Monaco, where this film is set, where Grace Kelly would be a princess and where she would later die in one of its roads is as much of a star of this film as the stars themselves. Shown in its 1950s natural beauty of green hills and mountains, old houses and churches, swirling roads, beaches, hotels and villa’s this is as much of a poster to holiday there and the film begins so as well. This is a holiday! For you, for Hitchcock and the stars.
A number of jewel thefts have happened in the French Riviera and the police suspect John “The Cat” Robie, a thief who had retired 15 years ago to his villa. John wants to prove his innocence and to catch the copycat (pun intended) who is setting him up. Meeting with his old Resistance friends who work for Bertine and his daughter Danielle he finds no friends there as they think he has done it. Until an unexpected friend becomes his ally, an insurance agent H. H. Hughson, and the two combine forces. Knowing that the the copycat like him, targets only the rich, he sets his eyes on the rich American Stevens family, as well as their fair daughter Frances.
This is a very glamorous Hitchcock movie, a departure from his usual middle-class characters as well as setting. It’s also very light Hitchcock, no murder, no skeletons in the closet, no blood or gore. One could describe it as the usual 1950s fluff with Hollywood Golden Age glamour if not for the biting script, expert directing and the all around Hitchcock suspense, even if there is only a little of it.
Based on the 1952 book by David Dodge this film overshadowed and still overshadows the book it is based on. I can’t hardly say anything else on it except maybe to pick it up if you see it for curiosities sake and read it and compare it to the film.
Cary Grant as John Robie is the typical suave male hero, but he does it so well you hardly mind it. Plus Hitchcock gives him a scene in the water for the female eyes to gaze it and I hardly think anyone complains. He is so dynamic as he delivers his lines and performs the action scenes.
Grace Kelly as Frances Stevens is the epitome of glamour, someone who is intelligent, sometimes childish and reckless. One is always glued to the screen when she is in it, be it by her glamorous wardrobe by Edith Head or her natural ability to light the screen up by her elegance so fitted to the role.
Indeed no one better than the cast in this movie could have done a better job. Jessie Royce Landis as Jessie Stevens, France’s mother, is a particular highlight, bringing the snappy Hitchcock dialogue to its humorous height. Unfazed by the robberies and all in all a comedic treat. There is also a scene with Danielle and Frances as they are swimming in the sea that is full of nail bitingly good back handed comments to each other while Cary Grant is there stuck in the middle. It’s a true golden dialogue moment in a film where the dialogues are full of entendre and innuendo, as per Hitchcock’s usual style.
Now to go to the costumes, which are stars in themselves. Made by Edith Head the look is classic glamour and each piece stands out, and it must, since Hitchcock shows the French Riviera in all its beauty and both the stars and the costumes have to compete for all eyes to be on them. There is a costume ball in the last part of the film, the theme of it is the 18th century by the way of the 1950s. They are all fantastic pieces and it even shows a rich couple that are POC enter the ball, but that fact only just makes up for it as we see little black children carrying the rich white women’s trains and one of the costumes is that of a moor, with no blackface, but a black mask to hide his face. It’s then when you wish this film could be remade with the proper cultural respect it deserves, with actual people of colour speaking or in lead roles. Monaco is after all a hub for the rich from all around the world and all people who want to make their fortunes in the casino’s there. IT COULD BE MADE PEOPLE! SOMEONE GET TO IT!
I recommend this to all Hitchcock fans or those who love the 1950s, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant and glamour. It’s a nice holiday movie and it knows it is one and embraces it. If there is one Hitchcock one can show the kids then it is this one, though explaining all the racism will be in par for the course.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON!
Now whose the thief comes in the form of elimination as one watches the movie. One can even party guess it by the way the dialogues go as Brigitte Auber as Danielle Foussard talks to Cary Grant. Indeed who is the thief seems so obvious that the film is good in making us suspect everyone, even at one point I suspected Frances, because it being Danielle would be too obvious. It would have certainly been an interesting film if it indeed had been her. Maybe even better, but we’ll never know.
I have no other points on this to add to what I’ve already said, except that Brigitte plays her part very well being the young Danielle who dreams of going to South America with John Robie, whom she admires and is in love with. She is the “normal” girl to contrast with Grace’s high end glamour, but she is one with the more personality and whom we can see ourselves as, since we are all normal, and hardy are Grace Kelly or Cary Grant.
Thank you for reading!