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.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

If there is one particular theme I like in movies, it is the theme of Christmas. Films with such a theme instill a sense of belief and give a lot of people some hope. Hope to lead life.

If it wasn’t through life, it was through movies that people found hope, and even today, films are widely considered a medium where people find hope.

After a long gap, Loretta Young (The Bishop’s Wife) shares 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 a bishop’s role, whose role is mainly limited to the ambiguity between the new cathedral’s funds, family, and 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 it’s an opinion or a thought restricted to ourselves.

But when a feel-good thought comes from others’ suggestions, we usually pick it up and apply them on a higher percentage scale.

In short, people who are optimistic about their 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 crossroads. Professor, The Bishop’s wife, Mrs. Hamilton, and few others are the ones who had lost hopes in their respective lives, and an angel restored the same.

Dudley says, “Angel can be anyone on the street. Someone you don’t 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 almighty’s mortal messenger. He was adamant about building the cathedral; he even went to the extent of compromising his principles to raise funds.

His real prayers (raising funds) were finally answered, though not in a way he wanted. But who would question the method of an angel? The Bishop certainly did but didn’t succeed in overpowering 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 Bishop’s prayers. Strange method indeed.

The problem of funds was never looked at, and this movie epitomises true human nature emphasising the importance of winning over someone’s heart to get what we truly 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 build his dream, the cathedral, 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 (1964)

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 to 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 on an island and spy.

During his stay on the island, he encounters a school teacher Catherine Freneau, played by Leslie Caron, stranded on the island and 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 funny incidents between Mr. Eckland and Catherine over many issues. With time, they get each other’s perspective and start appreciating. Also, a change of attitude towards children is seen in Mr. Eckland as he takes up Catherine and the children’s responsibility.

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

While they wait for the submarine from the Navy to arrive, the 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 (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.