Viewer Guide: To Catch a Thief and The Quitter with Richard Peña

January 25, 2018 | Richard Peña

Introducing “Viewer Guide,” your weekly peek into what’s coming up next on REEL 13, written by host Richard Peña.


Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief

This week’s REEL 13 Classic is To Catch a Thief (1955), a lightly suspenseful romantic thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

After achieving one of his greatest career triumphs the year before with Rear Window, Hitchcock needed a break—and managed to get one at the same time as producing and directing his next blockbuster hit, To Catch a Thief. Featuring spectacular French Riviera locations, the film stars Cary Grant as John Robie, a former jewel thief known as “The Cat,” whose nine lives have included a stint in the French Resistance as well as time in prison. Robie is living in splendid retirement at his mountainside villa when the newspapers begin reporting a string of jewel robberies all bearing his trademark style.

Anxious to avoid breaking his parole and finding himself back in jail, Robie is even more motivated than the police are to find the identity of the new “Cat” who is prowling the exclusive Cote D’Azur hotels nearby. With the help of a Lloyds of London insurance agent, played by Hitchcock favorite John Williams, Robie masquerades as an Oregon lumber tycoon, making the acquaintance of a Mrs. Stevens, played by Jessie Royce Landis, a wealthy American widow who is traveling with her beautiful daughter Frances, portrayed by Grace Kelly at her most ravishing.

And so begins a new cat and mouse game, with Frances determined to uncover Robie’s true identity as Robie tries to anticipate the mysterious thief’s next move by shadowing “the Cat’s” likely targets. Along the way, Hitchcock managed to fly just under the radar of Hollywood’s production code censors with some sly tongue in cheek dialogue that keeps the chemistry between Grant and Kelly crackling.

To Catch a Thief was Hitchcock’s third and final film with Grace Kelly, following Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, both released one year earlier in 1954. The pair enjoyed a warm friendship, with Kelly arguably representing the ultimate example of the “cool Hitchcockian blonde” archetype. Kelly had turned down co-starring with Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront to work with Hitchcock again on Rear Window, and had agreed to do To Catch a Thief before a leading man was in place.

To get Cary Grant, Hitchcock had to lure him out of his self-professed retirement. After a series of disappointing films in the early 1950s, Grant had dropped out of the movie business, passing on a number of high profile offers. But the prospect of working with Grace Kelly and shooting on French Riviera locations proved irresistible. In the end, To Catch a Thief resulted in an enduring friendship with Kelly and turned out to be one of Grant’s favorite films.

As for Grace Kelly, To Catch a Thief proved auspicious: although she did not meet Prince Rainier of Monaco while location shooting on the French Riviera, the two would soon encounter each other during Kelly’s participation at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. Kelly would make only two more films before marrying Rainier in 1956 and retiring from acting. Despite sporadic attempts to bring Kelly back to the silver screen, High Society would become her last film in 1956.


Matthew Bonifacio’s The Quitter

Following To Catch a Thief is this week’s Indie, The Quitter, a gentle comic drama from 2014 directed by Matthew Bonifacio.

Bonifacio stars as Jonathan Lembo, a once promising baseball star who lost his confidence and dropped out of pursuing a pro career. Since leaving the game, he’s made do with running a Brooklyn batting cage park. But baseball isn’t the only thing Jonathan walked away from. Out for a jog one day on the Coney Island boardwalk, Jonathan is astonished to reencounter his old girlfriend Georgie, played by Julianna Gelinas Bonifacio.  Georgie has just moved back to town after seven years living in Florida, and she isn’t alone—off playing on the beach is the daughter that Jonathan also dropped out on, seven year-old Luka, played by Destiny Monet Cruz.

Georgie has explained Jonathan’s absence to Luka by fibbing that “he travels a lot in China.”  But Jonathan isn’t really a bad guy; all he’d like is a second chance to repair the damage he’s done and step up to the responsibilities of being a father—a development greeted by unabashed excitement on the part of Jonathan’s Mom Kathleen, played by Deirdre O’Connell. But Jonathan’s Dad, played by Dan Grimaldi, won’t let his son forget his past disappointments and failures. Not to mention that Georgie might have a few ideas of her own about letting Jonathan into her and their daughter’s lives.

As one of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most frequently quoted observations goes, “there are no second acts in American lives.” Too often we grow up with the fear that if we don’t make it, whatever that means, right away, we won’t make it at all. The Quitter sets out to prove Fitzgerald wrong. Jonathan and Georgie have clearly dealt with failure; their respective journeys home are their way of trying to start over again.

Shot mainly on various locations in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, the production of The Quitter was very much a family affair, with the husband and wife team of Matthew and Juliana Bonifacio multi-tasking as both the stars and producers of the film. Matthew Bonifacio’s other directing credits include 2007’s Amexicano, about a community of illegal immigrants in Queens, and Lbs. from 2004, about an obese man’s struggle with over-eating.

Also featured in The Quitter are Erin Drake and Henry Vick as Georgie’s upstairs neighbors who try to lure Georgie back into a social life. Natasha Lyonne from Orange is the New Black makes a cameo appearance as Gloria, a dance school teacher who welcomes Luka into her class of budding ballerinas.

Richard Peña

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