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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.

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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

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

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

7

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

To Catch A Thief: Prelude

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

Series Post #2

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Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, premiered in New York City in August of 1955.

It was an immediate hit.

Adapted from a novel by David Dodge, To Catch A Thief tells the story of ex- jewel thief John Robie (Grant), who is forced out of retirement by a mysterious string of burglaries in Nice and Cannes.  It seems the thief is using all of Robie’s old tricks and the police suspect him of committing the crimes.  In order to salvage his reputation, and his hide, Robie decides to track down the copy cat himself.  Along the way he becomes romantically involved with the icy, but very beautiful, Frances Stevens (Kelly).

Aside from the obvious star power of Grant and Kelly, the movie showcases the stunning scenery of the French Riviera and the villages just north of the coast. To Catch A Thief still stands, in my opinion, as one of the most visually captivating films ever made.

For those of you who are true To Catch A Thief addicts, I recommend Continue reading

To Catch A Thief: The Definitive Location Guide To Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Film

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Most cyber junkies are probably not aware that bloggers have the ability to track, among other things, the search word or words used to reach a particular blog or blog post.  For example, if someone enters “Tourrettes sur Loup” into the Google toolbar and that, in turn, leads them to my July 28 post on the Auberge de Tourrettes, then I know that the title and tags I’ve used have been effective.  Being aware of “blog stats” can be very helpful in driving traffic to a blog.
The reason for this explanation?
Since my first Le Stuff post on June 10, 2009, one subject has easily trumped all other searches by a country mile.
Here are a few examples:

john robies villa in the hills of nice
where exactly is john robies villa
john robie cours saleya flower market nice
flower market john robie

I think you get the idea.

I’m sure many of you are probably scratching your  heads at this very moment and wondering “Who is John Robie?”
Continue reading