To Catch A Thief: Take 15

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #17

La Croisette and the cemetery in Cagnes-sur-mer

La Croisette

When we last saw John Robie (Cary Grant) he was struggling for his life in the middle of the night on the grounds of a beautiful villa located next to the Plage Passable in St Jean Cap Ferrat.

In the following scene Frances (Grace Kelly) and her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) walk down a busy street. A crowd has gathered around a newsstand and there is a palpable excitement concerning the latest headline.

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“LE CHAT EST MORT!” (THE CAT IS DEAD!)

The cat, it seems, is indeed dead, but it’s not John Robie, it’s Monsieur Foussard.

This quick scene takes place in Cannes on the wide walkway that runs along the shore between La Croisette and the beach. Continue reading

In Search of David Dodge

In Search of David Dodge

In August of 2010 I received an email from Jean Buchanan, a writer from England who had been commissioned to dramatize the novel “To Catch A Thief” for BBC Radio and to make an accompanying BBC Radio Arts feature about the writing of the book. American author David Dodge penned the thriller in 1950 while living in a rented villa (Villa Noel Fleuri) in the south of France with his wife and young daughter, Kendal. The idea for the story came to him after the luxurious villa next door was robbed by a daring “cat burglar” during a cocktail party. As guests dined on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, the thief climbed in at the back of the house and snatched items from the guest bedrooms. Dodge would later remark that after hearing about the brazen robbery, “To Catch A Thief practically wrote itself!”

Jean had stumbled upon my blog during her research for the BBC projects and asked if I could help locate Villa Noel Fleuri. I agreed to assist in any way possible and the search began, aided in no small part by another of Jean’s recruits, Randal S. Brandt in Berkeley, California. Randal is the creator of A David Dodge Companion, an outstanding website devoted to the works of David Dodge .

Several months prior to hearing from Jean I had actually been in touch with Dodge’s daughter (at that time she was still alive and living in Mexico) in an attempt to find the villa used as John Robie’s house in Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of the book. I asked her about the villa she lived in with her father and her only memory was of a long, winding driveway with lots of trees leading up to the house. She thought it had been somewhere near Juan les Pins.  Continue reading

Mr. Dodge, Mr Hitchcock, and the French Riviera

If you’re a To Catch A Thief fan you simply cannot miss Jean Buchanan’s fabulous new book, Mr Dodge, Mr Hitchcock, and the French Riviera: The story behind To Catch a Thief.

This is the definitive narrative on the complete story, from American author David Dodge’s inspiration for his novel (a daring burglary that took place next door to the villa he was renting in the south of France), to the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film.

Trust me…settle in, pour yourself a nice glass of claret, and get ready for a wonderful tale full of glamorous movie stars, daring thieves, and just the right amount of mystery.

You won’t regret it!
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To Catch A Thief: Take 12

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #14

Room 623: The Carlton in Cannes

There’s a wonderful scene in To Catch A Thief in which Francie Stevens (Grace Kelly’s character) is escorted to her hotel room by John Robie (played by Cary Grant).  She opens the door, turns, gives him a long, cool kiss, and then without saying a word, steps inside and closes the door.  Robie is left grinning and bemused.

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The room, of course, is at The Carlton in Cannes, number 623.  The interior is featured later when Francie invites Robie in for a drink, more kissing, a fireworks display in the Golfe de la Napoule, and several clever innuendoes that somehow managed to slip past the censors.

For several years I was certain that Brigitte Auber had told me Continue reading

Bertani’s Staircase: Mystery Solved

robie on restaurant verandaThe only To Catch A Thief location that has given me fits is the staircase leading down to Bertani’s restaurant.  I had reached the frustrating conclusion that it was destroyed forever when the port was renovated in the 1970’s.

Well, not so fast.

Grant and Hitchcok below “Bertani’s Steps” in Monaco.

Enter Luca, a devoted Le Stuff reader from Turin, Italy.

Luca and I had exchanged a few Emails regarding TCAT’s picnic site (which he correctly located) when he told me that he had also found Bertani’s steps.

I was skeptical.

I soon learned, though, never to underestimate a man on a mission.

Luca had indeed located the steps and the process by which he discovered them is a veritable lesson in tenacity.

How did he do it?

First, he Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 10

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #12

John Robie and Francie Stevens depart beneath the old stone gate of the Sanford Villa.  They are followed, quite conspicuously, by the police.

The uber-stylish powder blue Sunbeam Alpine convertible cruises across a scenic bridge.

In the distance the Mediterranean and promontory of St Jean cap Ferrat are in full view.

Pan left and viewers are treated to an expansive view of the ancient, cliffside village of Eze.

Grace Kelly is stunning.

The ensuing driving scenes (in which Grant and Kelly discuss the location of the picnic site) were obviously shot in Hollywood using rear screen projection and feature (most likely) the upper corniche in the background.  This is not the same road, as has been widely reported, on which Grace was killed in a tragic car accident in 1982.

Princess Grace’s vehicle ran off the D37 just below the village of La Turbie.

Hitchcock was a master at Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 9

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Series Post #11

After the wonderful raft scene just off the beach in front of The Hotel Carlton, Francie Stevens (Kelly’s character) convinces John Robie to let her accompany him on a “villa shopping” excursion.

What follows is one of the great driving sequences in cinematic history.

Hitchcock certainly must have known that the French Riviera would electrify the screen almost as much as Grant and Kelly, and to his credit, he let it.

A tour of “To Catch A Thief” locations is, quite simply, a tour of some of the most beautiful scenery the French Riviera has to offer.

Stevens and Robie depart for the hills from the hotel parking lot in her sublime Sunbeam Alpine convertible.  For anyone who has been to Cannes it’s interesting to note how things have changed in front of The Carlton.  In 1954 one simply had to pull off The Croisette (back then a pleasant two lane road) and park in front of the hotel.  Today the former parking area has been turned into a garden and The Croisette expanded into a four lane boulevard separated by a tree-lined median. 

In the next clip the Sunbeam Alpine is seen traveling along a winding road (most likely the moyenne corniche) with the Mediterranean in the background.  The promontory of land jutting out into the azure water is St Jean cap Ferrat.

The moyenne corniche is still one of the world’s great drives and I heartily recommend it to anyone visiting the area.


The ensuing scene, featuring plenty of clever dialogue by both Grant and Kelly, was played out at Hollywood’s Paramount studios using rear-screen projection, but it’s interesting to note that Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 8

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #10

Brigitte Auber told me recently that she first met Cary Grant in Cannes, just before filming began on “To Catch A Thief”.

Alfred Hitchcock introduced them on the balcony of Grant’s suite at The Carlton, overlooking the Bay of Cannes.

She liked him immediately.

Brigitte and Cary Grant

The setting for such an auspicious introduction seems fitting doesn’t it?

Where else but The Carlton would a young, beautiful French actress, destined for a long, successful career, meet the most famous movie star on the planet?

Today, more than fifty years later, Continue reading

The Location of Bertani’s Restaurant

To_Catch_a_Thief-1955-MSS-x12-1An early scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief takes place at Bertani’s restaurant.

Bertani, played by French actor Charles Vanel, is a former member of the French Resistance who, alongside John Robie (Cary Grant’s character), fought against the Germans in World War 2.

Several Le Stuff readers have asked about the location of the restaurant and if there actually was, or is, a real restaurant there.

I’ll try to clear up the mystery.


Bertani (left) with John Robie (Cary Grant) and Foussard

The terrace scene was filmed on the western edge of Continue reading

Le Stuff on The BBC!

Before Alfred Hitchcock could cast Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in his blockbuster film “To Catch A Thief”, American author David Dodge had to write the novel.  His book was inspired by an actual burglary that took place next door to the Villa Noel Fleuri, a house Dodge had rented for his family in the south of France in the early 1950’s.

In September of 2010, bravely fighting my way through the warm sun and delicious food of the Cote D’Azur, I joined writer (and expert detective) Jean Buchanan in her search for the mysterious villa.  Randal Brandt, a Dodge expert with no equal, provided invaluable assistance from his home-base at the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley.

Listen to the program here.

Learn more here.

Like what you see?  Subscribe to Le Stuff here.

The following text is from the BBC Radio 4 website.

The American thriller and travel-writer, David Dodge (1910-1974), is best known for his 1952 novel To Catch A Thief, which Hitchcock turned into an iconic film three years later. Unusually for Hitchcock, half the film was shot on location, and the Riviera is as much a star as Grace Kelly (in her final film – she met Prince Rainier during a publicity shoot and became Princess of Monaco) and Cary Grant (whom Hitchcock tempted out of retirement with this script).

Dodge’s book was inspired by a real incident when he briefly became the number 1 suspect for a daring cat-burglary at Continue reading

The French Riviera: Driving Heaven?

Click here for information on the French Riviera Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

From the celebrated corniche roads to the beautiful back country, the south of France offers intrepid drivers endless opportunities for motorized fun.

The crew at BBC’s Top Gear already knows this.
They began their search for the “World’s Best Driving Road” near Monaco on the renowned col de Turini.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s glamorous 1953 film, To Catch A Thief, driving plays a pivotal role during chase scenes through the beautiful villages of the back country and on the dramatic moyenne corniche (with Grace Kelly behind the wheel no less).

“Ronin”, starring Robert DeNiro and “GoldenEye”, starring Pierce Brosnan also feature Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Locations, locations, locations….

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

Check out Le Stuff’s new “To Catch A Thief” page.

I was contacted recently by a film producer who’s developing a series of travel shows for Germany’s N-TV.  He asked for my help in identifying specific locations used in To Catch A Thief.

No problem, right?

Well, I thought it would be a breeze but I have to admit there were a couple of challenges.


The film crew setting up a shot outside La Colombe D’Or in St Paul de Vence

1) The Balcony Scene:
A woman screams as she discovers her jewelry has been stolen.
In a panic she runs onto her hotel room balcony where we, the viewers, are treated to an expansive shot of Nice’s world famous seafront boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais.

And so begins Alfred Hitchcock’s light hearted thriller “To Catch A Thief”.
(From Le Stuff’s “To Catch A Thief: Take 1)


The producer wanted to shoot on the “actual” balcony used in the scene.

OK.

I knew it was several blocks east Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 7

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #9

Following the hectic flower market scene in Nice viewers are treated to a wide shot of John Robie’s luxurious cliff side villa.

But, you may be asking yourself, is that really the villa?

No, its not.


The village of Gourdon

For this particular scene, instead of filming the actual house in St Jeannet, Hitchcock used a wide, long distance shot of Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 6

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #8

It’s been a while since our favorite former jewel thief, John Robie, was last seen lounging on the beach in Cannes.

Not to worry though, the saga continues….

In Cannes, Robie receives a phone call from his old friend Bertani who has arranged a clandestine meeting at the Nice flower market with London insurance rep. H. H. Hughson.  Hopefully Hughson can provide information that will help lead to the capture of the real thief.

And how will Hughson recognize Robie?

He’ll be flipping a coin, of course.

It’s interesting to note that the flower market scenes were not filmed on the cours saleya, the bustling pedestrian zone in old Nice where the market is still held today.  Instead, in an attempt to avoid the massive crowds, Hitchcock Continue reading

The French Riviera: Best Drives

Click here for information on Le Stuff’s French Riviera Mini Cooper Driving Adventure!

Into The Back Country

I recently posted tips for driving the celebrated, and often congested, corniche roads.  I would now like to offer a few suggestions for those wishing to break free from the constraints of traffic by heading north into the vast arriere pays (back country).

Begin your journey in the tiny hamlet of Pont du Loup and head west on D2210 in the direction of Le Bar sur Loup.  Bar is a beautiful and uncrowded working class village that sits on the side of a hill overlooking the Loup Valley.
Consider having lunch at the recently renovated
L’Hostellerie du Chateau (the food is sublime) located in the town’s main square.  You may also want to stop by the tourist office (just steps away from the Chateau) and make arrangements for a guided village walking tour.


Le Bar sur Loup

Trip Notes:
Auberge des Gorges du Loup

Pleasant, affordable accommodations and a good restaurant in the tiny town of Pont du Loup.
www.auberge-gorgesduloup.com

L’Hostellerie du Chateau
Beautifully renovated 14th century chateau in the the main square of Le Bar sur Loup.  Exquisite restaurant and 6 tastefully decorated rooms.
www.lhostellerieduchateau.com

Continue east from Bar on D2210 in the direction of Pre du Lac.  As you enter Pre du Lac take a sharp right onto D3 and begin twisting your way up to one of the most beautiful villages in France Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 5

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #7

Having narrowly escaped the police in Monaco, John Robie flees to Cannes in a motor boat with Danielle Foussard.  Once in Cannes, he slips into the water and casually swims to the beach (while a police airplane circles above).

The beach is directly across the main boulevard (La Croisette) from the famous Carlton Hotel.  The Carlton plays a prominent role in To Catch A Thief, but more on that later.  It is here, on the beach, that we get our first glimpse of Grace Kelly.

If there has ever been perfect casting in a movie, it may be Grace Kelly for the part of Francie Stevens.  Icy cool and strikingly beautiful Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 4

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #6

When we last saw our intrepid former jewel thief he had deftly eluded the police by enlisting the help of his housekeeper, Germaine.  While Germaine led the unsuspecting cops on a wild goose chase through some of the most picturesque villages in the south of France, Robie walked calmly to the street in front of his house to catch the bus to Monaco.

It’s during the scene on the bus that Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance in the film (seated next to Grant).

In Monaco Robie visits Bertani, a former comrade from his days in the French Resistance who is now a restaurateur.  The location of Bertani’s restaurant is at the western edge of Port Hercules in Monaco.  I’m told there actually was a restaurant there years ago, but if so, it has long since closed.  As Robie leaves the bus and walks down the steps to the restaurant (making sure to hide his face from a policeman) we’re given a clear view across the port to Avenue d”Ostende as it leads up to the casino.

During his meeting with Bertani it becomes apparent to Robie that the only way to clear his name is to catch the thief himself.  So with the police hot on his heels he flees Monaco in a boat with the precocious Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 3

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #5

At the end of post # 4 the police were fast approaching Robie’s villa just outside the village of St Jeannet.

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The police enter the house and ask the former jewel thief to accompany them to the station for questioning.  He agrees, but asks if they will first allow him to change into something a bit more formal.  While changing in his bedroom he fools the police into thinking he has escaped by car.  And so begins the famous chase scene that  takes viewers through some of the most picturesque villages in the south of France (apparently this was was also one of the first cinematic sequences filmed from a helicopter).

The Chase:
The first town we see is Le Bar sur Loup.  Le Bar is a picturesque, working class village that looks pretty much the same today as it does in the movie, with its dramatic, fourteenth century chateau dominating the town center.  Notice the old railroad bridge at the edge of town. Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 2

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #4

At the end of post #3 several policemen had been dispatched to question John Robie at his villa in the hills above Nice.  As they drive into the countryside the village of Gourdon is visible in the distance.

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The Villa:
From Gourdon the scene fades and we see, for the first time, John Robie’s villa (pictured above). This is the villa that seems to generate so much interest.
The house is located Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: Take 1

Le Stuff’s Definitive Location Guide to Alfred Hitchcock’ s Classic Film

Series Post #3

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The Movie Begins:
A woman screams as she discovers her jewelry has been stolen.
In a panic she runs onto her hotel room balcony where we, the viewers, are treated to an expansive shot of Nice’s world famous seafront boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais.

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And so begins Alfred Hitchcock’s light hearted thriller “To Catch A Thief”.

A rash of daring jewel thefts has the entire Riviera in an uproar.
An emergency meeting is held at the
Commissaire de Police in downtown Nice where several officers are quickly dispatched to question former jewel thief John Robie, the obvious suspect, at his villa in the hills above the Riviera.
As the officers leave Nice they are shown driving up a hill with a sweeping view of the city and the Mediterranean in the background.  The “hill” is actually Continue reading