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
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“.
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!
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
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
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
An 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
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