I am in a small minority that prefers To Catch a Thief to North by Northwest. North by Northwest is more intense and exciting, but for all its spectacle, it’s somehwat ungainly. By contrast, To Catch a Thief is cool, collected, graceful, never displaying any hint of strain. The pleasures are less in its set-pieces than in John Michael Hayes’ tremendously clever script. No Hitchcock film has better dialogue. In terms of wit, To Catch a Thief has an embarassment of riches, such as this winner: “Not only did I enjoy that kiss last night, I was awed by its efficiency.”
Of course, Hitchcock still gets to show off his tremendous skill. To Catch a Thief is a breathtakingly beautiful film, lushly photographed in VistaVision, and Hitchcock films its sequences with tremendous economy. The stylistic flourishes, when they come (as they do in the famous fireworks scene), are all the more satisfying because of the rest of the film’s relative restraint.
The film’s lynchpin is the brilliant chemistry between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, perhaps the most attractive couple in cinema history.