To Catch a Thief (1955): Hitchcock’s Oscar-Winning Lush Romance in French Riviera, Starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly

Cary Grant is at his most suave (and paranoid) and Grace Kelly at her most stunningly beautiful, erotic (and suspicious) in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, a romantic comedy-thriller, lushly shot in the French Riviera, with some sequences in Cannes, where the internationally famous film festival takes place.

To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief.jpg

Original theatrical release poster

“To Catch a Thief” was the director’s first film (of five) using the VistaVision widescreen process, and the last of the three Hitchcock films with Grace Kelly. The film was the penultimate collaboration with Cary Grant; only North by Northwest (1959) followed. It is also about a man with a mistaken identity who goes on an adventure to prove his innocence.

“To Catch a Thief” is considered by most critics to be a fluffy, inconsequential film, but I think it’s an unfair assessment.  Perhaps Hitchcock himself made a mistake by conceding to French journalists that that the picture was lightweight compared to his other works.

Grade: B (***1/2 out of *****)

There’s plenty of pleasure and joy, not the least of which is its sleek and elegant look courtesy of the dazzling color topography of the Cote d’Azur by Robert Burks, which deservedly won the Best Cinematography Oscar.

To be fair, the mood of this piece is relaxed and the tone entertaining mood, but the charms and merits of the film go beyond the Riviera location.  Deep down, like in every Hitchcock film, there is a tale that probes serous issues such as trust, romance and true love.

Grant plays Hon Robie, a former American thief known as “The Cat,” who is now retired, living in a gorgeous villa in the hills of the French Riviera.  When the region is again hit by a cycle of jewel robberies, he becomes the prime suspect.  Main story deal with his encounters with the seductive American socialite Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly), while trying to prove his innocence to her and her eccentric mother,

Mrs. Jessie Stevens (Joyce Landis, who several years later played Cary Grant’s mother in Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest”).

It takes about 20 minutes for Grace Kelly to appear in a sensuous scene on the beach, wearing a bathing suit and dark glasses, and another chapter for the coupe to meet and start arguing, bickering, and courting before realizing how deeply they have fallen in love with each other.

Hitchcock makes his signature cameo, about 10 minutes into the film, as a bus passenger sitting next to Cary Grant. Sitting next to Grant on his other side is a woman with a birdcage, presaging Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963).

Despite Brigitte Auber’s character being referred to as a “girl” or “teenager,” compared to Grace Kelly’s young woman, Auber was actually 26, and more than a year and a half older than Kelly.

Crucial to the film’s success in shooting on location was the presence of unit production manager C.O. “Doc” Erickson.

The costumes were by Edith Head, including Kelly’s memorable gold lamé gown for the film’s costume ball.

The car driven by Grace Kelly was a metallic blue 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mk I.

To Catch a Thief is the only Hitchcock film released by Paramount that is still owned and controlled by the company. The others were sold to Hitchcock in the early 1960s and are currently distributed by Universal Studios.

Made on a budget of $2.5 million, the movie was extremely popular at the box office, earning close to $9 million.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Cinematography (color): Robert Burks

Art Direction-Set Decoration (color): Hal Pereira and Joseph McMillan Johnson; Sam Comer and Arthur Krams

Costumes (color): Edith Head

Oscar Awards: 1


Oscar Context

Robert Burks shots 12 of Hitchcock’s 53 features, beginning with “Strangers on a Train” (1951), which was in black and white and for which he was also Oscar nominated, and including “Vertigo” and “The Birds.”

The Art Direction Oscar went to “Picnic,” and Costume Design to “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.”


John Robie (Cary Grant)

Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly)

Mrs. Jessie Stevens (Joyce Landis)

H.H. Hughson (John Williams)

Bertani (Charles Vanel)

Danielle Foussard (Brigitte Auber)

Foussard (Jean Martinelli)

Germaine (Georgette Anys)

Jean Hebey (Roland Lassafire)

Commissioner Lepic (Rene Blncard)



Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay: Michael Hayes, based on the novel by David Dodge

Camera: Robert Burks

Editor: George Tomasini

Music: Lyn Murray

Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Joseph Macmillan Johnson

F/X: John P. Fulton

Costumes: Edith Head

Release date: August 3, 1955

Running time 106 minutes