So far, To Catch a Thief has not yet managed to become one of those films regarded as a rather lightweight addition to the canon of Alfred Hitchcock at the time of its original release that a later generation rediscovers and decides is high art. In other words, To Catch a Thief is no Vertigo or even a Marnie. On the up side, To Catch a Thief is no The Paradine Case, either, so at least it has that going for it.
After making two of his most claustrophobic films back to back—Dial M for Murder and Rear Window—one gets the distinct impression that the driving impetus behind Hitchcock’s decision to lavish his talents during a period when he was he inching more and more toward a preference for psychological depth and complexity of character over plot on a bit of utter fluff like the source material for To Catch a Thief was the opportunity the story offered to get a little variation into the workday. While Hitchcock had a habit of tossing in a thriller with a heavier than usual dose of light comedy throughout his career, there is no getting away from the fact the lack of complexity and abandonment of much psychological penetration into the main character makes To Catch a Thief stick out like a sore thumb at the point in his career when it was released.
Which is not to suggest that the film is not a pleasantly diverting little romp punctuated with suggestive double-entendres and engaging dialogue as well as captivating visuals that leave little doubt why the film’s only Oscar win was for its cinematography. To Catch a Thief is a pleasure to look at and listen to, but once the final credits fade from the screen, unfortunately, so does most of one’s memory of what just took place. For anyone wanting to enjoy the sublime pleasures of listening to Cary Grant and looking at Grace Kelly, this is a perfect film to sit back and enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon. For those viewers wanting to start a conversation about Hitchcock’s position in the history of film or create a discourse on the deeper meanings to be found in the director’s films, To Catch a Thief just shouldn’t be among your top ten choices from Hitch’s body of work.
It is a testament to the film’s position as a choice for deeper and meaningful attention within that body of work that most of the discourse directed toward the film in the more than half-century since its release is devoted to the disquieting coincidence concerning star Grace Kelly as it relates to the setting of the film’s famous car chase sequence and the real life setting of her fatal automobile accident a few decades later.