william steig drawing

June 23, 2010
Kartina Richardson

To Catch a Thief: Danielle

My lord. It’s been quite a while hasn’t it?

There are many things to say about To Catch a Thief.

The scenery is certainly worth a rapturous comment or two. The color photography more so. Cary Grant’s furrowed brow (also making frequent appearances in Suspicion, Notorious, North by Northwest and maybe even Father Goose) deserves a discussion of its own. And there is no reason why Grace Kelly’s Philadelphian lilt alone (simultaneously aristocratic and mischievous) shouldn’t inspire a few spontaneous collages, novels, fashion editorials, interior design ideas, and new kinds of martinis.

Oh Yes. There are many things to say. But I shall say only one:

Isn’t Danielle Foussard a lovely little thing?

Wait, wait, wait. But isn’t Grace Kelly the Hitchcockian towhead of choice?

Well yes.

Kelly is powerful. A fantastic actress with an unexpected talent for perfect delivery and comedic timing. But let us be truthful, it is her beauty that intrigues. She is stunning of course. Even those of us hesitant to praise the overly praised (the long, slim, and lithe blonds) are not immune to her beauty. We stand no chance you see. Kelly is saturated with delicate poise. It drips off her wispy body (in a charming way). Rolling along long, slim, shoulders. Down long slim arms. Off the tips of long slim fingers, drenching all that pass in a shower of elegance. Kelly is grace and grace is Kelly.

So you see, I have no lack of love for the woman. My appreciation is endless. I am simply able to simultaneously admire another.

Isn’t Danielle Foussard a lovely little thing?

You remember Danielle don’t you? Played by the French actress Brigitte Auber? You must. You might not remember her name, but you must remember the girl.

If Kelly is composed of long lines, Auber is a symphony of circles.

Round and rounded. She is like the sun itself. Her small bright circle of a face framed by a short haircut that emphasizes its roundness. Glowing cherubic cheeks and the tip of her nose. The rounded inner corners of her finely arched eyebrows. The pointy bra that positions her not large, but noticeable breasts straight up and out like two small Oranges or two over sized Pluots. She is like a cartoon of an adorable healthy sun kissed girl that only exists in the summer. The perfect contrast to Kelly, Auber puts sex on a platter (Kelly does too but she holds it above your head).

When I think of To Catch a Thief one scene comes to mind before all others: Danielle ferries Grant (as John Robie the Cat) away from the police and across the ocean in a little speed boat. Along the way she does her best to convince Robie to submit to her charms. She is sarcastic and mean. Probably trying to prove her grownup-ness to her old tutor. It is wonderful to hear such cutting remarks coming from such a doll of girl. Even her speech is soft and round. It is exquisitely strange. I’m not sure whether it is a certain French dialect, or a speech impediment combined with accent. Or just her own weird talking style.

Either way, it is memorable and I love her.

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  1. auber, and especially her voice, is what makes this movie great to me.
    “zouwf …amewica?”

    also, great accent yourself!

  2. What a charming write-up. Perfect description of Danielle Foussard. Now I want to watch this movie.

  3. Great essay. You’ve pointed out exactly the reason I still remember this movie (even i didn’t know the reason), having seen it at 11. Watchable Hitchcock, made rewatchable by one of his most memorable brunettes

  4. Found my way here through your “Foreign Correspondent” post at RogerEbert.com and have spent the afternoon reading your delightful pieces. Your unabashed love for these movies and actors is infectious. Danielle Foussard *is* a lovely little thing, and it is thoroughly enjoyable to be reminded.

    As for Astaire’s Bojangles, ’nuff said. That number in the midst of one of my favorite imaginary worlds has always pained me. Yours is a precise analysis, which looks the thing in its face (so to speak) and calls it by the right names. I am glad I read your article, and will remain so, even if I would perhaps have originally preferred to excuse the act with one of the tired platitudes you expose.

    I know Fred knows that we both still love him.

    Thank you!


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