As one instillation of many Hitchcock film adaptions, To Catch a Thief embodies the thrill and suspense of high-class mystery that is an Alfred Hitchcock novel. The film follows John Robie, a retired cat burglar who lives in luxurious comfort on the French Rivera as an American expatriate. Since a new copy cat burglar appears, stealing extremely valuable and precious jewelry from the upper class, Robie again undergoes the suspicion of both the French government and his old burglary ring. Robie sets out to clear his name, eventually befriending the young and unwed Frances, who is in France with her wise and forgiving mother, Jessie, to find a suitable husband. Jessie is a prime target for the new cat burglar, something Robie takes advantage of. However, Frances has suspicions of her own, finally outing Robie as the old cat burglar and revealing his true identity to her mother, who really could not care less. They decide to all team up, after Frances declares her love for Robie, and catch the true cat burglar: the young and beautiful Danielle Foussard, Robie’s old flame and daughter of Robie’s former partner, who was forced to work off his punishment rather than live in style as Robie has. Finally, Robie’s innocence is proven, giving him the (perhaps undesired) opportunity to marry the effervescent Frances.
To Catch a Thief is widely thought of as Hitchcock’s big entrance into the hearts of America. His popularity in America influenced his work, causing his film adaptions to take on a different tone and focus than the novels. Some of the fans of his novels did not appreciate the change in Hitchcock’s work, finding To Catch a Thief to be a step away from what originally made Hitchcock a household name and a step towards the looming influence of Hollywood.
However, To Catch A Thief also influenced American mystery films, mostly in that the mystery genre increased in popularity, adding to the demand for more Hitchcock film adaptions (produced in Hollywood). As Hitchcock films grew in popularity in America, they lessened in popularity across the pond, as fans of the novels and earlier Hitchcock films felt that the new Hollywood films seemed to lack that essential Hitchcock essence, notably in the characters. Cary Grant’s character, John Robie, also caused a stir in the UK, as he did not live up to the vision Hitchcock himself had. Grant makes Robie seem very confused and bumbling throughout the film, not the stealthy and quick Robie of the novels.
In the end, To Catch a Thief acted as a split between classic and Hollywood Hitchcock. The effect the film had on American mystery films thereafter is substantial and evident, but it also served as a catalyst for change in Hitchcock’s directing style, proving how much of an influence culture holds over media.