It was 65 years ago this week that To Catch a Thief, Alfred Hitchcock’s romantic thriller film starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, premiered in Los Angeles. But that star-studded event came five years after the audacious burglary—the one that inspired author David Dodge to write his 1952 novel, To Catch a Thief—was committed in the South of France.
As University of California, Berkeley librarian Randal S. Brandt recalls in The Rap Sheet, the theft of valuable jewels from an impressive Côte d’Azur villa on August 5, 1950—70 years ago today—provided American mystery writer Dodge with the idea for his now-famous crime caper. It also brought Dodge himself under police suspicion for having committed the crime, at least briefly. Only later did evidence reveal the identity of the real perpetrator, a young Italian man with acrobatic skills and a shadowy past.
International news media loved the story of that prolific cat burglar, dubbing him “Tarzan of the Côte d’Azur” or “Tarzan of the Riviera,” or sometimes even the “Phantom of the Riviera.” They also followed efforts to capture him—and his successes in eluding and escaping from police custody.
You can read the whole dramatic story today in The Rap Sheet.