In Hitchcock’s lush thriller, To Catch a Thief (1955), a cliff-side picnic lunch gets served up with equal measures of innuendo, elegance, and cheek. Have you seen this film? If not, you must.
Now retired in style to the French Riviera, John Robie (Cary Grant), a.k.a. “the Cat,” is a reformed jewel thief and former French Resistance hero wrongfully under suspicion for a series of burglaries done by an imitator of his distinctive techniques.
An investigation brings Robie to the thief’s next probable target: Frances “Francie” Stevens (Grace Kelly), an icy-hot American heiress who coyly invites Robie to a picnic in the hills overlooking the sea. Wicker hamper stashed in the trunk, the two take off through the sun-drenched landscape in her sleek convertible, police trailing closely behind. But Francie is unfazed. White-gloved hands on the steering wheel, she swerves past buses, pedestrians, poultry, and narrow cliff-side passes, and leaves the French cops in the dust.
She soon pulls into a quiet, secluded spot overlooking tiled rooftops, bougainvilleas, and blue water. After smoothing her hair with a comb from her purse, she serves lunch.
It is a simple meal of cold chicken and beer served from the wicker hamper and eaten sitting in the open-topped car. Robie stretches his legs out the door and drinks his beer directly from the bottle, while Francie stays tucked in her seat, pouring hers into a glass.
She coolly offers him a piece of chicken. There is only the tiniest measure of slyness in her voice: “Do you want a leg or a breast?”
“You make the choice,” Robie says.
The Celluloid Pantry is a classic column that ran on The Kitchn from 2006 through 2007 that revisited many iconic moments of food and drink in films. We're taking a trip back through some of our favorites this month, in anticipation of this year's crop of Oscars. Enjoy!
(Image credits: Paramount Pictures; Emma Christensen)