TO CATCH A THIEF (1955)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Cinematography by Robert Burks
For this week’s edition of The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we were asked to pick our favorite shot from the film To Catch a Thief. Though it’s not one of my favorite of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, it’s still one I enjoy a lot. One reason to appreciate this film is the cinematography by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Robert Burks, who won an Oscar for his work here. Aside from Psycho, Burks worked on all of Hitchcock’s films from 1951’s Strangers on a Train to 1964’s Marnie.
Unlike most of Hitchcock’s films, To Catch a Thief was primarily shot on location on the French Riviera. Hitchcock often preferred working in a studio setting as he could better control the elements around him. I can’t imagine this film in an artificial setting, as the French Riviera is practically another character. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly just look magnificent against this backdrop and watching this film definitely conjures up some wanderlust.
I’m partial to silhouettes in films, and the ones featured in this film’s rooftop climax are among my favorite. This is the only time we really see John Robie (Cary Grant) in his old element, sneaking through the night like a shadowy cat as he tries to reveal the film’s real thief. But just as the rooftop chase begins, the police throw a spotlight on Robie, giving him an intriguing glowing outline. While the police still believe him to be the man behind the recent jewel robberies, Robie is the only one who is enlightened on who the true thief is, and soon after he brings everyone else out of the shadows.
Before going into my pick for best shot, I had to include a few great shots from the firework scene. Any of these shots could’ve easily been my top choice.
The scene with Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly) and Robie sitting in her dark hotel room as they watch a fireworks display is truly the film’s most sizzling scene, and it’s one of the steamiest scenes from any of Hitchcock’s films. While the film’s title is more in reference to Robie trying to catch the thief who is framing him, this shot exemplifies Francie’s pursuit of the former cat burglar. Here instead of seducing him with her feminine attributes, she dangles her jewels before him, daring him to give in to his desires and touch them. It’s pretty obvious what’s being implied in this scene, as it cuts back and forth between the bursting fireworks and the growing intimacy between Francie and Robie, but it’s all done remarkably well, proving that being suggestive (as it was often done in older films thanks to the code) can be more effective than being explicit.
Be sure to check out what others have chosen as their best shot from To Catch a Thief here!