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Pitter-Pat And Rat-A-Tat-Tat

November 25, 2008

To Catch A ThiefThe November 25th Washington Post carried an announcement that screenwriter John Michael Hayes had died on November 19. Hayes, 89, was the screenwriter behind several classic Hitchcock films, including Rear Window (1954, adapted from a Cornell Woolrich story), To Catch a Thief (1955, from a novel by David Dodge), and the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Hayes’ work on Rear Window earned him both an Academy Award nomination and an Edgar Award.

While I hadn’t been thinking about Hayes in particular, a couple of those films have been on my mind recently as part of a project I’m working on now: a search for romantic crime films. Hitchcock’s movies often existed at the intersection of crime and romance, of course, from The 39 Steps and Notorious to Rear Window and (in their own way) Vertigo and Marnie. But To Catch A Thief certainly stands as one of the frothiest combinations of those two elements — not just in Hitchcock’s ouevre but in all of film history. The heart races nearly as much from that kiss against the backdrop of fireworks as it does from the gunfire ringing out over the rooftops.

Even my quick list of romantic crime films has already topped 30 titles, but I’m eager to see that list grow, especially with regards to 21st-century movies. Suggestions anyone? Please post as a comment below.

And in the meantime, here’s my suggestion to you: Rent To Catch A Thief, open a nice bottle of champagne, and toast a master screenwriter whose work contributed heavily to some of the finest films of Hitchcock’s career.

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