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Sunday December 3rd 2023

To Catch A Thief | 1955

To Catch A Thief film location: InterContinental Cannes Hotel, la Croisette, Cannes, French Riviera
To Catch A Thief film location: InterContinental Cannes Hotel, la Croisette, Cannes, French Riviera

It’s significant that the opening credits of this minor, but glossily enjoyable, Hitchcock thriller, are superimposed over a travel agent’s window. A large part of the film’s charm is its showcasing of the beautiful towns and villages along France’s (and Monaco’s) Riviera coast.

The other plus is the sparkling interplay between bona fide screen stars Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

Grant is ex-cat burglar John Robie, setting out to prove he's not back to his old tricks while, naturally, romancing heiress, Frances Stevens (Kelly).

As prime suspect in a series of jewel thefts, Robie is visited by the bumbling police at his villa in Saint-Jeannet, just below the huge rocky outcrop of Baou de St Jeannet, a couple of miles northwest of Nice.

Robie evades the law, and the cops (who never come off best in a Hitchcock movie) chase a decoy through the countryside in entirely the wrong direction. It’s Robie’s maid they follow through the villages of Le Bar sur Loup and Tourrettes sur Loup, a few miles to the west of Saint-Jeannet.

The village of Tourrettes sur Loup was the location for Marcel Carné’s 1942 fantasy Les Visiteurs du Soir.

Robie, meanwhile, makes his way east – to Monte Carlo – by bus (with Hitchcock making his traditional cameo appearance as a fellow passenger)

Unfortunately Monte Carlo has been crassly redeveloped since the Fifties. The terrace and steps down to the bay, where Robie attempts to convince restaurant owner Bertani and his old resistance pals that he’s not the Cat, is long gone.

Aided by lovestruck Danielle Foussard (Brigitte Auber), Robie escapes by boat – quite some distance – way past Nice to the Beach Club along the coast at Cannes.

It’s back in Nice, though, to find the flower market, where Robie meets the helpful insurance man from Lloyds (John Williams). The real market is on Cours Saleya in the Old Town, but was recreated for the film a few blocks north on the wider Boulevard Jean Jaures. You can still still get a romantic bouquet on cours Saleya every day of the week, except Monday.

To Catch A Thief film location: the flower market, Cours Saleya, Nice
To Catch A Thief film location: the flower market, Cours Saleya, Nice

Frances Stevens and her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) stay at the InterContinental Carlton, 58 la Croisette, in Cannes. Dominating the seafront, the Carlton is naturally the place to stay if you’re an A-list guest at the annual Cannes Film Festival.

Now held every May, the international Festival has been hosted by Cannes since 1946 (it was intended to be launched in 1939, but was delayed by the unexpected arrival of WWII).

The ‘Sanford villa’, which Robie cases under the pretence of wanting to rent it, is Château de la Croix-des-Gardes, 145 Boulevard Leader, in the hills just to the west of Cannes itself. It’s a private home, so chances are you won’t get to see its Florentine-style façade or 12 hectares of hanging gardens unless you get a party invite. It was recently up for sale, with the accompanying bumf claiming that the villa was also the setting for Alain Resnais' Last Year In Marienbad (it wasn't).

It’s sadly unavoidable to ignore the horrible sense of foreshadowing as Frances takes Robie for a hair-raising drive along the Grande Corniche, above Monte Carlo.

The towering arched viaduct carries the Avenue de Verdun, the D6007, into the medieval village of Èze, between Villefranche-sur-Mer and Monaco. The village through which they whizz is La Turbie. Oddly, it was while driving on the CD37 below the village of La Turbie in 1982 that Grace Kelly was involved in the fatal car crash.

And watch out, the hairpin bends in the area really can be unnerving.

To Catch A Thief film location: the bridge at Eze
To Catch A Thief film location: the bridge at Èze | Photograph: norbiy / iStockphoto

The funeral of Danielle’s father, the wine waiter Foussard, is held at the cemetery of Haut-de-Cagnes, above Cagnes sur Mer. The entrance is on Avenue de Verdun.

Les Collettes, in Haut de Cagnes, was the location for Jean Renoir’s 1959 classic Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe.