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Written by Timothy Sexton
Cary Grant was a couple of years into his first retirement from acting when he was approached by Alfred Hitchcock to play the titular role of the thief. Grant’s retirement was in direct response to the rise of a grittier type of movie star to prominence in the early 1950’s collective known as the “Method Actor” and characterized by such new superstars as Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and James Dean. Grant became convinced that his classic style of old-school Hollywood acting was no longer in vogue and probably wasn’t going to come back. The part of the stylish, debonair and most assuredly non-gritty jewel thief known as The Cat seemed to be quite clearly made for an actor like Cary Grant rather than this new breed of grungy actors in dungarees who seemed to own only one suit. The verdict has been overturned on the question of whether an actor like Monty Clift could have played a character associated with Cary Grant, but at the time both Grant and Hitchcock definitely viewed things from the perspective of certain movies requiring a “Cary Grant” type and certain movies requiring a Marlon Brando type and never the twain shall meet. The shoot was pleasurable enough and the box office impressive enough to convince Grant that he left the movies prematurely and his stardom would continue unabated for another decade before his second retirement proved permanent.
Grace Kelly was in exactly the opposite situation as Cary Grant by the time To Catch a Thief prove a box office hit. Shortly to become Princess Grace of Monaco, Kelly had only two more movies left in her career before her permanent retirement.
Jessie Royce Landis
Aside from the fact that the actress playing Grace Kelly’s character’s mother shares the same first name with her character, the casting of Jessie Royce Landis in To Catch a Thief turned out to be the first of a two-part bit of Hitchcockian trivia. Jessie Stevens has the very real potential to one day become the mother-in-law of Cary Grant’s character. Just a few years later, Landis actually would play the mother of Grant’s character in North by Northwest.
John Williams won a Tony Award for his performance in the stage version of Dial M for Murder and Alfred Hitchcock cast in the same role when he adapted the play for his 3-D film version. One particular point of interest about Williams as it relates to this film is that a few years later he would appear as William Shakespeare in one of the hour-long episodes of The Twilight Zone. Part of the plot of that episode has Shakespeare attending a rehearsal of teleplay he’s ghostwritten for a hack writer in which he is baffled and bewildered by the acting style of a Brando-esque Method Actor played by Burt Reynolds.
Danielle Foussard is referred to several time as being a teenager or girl as a means of revealing the maturity and sophistication of the Grace Kelly by comparison. Real life was somewhat different from real life as actress Brigitte Auber was actually about a year and a half older.
Monsieur Bertani was actually played by Monsieur Vanel. Which is to say that actor Charles Vanel was French to the point where he didn't speak English fluently at all. As a result, all his lines of dialogue had to be dubbed by another actor.
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