Style in film: To Catch A Thief

It’s one of the most stylish movies in the history of cinema. I thought it’s high time I featured it on my blog and I’ve tried to capture the amazing atmosphere of this truly wonderful film (and inevitably got carried away with all the screenshots I posted): the chemistry between Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, the beautiful costumes designed by Edith Head, the gorgeous setting on the French Riviera.

In 1975, Grace, 46 at the time, said to Donald Spoto, author of The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures: “You know, on a plane recently they showed To Catch A Thief (1955), and I was watching. Cary and I were so beautiful.” They were. Beautiful, stylish, great friends and what a couple they formed in Hitchcock’s romantic thriller.

Grace’s costumes were designed by Edith Head. The two were close friends and Grace had become Edith’s muse. The almost always diplomatic designer broke her rules to name Grace Kelly her favourite actress with whom she worked, and To Catch A Thief her favourite film. However, Cary chose his own wardrobe, as he would usually do for his movies: “generally I wore simple, tasteful clothes-the same kind of clothes I wear off screen.”

Cary wears a polka dot silk neckechief, which he found in a local shop, and a striped sweater. How effortlessly and uniquely he wears these prints together. The scarf is an element that added flair to a simple outfit. This look set off a fashion trend, it was copied by many, but unsuccessfully. Why? Because Cary succeeded in developing a style entirely his own, emulated on his very own personality and figure.

The perfect shoes for a casual outfit: dark brown leather loafers hand-made for CG by Maxwell’s on Dover Street in London.

On this production, Hitchcock gave Grace more reign with clothing than he usually gave to his actresses. This allowed Edith Head more freedom to design the costumes, working them out first with Kelly and then bringing the ideas to Hitch.
I love the white rimmed cat-eye sunglasses.

Again a neckercief and striped sweater.

The black cat, Cary’s pet in the movie. He is a retired jewel thief, known as Robie “The Cat”. On a side note, “To Catch A Thief” was my inspiration for my blog’s black cat mascot and slogan, “…catch a style”.

Grace (Frances) in her flowing ice blue chiffon, Grecian style gown, with strips in a deeper tone of blue, worn at her first encounter with Robie. No jelwelry, the style and colour of the dress are suggestive enough for her character for that part of the movie. Hitchcock wanted Edith to use cool colours to play up the idea of Frances as an ice princess. The spaghetti straps and back of the dress are the details I love the most about it.

In his real life Cary would usually wear a blazer even to a more casual outfit. He made the ordinary gesture of putting his hands in his pockets seem incredibly elegant, nonchalant and confident.

Grace in a floral wrap dress.

Frances does enjoy attention and Hitchcock’s take on the scene below is very suggestive in this regard. Black halterneck beach top and capri pants covered by a drawstring edged white skirt open at front, a wide brimmed hat ( a Flying Nun hat) and a black turban, one of Grace’s signature pieces, made legendary by the future princess.

 

Sleeveless coral pink top with a white swirls pattern and matching pleated skirt, scarf and shoes and white driving gloves. An extremely feminine look, very representative for the period and for Grace’s personal style as well.

The picnic scene that overlooks Monte Carlo. Dipping into the picnic basket, Frances says: “Want a leg or a breast?” to which Robie, with one of his priceless looks, answers: “You make the choice.” Grace specifically asked Edith to put her in a dress for this scene, because she was “making a play” for Robie. Grace and Cary felt so at ease with one another that they improvised scenes and Hitchcock went along with them. She was Cary Grant’s ideal leading lady.

This fireworks scene is memorable, the sparkle between Grace and Cary…

The pearly white chiffon dress is my favourite evening dress of the entire movie. It’s so beautiful, simple and graceful. But this time Grace wears a superb diamond necklace, shown off by the strapless gown, anticipating the following “burglar” scenes.

And this is my favourite day outfit. I don’t usually fancy a perfect dress-bag match, but on Grace it works in the most refined and chic ways.

Cary Grant made the most formal look seem casual, relaxed and fun. Clothes were a natural extension of himself.

Near the end of the movie, a fancy masquerade ball is held at a mansion on the Cote d’Azur, and all of the extras wore costumes in the style of the court of Marie Antoinette. It was the most expensive costume scene Edith Head had ever done. Hitchcock instructed her to dress Grace as a “fairy princess” for the ball. Edith created a ball gown with a huge skirt of gold mesh adorned with fabric birds and accessorized with a golden mask, and topped Grace’s head with a golden wig.

To Catch A Thief was a happy production. “I always went to work whistling”, Cary recalled. And this showed on the screen.

images: movie stills from “To Catch A Thief”, captured by me; kindly link back to classiq if you use any of these images / production credits
sources: the books Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style by Richard Torregrossa and Edith Head: The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer by Jay Jorgensen


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