Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Holiday Treat With Grace Kelly

On Thanksgiving night, Turner Classic Movies will conclude its "Star of the Month" tribute to Grace Kelly with the last three movies she made and a 32–minute short film of her 1956 marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

It's always a treat to see Grace Kelly in a movie, but one of the movies scheduled to be shown on Thursday night clearly stands out above the other two. It is the last film she made for Alfred Hitchcock, "To Catch a Thief," and there are so many things to recommend about it that I hardly know where to begin.

I guess we could start with the sterling cast that Hitchcock assembled — Cary Grant, John Williams, Jessie Royce Landis (her name may not be familiar to many viewers, but her face probably is — she and Grant were reunited in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" a few years later and she co–starred with Kelly again in TCM's third Grace Kelly film of the evening, "The Swan").

Another reason to watch the film is the gorgeous scenery. It was filmed on the French Riviera. In fact, there was a persistent rumor, after Kelly suffered a stroke in 1982 and died the next day from injuries she sustained when the car she was driving went out of control and crashed, that she had been driving on the same mountainside highway that she had driven so recklessly with Grant sitting next to her in "To Catch a Thief." Her son repeatedly denied that there was any truth to the rumor.

Unlike most Hitchcock movies, it isn't about a murder. It's about a jewel thief who is at large. Grant plays a retired jewel thief who is assumed to be guilty by just about everyone, although he insists he is innocent.

It was a groundbreaking film for Hitchcock, too. It was his first film in the widescreen process VistaVision.

Some people dismiss it as one of Hitchcock's lesser films. I have two things to say in response:
  1. Most movie directors can only hope to match the quality of Hitchcock's "lesser" films.

  2. The movie was made years before I was born so I have no idea what audience reactions were like in 1955. But with its cast, the cinematography and the snappy dialogue, "To Catch a Thief" must have been a real pleasure to watch, thoroughly entertaining and engrossing.

    It still is.
TCM will show it at 7 p.m. (Central) on Thursday.

My birthday happens to fall on Thanksgiving this year. And I can think of few gifts that I will enjoy more than an evening of Grace Kelly movies.

The short film of the wedding comes on at 1 a.m. (Central). I've never seen it, but, if you're expecting something lengthy and grand, like the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, prepare yourself. Grace and Rainier were married in a 40–minute civil ceremony in the Palace Throne Room. There was a church ceremony the next day.

Apparently, everything was televised in Europe. But it doesn't seem to have been as ornate as Charles and Diana's wedding. Anyway, as I say, I've never seen it. Judge for yourself.