Saturday, July 17, 2010

Catch a Thief Tomorrow

Alfred Hitchcock nearly always made movies about murders.

But tomorrow at 1 p.m. (Central), you can see a rare exception to that rule on Turner Classic Movies.

As a matter of fact, although people frequently were killed in Hitchcock movies, the violence itself was seldom ever seen. You can come up with exceptions to that rule, too, I suppose, but even though Hitchcock, as I implied last month, could be said to be the originator of the so–called "slasher" flick — "Psycho" — his true genre was suspense, not horror.

Violence was not his stock in trade, but stories about murder and murderous intent were.

"To Catch a Thief" was about neither, really. Oh, sure, a character gets killed in the movie, but it's a case of self–defense. It was incidental, not terribly pertinent to the overall story, which was about burglary and mistaken identity.

For the most part, "To Catch a Thief" is a romance and a thriller. And how could it not be, with those two leads (Cary Grant and Grace Kelly)?

The film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, which is not hard to understand, given that much of it was filmed on the French Riviera. That must have been a fun assignment. One should never underestimate the influence and cinematic power of imagery from that part of the world.

In fact, many years later, after Kelly — who was, by that time, known simply as Princess Grace of Monaco — suffered a stroke and crashed her car while driving on a winding road in Monaco, dying of her injuries the following day, she was said to have been traveling on the very same road on which she took Grant for a harrowing ride in "To Catch a Thief."

That has since been disproven, but it persists as an urban legend, nearly 30 years after Grace's death — a testament, I suppose, to the power of the image.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for some escapism on a hot summer afternoon, look no further than your TV. "To Catch a Thief" has all the wit and sophistication — and breathtaking scenery — you could ask for.