Henry Koster, this 1947 movie was nominated in five different categories including Best Picture and it did manage to win one for the Best Sound Recording.

Father Goose

Walter Christopher Eckland played by Cary Grant is a vagrant who is living on a beach. During WWII, he is persuaded by the British Authorities spy on the planes passing on the island. Reluctantly, he goes about his job. Commander Frank Houghton being an old friend of Mr. Eckland, it was a matter of obligation to be deserted in an island and spy.
During his stay in the island, he encounters a school teacher Catherine Frenau, played by Leslie Caron to be stranded in the island along with few children. They have managed to escape from the Japanese and thus seek shelter by taking Mr. Eckland’s help.
Mr. Eckland, as a result of a lady and kids finds himself to be out of the house and finds shelter in his boat, which is semi-damaged.
The story involves a series of comical incidents between Mr. Eckland and Catherine over many issues. With time, they get each other’s perspective and starts appreciating. Also, change of attitude towards children is seen in Mr. Eckland as he takes up the responsibility of Catherine and the children.


He builds his boat so that, it could be used to escape when Japanese invade the island. Catherine and Mr. Eckland fall in love with each other and also get married with minister playing the role of priest, perform the rituals via radio transmitter. Japanese airplanes strike the island right after the wedding ritual.

While they wait for the submarine from the Navy to arrive, Japanese invade the island. Mr. Eckland manages to distract the Japanese and escape safely.

Released in 1964, Father Goose was a romantic comedy directed by Ralph Nelson. It was nominated for three Oscars and won one Oscar for Best Screenplay, Writing. Other categories include Best Sound and Best Film Editing.

 

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.