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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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(screenplay by), (based on the novel by)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Webster
...
Laura
...
Dave Reilly
...
Jackie
...
Henderling
...
Deams
...
Zukovsky
...
Dynamite
...
Ted
...
Lasker
...
Insurance Man
Margaret Fairchild ...
Mrs. Donner
Jack Manning ...
Tom Preston
Richard O'Brien ...
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:

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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

The current version of this movie being shown on network television shows two scenes out of order. We see a scene in which Webster evades the police, and then links up with Laura at a party. Then insurance agent Dave shows up at Laura's place to talk to them. After this, we see the scene in which Webster and Laura meet for the very first time at a party. See more »

Quotes

Webster: [meeting Laura for the first time] Maybe I've been nominated as a reformer.
Laura: No... only the women want to reform me. The men like me just as I am.
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User Reviews

 
The Oates/O'Neal relationship is the strength of this film
15 September 2006 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

Considering that its been close to forgotten, TTWCTD was a pleasant and substantial surprise when I watched it a few years ago.

This is far from a perfect film as it has several flaws. While the caper scenes involving central character Webster McGee's (Ryan O'Neal) are entertaining enough they're hardly groundbreaking and have been done better in other films. And as another reviewer said, the film probably could've done without the segment involving the arrogant chess expert Zukovsky (played by Austin Pendelton). While not without humour, in the context of the rest of the film it's played too broadly by Pendelton and doesn't really fit in.

But there is much of interest in this film that make it well worth catching up with. The central romance between O'Neal and wealthy socialite Jackie (who gives him his chance to move into the upper echelons of society) played by Jacqueline Bisset isn't really that convincing, perhaps deliberately so. McGee's attraction to the vacuous and cold Laura only makes sense in the context of Jill Clayburgh's performance as McGee's ex-wife Jackie. In her brief on-screen time, Jackie comes across as a far more likable persona then the cold and chilly Laura (doubtless this is also because Bisset has always come across as a cold and unlikable personality for mine). But we can see in Jackie's one scene with Webster that she has tics and neuroses that remind Webster of his past and he has moved on with someone far more frivolous and insubstantial.

But the really fascinating part of the film is the relationship between McGee and the insurance investigator Dave Riley. If this film were made today, Riley would most likely be portrayed as a harried, bumbling 'loser' with McGee (and the filmmakers) regularly mocking his failure to catch him at every turn.

But TTWCTD does something highly unusual and daring. It has McGee display immense sympathy and empathy for Riley even as he's doing his best to catch him. Why? Because he knows that he was just like him previously - someone stuck in a dead-end job trying to do their best but feeling immensely dissatisfied about their life and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

It's this relationship which is the real strength of the film, helped especially by Oates' marvellous performance as Riley and helps it stay in the memory long after one has finished watching it.

And while it has its detractors, I also found Henry Mancini's music score very pleasing on the ear.


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