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To Catch a Thief (1955) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A retired jewel thief sets out to prove his innocence after being suspected of returning to his former occupation.

  • American expatriate John Robie, living in high style on the Riviera, is a retired cat burglar. He must find out who a copycat is to keep a new wave of jewel thefts from being pinned on him. High on the list of prime victims is Jessie Stevens, in Europe to help daughter Frances find a suitable husband. The Lloyds of London insurance agent is using a thief to catch a thief. Take an especially close look at scene where Robie gets Jessie's attention, dropping an expensive casino chip down the d√©colletage of a French roulette player.

  • When the jewelries of millionaires are stolen on the French Riviera, the former burglar and member of the French resistance John Robie "The Cat" is the prime suspect of the police. John convinces the Lloyds of London insurance agent H.H. Hughson that a copycat is committing the burglaries and he offers to chase the thief to prove his innocence, requesting a list of possible victims in the spot. He befriends the wealthy American widow Jessie Stevens that is on the list, and her spoiled daughter Frances Stevens falls in love with him. When Jessie's jewelries are robbed, Frances blames John, but her mother believes in his innocence, and decides to help the retired burglar to catch the real thief.

  • There have been a swath of cat burglaries of expensive jewelry, the burglaries all along the French Riviera resort towns. The police believe the burglaries have been committed by ex-con John Robie - nicknamed "the cat" - the burglaries hallmark of his M.O. Robie's old associates, most who have gone the straight and narrow in working for one of their own, Bertani, in his restaurant, believe it's Robie, which they don't like in guilt by former association pointed in their direction. The overall belief that it's Robie is despite he having been a hero for the French Resistance during the war, he and his former cat burglary associates paroled for that war effort. Robie, who lives a comfortable life as an amateur horticulturalist in a seaside villa, asserts he hasn't cat burgled since before working for the Resistance. As such, he feels that he has no other option but to catch the burglar himself. He believes it has to be someone who knows him or could have learned the details of his former burglaries, such as someone who worked for the local police before the war. In doing so, he will have to think like the cat burglar in anticipating his next targets and catching him in the act. In the process, two women pursue him romantically. One is Danielle Foussard, the daughter of one of his former associates - the current wine steward at the restaurant - she who wants him to see her as a woman and not the child he knew. The other is Francie Stevens, an American socialite vacationing with her mother, Jessie Stevens, who is top of the list as the burglar's next target. Francie's pursuit of Robie is seemingly to add a little excitement in her life as he, cat burglar or not, has that sense of danger unlike most of the men she dates at home. Robie, Francie and Danielle may be placed in mortal danger either at the hands of his former associates who may want to get rid of him in only turning down the unwanted spotlight on them, at the hands of the authorities in Robie, Francie and/or Danielle being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the real new cat burglar if they get too close to discovering the truth.

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  • A series of ingenious jewelry robberies takes place on the French Riviera. The police suspect John Robbie, an expert thief who was known as "The Cat" before he retired from crime. Robbie enlists the help of an insurance man to guess where the real thief will strike next. He befriends wealthy widow Jessie Stevens and her attractive daughter Frances.

  • John Robie is a one-time cat burglar, now reformed and living a blameless life in a plush villa. When a fresh set of burglaries rocks the Riviera, all bearing the hallmark of Robie's own robberies, he is the natural suspect. Robie sets out to catch the new burglar himself, mainly to prove his innocence. He is aided by an American heiress, who initially is convinced that he is guilty. The title of the movie is derived from the proverb "Set a thief to catch a thief".


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • "The Cat" is John Robie (Cary Grant). Now a respectable and well-to-do grower of grapes and flowers on the French Riviera, before World War II he was a jewel thief -- a cat burglar -- who was imprisoned but granted parole so he could fight the Germans. Someone is using the Cat's M.O. to steal jewelry again, and the police think Robie must be involved. When they visit his handsome stone villa to take him in for questioning, he gives them the slip with help from his housekeeper Germaine (Georgette Anys), who leads the cops on a car chase while Robie catches the bus.

    He drops in on his old gang from the French Resistance, a group of ex-cons whose war work, like Robie's own, led to grants of parole that depend on keeping their noses clean. Restaurant manager Bertani (Charles Vanel), wine steward Foussard (Jean Martinelli), and the others are all under a cloud while the Cat is at large, and they blame Robie. Still, when the police arrive at Bertani's restaurant, Foussard's teenaged daughter Danielle (Brigitte Auber), who has apparently enjoyed flirting with Robie in the past, spirits him across the bay in a motorboat to the safety of a Cannes beach club.

    Robie enlists the aid of an insurance man of Bertani's acquaintance, H.H. Hughson (John Williams) of Lloyds of London, in order to prove his innocence. Robie's plan is to catch the new cat burglar in the act. To do this, he obtains a list of the most expensive jewels on the Riviera from the reluctant Hughson. The first name on the list is Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), who is traveling with her daughter Francie (Grace Kelly). Robie strikes up an acquaintance with them -- one met with delight by Jessie, a pretense of modesty by Francie, and claws-baring jealousy from Danielle.

    Francie is not afraid of a little fun. Although she sees through Robie's cover as an American industrialist, the considerable charms of this thief are worth catching. She dangles before him her jewels, teases him with steamy tales of rooftop escapades, exposes herself as a feline of a special breed: an accomplice who might share his passion. Fireworks fill the night and can even be seen in the sky.

    That night, Jessie's jewels are stolen, and Francie suddenly feels that Robie has taken advantage of her. He narrowly evades the clutches of the police and goes back on the lam.

    He stakes out a house where he believes the new burglar will strike and is violently attacked. In the ensuing struggle he kills the attacker. It's Foussard, Bertani's wine steward.

    The police chief is satisfied that Foussard was the jewel thief, but, as Robie points out to him in the presence of the abashed Hughson, this would have been impossible: Foussard had a prosthetic leg and couldn't possibly climb on rooftops.

    After Robie is ejected from Foussard's funeral, Francie apologizes and confesses her love for him. They agree to attend a masquerade ball the coming weekend.

    At the ball, Francie is resplendent in a gold gown in the style worn at the court of Louis XV, Robie unrecognizable behind the mask of her attendant, a Moor. The police hover nearby, hoping to arrest Robie. When Jessie asks the Moor to go get her "heart pills," Robie's voice tips off the authorities to his identity. After he returns, Francie and the Moor dance the night away while the police wait them out. But upstairs the cat burglar strikes, cleaning out many a jewelry box. Finally, Francie and the Moor go to her room, and the mask is removed: the Moor is Hughson, switched in to conceal Robie's exit.

    Meanwhile, Robie waits and watches on the roof. His patience is rewarded when another figure in black appears. But just as his pursuit begins, the police throw a spotlight on him. Again he flees and shots ring out, but he manages to corner his foe with jewels in hand. Unmasked, his nemesis turns out not to be a man after all. Danielle is the new Cat, and she confesses that she's been working for her father and Bertani to frame Robie for the latest thefts. Danielle tries to get away but slips and nearly falls, until Robie has a change of heart and saves her from falling off the roof to a certain death and turns her over to the police.

    In the final scene, Robie speeds back to his vineyards, and Francie races after to convince him that he needs a woman around to help. He agrees but seems less than thrilled about including her mother.

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