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The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973)

PG | | Comedy, Romance | 1 March 1973 (USA)
A computer programmer decides to become a thief. And when he starts making waves an insurance investigator hounds him. He also meets a woman who becomes his accomplice.

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(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Webster McGee
...
Laura Keaton
...
Dave Reilly
...
Jackie Johnson
...
Gene Henderling
...
Deams
...
Zukovsky
...
Dynamite Hector
...
Ted
...
Edmund Lasker
...
Insurance Man
Margaret Fairchild ...
Mrs. Donner
Jack Manning ...
Tom Preston
Richard O'Brien ...
Police Sgt. Del Conte
George Morfogen ...
Rivera
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Storyline

Bored and somewhat fed up with the open corruption around him, Webster McGee decides to quit his job as a computer engineer at Houston-based Control Data Corporation. What he doesn't tell his friends and now former associates is that he does have a plan for his future: to become a jewel thief. His initial primary motivation is not the money, but rather be what he considers an honest thief. His first successful theft against corrupt businessman Gene Henderling leads to several things. Out of circumstance, Webster is able to have a long list of potential future targets. Webster begins a relationship with poor but beautiful socialite Laura Keaton, to who he is open about what he now does as a living. Because he leaves at his thefts a calling card in the form a chess piece and a slip of paper with a chess move, Webster, being coined the Chess Burglar by the media, begins a very public chess match with the Houston Post's elitist chess columnist Zukovsky, who dismisses the Chess Burglar as ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Webster and Laura took everything they wanted ... each other ... and a diamond worth $6.000.000.

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 March 1973 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A sakkozó tolvaj  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Walter Hill's screenplay, based on the novel by Terrence Lore Smith, shifts the plot locale from Chicago to Houston and completely leaves out the relationship development between Webster/Dave and Dave/Jackie (called Lina in the book) and the gradual physical change in Webster (in the book, he starts out as balding with a broken nose and scars from college football, but has hair grafts, dental work, rhinoplasty and scar removal, whereas in the film he is "pretty" from start to finish). See more »

Goofs

Travis is pulled over by police and is asked for the car's registration. In the 70s, Texas did not require that the registration receipt be kept in the car and officers did not ask for it. Hollywood got it wrong because in California drivers were required to present their "registration." See more »

Quotes

Webster: Don't forget, you walked out on me!
Jackie: I walked out on a computerized man, not a chess burglar!
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Movie with Style and Great Henry Mancini Music
10 June 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

For some reason, I very much love "heist" movies, perhaps because I would never steal anything in my life and I guess opposites attract. While I don't quite like this one as well as I love the Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway "Thomas Crown Affair," another heist movie with great style from the 70s, the marvelous Henry Mancini soundtrack and the involvement of Ryan O'Neil, Jacqueline Bisset, and Warren Oates make this one a winner in my view. All those reviewers who declared the movie "dated" or "slow" are revealing their MTV-generation mind-rot, where if each frame doesn't flicker by in a quarter second or if the film isn't loaded with computer graphics or special effects, they get bored, because I really don't know what they are talking about--the movie moves along just fine for an adult. It seems that most of the action in the movie, and particularly each robbery, is practically a dance which is fluidly paired with the Mancini music. This is set up almost at the very beginning when the thief is perfecting his lock-picking, safe-cracking, and breaking-and-entering techniques, and it never lets up from there. I suppose, though, that if you don't like Henry Mancini, this movie is not for you.

O'Neal demonstrates here his skills for comedy that he had put to even better use in the absolutely hilarious "What's Up Doc" with Barbra Streisand and Madeline Kahn (possibly the funniest movie ever made), also sharing with this movie cast members Austin Pendleton and Michael Murphy. Whereas O'Neal succeeds here with his charm and definite good looks, and he is clearly a good match for the beautiful, somewhat rebellious and "alternative" Jaqueline Bisset, the best pairing is probably the "cat and mouse" interaction with insurance investigator Warren Oates. This, too, is psychologically another example of "opposites attract," as despite being on nearly opposite poles, the two form a kind of mutual bond. Like prison guard and prisoner, they exist in the same realm of life, I guess.

I also enjoyed O'Neal's two partners in crime, the nervous-but-excited fence played by Ned Beatty and his humorous boxer sidekick, played by Gregory Sierra.

It was fun to see the early mainframe computer technology shown in the film (current at the time the film was made), which is what computers WERE when I started my adult working life (and which it seems they are going back to with all the servers and workstations, now). And I appreciated seeing the Houston setting, not often shown in films. As America's oil capital, Houston's prosperity rises and falls with the energy cycles and probably at the time the film was made, Houston was at one of its prosperity peaks. The beautiful mansions of the Texan oil rich (who aren't at all shy about spending their wealth on jewelry, art, and other luxury goods) quite reasonably make an attractive target for a thief.

Thanks to video, I've been able to watch this movie many, many times, much in the same way that I might watch a music video--for the interaction of music and action, although in a more languid and less frenetic way. Not slow, not dated, but very much fun and quite beautiful and enjoyable.


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