Hitchcock Festival opens at Stanford Theatre with 'To Catch A Thief'

SILVER SCREEN ICON: Cary Grant plays John Robie in 'To Catch A Thief,' which kicks off the Stanford Theater's Hitchcock Festival.

Beginning a 14-film Alfred Hitchcock series at the Stanford Theatre is To Catch A Thief (1955). The film's star, Cary Grant, is 50, in the full powers of his prime, a man of poise and smoothness, a visual promise that middle age can be more than just a matter of infuriation and regret. The promise may be false—"Even I want to be Cary Grant," Grant once said—yet it's made flesh here. Grant is John Robie, a retired society jewel thief in the south of France, just trying to tend his vines. When an outbreak of new thefts terrorizes the Riviera, Robie tries to find out who is using his modus operandi. Meanwhile, he deals with the attentions of Grace Kelly, as a well-tanned American heiress who can't tell if she's being desired for herself or for her diamonds.

Grant's evergreen qualities are counterpointed by Jessie Royce Landis, who gets a lot of attention from Hitchcock as Kelly's sour-sweet nouveau riche mom. When marveling over Grant's youthfulness, note Landis was only nine years older than Grant. Hitchcock's embellishments to the old-movie tale include a bit about a chicken crossing the road, a mistreated fried egg, a room lit by fireworks as metaphor for an evening of lovemaking, and a famous double-entendre picnic where it's unclear what exactly is on the menu. The VistaVision photography by Robert Burks makes this the most azure movie ever made about the Cote d'Azur.

The other half of the double bill has Grant in a darker mode. In Notorious (1946), a luscious Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia, a Florida party girl seduced by Grant's highly authentic government agent, Devlin. She's turned out as a honeytrap to expose a ring of unreconstructed Nazis in Rio de Janeiro, who are gearing up for the next war. It's a devious, sophisticated pre-S&M adventure—more than 50 shades of grey here in Grant and Bergman's tangled relationship. And it's full of pathos earned by Claude Rains, as the man unlucky enough to fall in love with Alicia. More Grant Feb 26-Mar 1 in North By Northwest, where Grant plays Madison Avenue man Roger O. Thornhill, mistaken for a spy and chased across the USA by a debonair Communist or something (James Mason). There's something new to be enjoyed or learned in every rewatch. Grant's style doesn't stale—just ask George Clooney.

To Catch A Thief

NR; 106 Min.

Stanford Theatre

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