To Catch A Thief by David DodgeDavid Dodge’s writing style often reminds me of Montgomery Clift’s acting style; five minutes into the film or the narrative, you forget either exist. Clift’s fine performances were often overlooked, because they weren’t showy. Clift no longer existed, only the character he was portraying. And in a David Dodge novel, the writer no longer exists, just the character and story. In this case the character is John Robie, or Le Chat, the retired thief. As Somerset Maugham noted, the reader should never realize the writer exists if a story is told properly. Everything should happen as if by some magic happenstance where we are privy to a great story. That style isn’t showy, it doesn’t call attention to itself, but when it’s done to perfection, as Dodge so often did, it’s a heck of a read.
I love the film based on the book, but since it has been many years since I’ve viewed it, I’ll only state that a few differences certainly exist. Francie here is a blue-eyed brunette, for example, and the romance more intellectual. Robie, in fact — or Jack Burns throughout much of this book — doesn’t even realize romantic feelings toward him exist in Francie. He believes — for good reason — that she in fact dislikes him. Only Robie’s friend Bellini is emotionally aware enough to realize Francie’s reason for living.
In many ways To Catch a Thief is the quintessential thief story. The colorful locations along the French Riviera make it all sparkle with glamor and elegance. Yet there is something more going on here, as Dodge subtly explores Robie’s own nature, and the world of the classic high-end thief. Beneath a fast-flowing and entertaining narrative are insights into Robie’s psyche, which encapsulates all those to whom he is loyal, and who are loyal to him. In Robie’s world, there is indeed honor among thieves, most of whom served beside him in a kind of Resistance during the war, called the Maquis. Once the war was over, the Sûreté looked the other way in regard to their prior crimes, and the great Le Chat — The Cat — simply ceased to exist. But someone has made it seem as though he has returned, their acrobatic feats as they plunder priceless jewels across the Riviera pointing to one man — Le Chat. If the American Robie is to remain a free man in France, rather than leave all he loves behind, and flee, he must gather his old loyal confederates and try to capture the imposter himself.
What follows is fun and exciting, as Robie changes identities, sets up surveillances, and hires an escort in Danielle, who it turns out mirrors the dead wife of his loyal friend Paul. It is Robie’s loyalty, however, which causes him problems, making him reluctant to reveal his predicament, and explain why he’s pretending to be Jack Burns. In Paul’s case, he doesn’t want to involve him on the chance that something will go wrong. But in Francie’s case, it is because she is not a thief, therefor she cannot be trusted. It is an interesting psychological insight, and is fully explored in a swiftly-moving narrative full of color and elegance. Francie does at first appear to warrant Robie’s reticence to allow her in, because she appears to be a very strange girl only out for kicks. Robie is chained to her by blackmail, because she’s guessed who he is, even wants him to steal her mother’s jewels.
A big party, an exciting and dangerous chase across rooftops — which is also how the book begins — and the startling discovery of who has been mimicking Le Chat, brings about a truly unconventional solution. This again plays into the loyalty and psychology of thieves. Is the ending romantic? Does Robie finally realize what his pal Bellini has known all along? You’ll have to read it to find out. There is no existential, stream-of-consciousness, experimental nonsense here. This is simply an elegantly atmospheric narrative of crime and romance, wonderfully told by a writer who understood that the best way to tell a great story, was just to tell it. It makes for a smooth, enjoyable ride along the French Riviera.
It Takes A Thief 310
To Catch a Thief review – Hitchcock at his most witty, elegant and insouciant
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Post a Comment. Neither of the titles is particularly inspiring, and given that the lead role was allotted to Jayne Mansfield rather than Anthony Quayle, I sat down to watch it without very high hopes. I soon realised that I was actually watching a film which is surprisingly gripping, and at times rather dark and disturbing.
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H itchcock's superbly insouciant crime caper from must surely be one of the last movies in which the American super-rich are indulged so extravagantly and adoringly — the kind of people who stub their cigarettes out in fried eggs. The south of France is resplendent in all its cynicism and discretion. Diamonds are what the movie worships amid the sapphire-blue of the Mediterranean and cloudless skies; Hitchcock wittily begins by disrupting those tourist images with a scream of horror from a woman whose valuables have been swiped. He can only clear his name by collaring the real culprit — and while on this person's trail, he encounters the beautiful heiress Francie: the stunningly ice-blond Grace Kelly , pampered, bored and turned on by John's reputation. Her own jewels are glittering symbols of sexual unavailability, and there is something almost outrageously metaphorical in their verbal fencing in her suite at the Carlton hotel, as the fireworks explode outside.