It Surprised Me That He Hit Her

June 11, 2013 § Leave a comment



“To Catch A Thief” (1955), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, screenplay by John Michael Hayes, from a novel by David Dodge.

I’ve seen Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” several times.  Years ago.  Maybe never watching closely.

This time, really watching, I jolted when Cary Grant hit Brigitte Auber.

Remember her?

Bet not.  She didn’t wear couture or feature in any seductive, glamorous close up shots.  Those were reserved for Grace Kelly, Grant’s love interest AND undeniably the most gorgeous thing on set.

Brigitte played Danielle, the young woman who is the true cat burglar in the story.

Brigitte Auber:Catch a Thief


She lights into Grant at her father’s funeral.  Basically, her father was fallout from Grant’s struggles to prove he’s innocent of recent burglaries.  Danielle got her father killed- one way of looking at it.  And she’s understandably overwrought.

She, in her ranting, gives voice to a band of former French Resistance cronies, accusing Grant of putting them all into jeopardy.  And there’s probably a fair amount of scorned lover going on, too.  Danielle is the ugly duckling who needs to accept her place, leave Grant alone, and we movie watchers know it.  Grant and Kelly are the couple.  We want that.  It’s clear.

And Danielle needs to be “put in her place” at the funeral, too; calmed, quieted.

The story line requires she be quelled.  We must (and do) see that Grant is now a hero in spite of his old stealing habit.  He’s reformed, he’s penitent.  He’s even considered, by none other than the victim of the most recent burglary, Grace Kelly’s character’s mother, to be a rung up from her rascal and self-made millionaire husband.  Suitable for her daughter both in spirit and humility.  Not perfect.  Reformed.

So, here’s why I jolted.

Would we, today, want that character, Grant’s, the spirited, humbled former bad guy, whom we are meant to adore in the end, to flat out slap a young girl in the face and, except for the few seconds of awkwardly choreographed fumbling when some funeral guests jump him, get away with it?  Nothing more “said” on screen?  Tacit agreement?

Is there movie history about this slap?  Was it commonly accepted that leading men slapped problematic women in movies in the 1950’s?

Angelina Jolie, for instance, gets slapped around pretty badly in “Salt.” And she gives as good as she gets.  It’s scripted.  Many movies script slaps these days.  The slapped women do, however, tend to be leading ladies and also tend to get vengeance.

Back to “To Catch a Thief.”  There’s something off about a director, producer, and more chillingly, an audience, or all three, letting that weird and unsettling slap happen.

More noble for Grant to have raised his hand, then decided against it, and walked away.

Again, I ask, and in truth, I hope:  “Was that just the ‘50’s?”

Hey, maybe I’m too sensitive.   But I sure haven’t ever slapped any girls in the face.


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