BBC Radio 4, 7 January 2011
on Radio 4 as the first adaptation of David Dodge’s novel, To Catch a Thief
told the story of the Cat (aka John Robie) (Jeff Harding) a professional criminal who had retired after having pursued a successful
career depriving Europe’s richest aristocrats of their jewels. However the security of his life was threatened by an
unnamed pretender to his felonious throne, who stole jewels using precisely the same methods as the Cat had done. Quite naturally
the finger of suspicion pointed at the Cat, even though he was entirely innocent. The action focused on his unwavering pursuit
of the true criminal, who actually turned out to be a woman Francie Stevens (Jennifer Lee Jellicorse).
Memorably filmed in
the mid-1950s, To Catch a Thief could have been created with Cary Grant in mind.
Like the actor, the Cat began life as an acrobat, before turning to a more profitable line of business amongst Europe’s
privileged elite. He spent most of his time in the most fashionable places – Monte Carlo, Cannes, Paris – hobnobbing
with the best people and living an apparently idyllic life of endless dinner-parties and other social occasions. Filmed in
glorious Technicolor, To Catch a Thief captured a long-forgotten era, when people
drove fast cars round glorious scenic locations, and the idea of mass tourism was practically unheard of.
Sara Davies' radio production
played on the listeners’ sense of collective nostalgia to create an entertaining caper, in which the scenic locations
were replaced by sound-effects – the endless chatter of party-guests, the piano tinkling unmemorable ditties in the
background, the whoosh of fast cars braking along winding roads. Harding gave an understated performance as the Cat, someone
proud of his reputation as a master-criminal, with a purely personal interest in finding out who his imitator was. He did
not care whether the jewels were returned; he simply wanted to protect his reputation by preventing anyone from plagiarizing
his methods. The world of To Catch a Thief was an old-fashioned one, where women
were expected to adorn the lush scenery of France, or Monaco, and not do anything in particular (which helps to explain why
everyone was so surprised when they discovered that the new Cat was a woman). In Davies' production, however, it remained
an entertaining world.