Skip to content

Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

The Thief Who Came to Dinner

1973 | United States | 104 min | More...
A still from The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973)
  • Watched on B+: 4 stars (out of 5)
    on Tue Aug 30, 2022 via Watch TCM

    Ryan O’Neal plays a computer programmer who quits his well-paying job to become a jewel thief.

    What a pleasant surprise. O’Neal charms as a man who “decided only some of the rules apply,” and opts to make his own. His first robbery proves comical. Automatic sprinklers drench him as he approaches the house. His well-practiced glass cutting routine results in the entire window shattering. Despite the hiccups, his break-in proves successful. Besides loot, he purloins information he uses to blackmail the house’s owner into introducing him to high society.

    Now O’Neal is mingling with the very people he’s planning to rob. He’s a gentleman thief ala Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief and meets his Grace Kelly in the form of Jacqueline Bisset, who plays an heiress living in an empty rundown estate she can’t sell or afford.

    As O’Neal’s robberies mount, the insurance companies dispatch Warren Oates to investigate. Rather than setup a cat-and-mouse game between the two, O’Neal recognizes something of a kindred soul in Oates. When Oats ends up hospitalized trying to keep up with O’Neal on a run, O’Neal visits, bringing him a copy of Don Quixote. Later, when Oates is tailing him and has car trouble, O’Neal pulls over to help, and even tells Oates where he’s going.

    As the straight-laced Oates grows frustrated with his investigation, O’Neal sets his sights on a million dollar score. I found myself worried the film wouldn’t stick the landing, but Walter Hill’s script delivers a taunt finale followed by a perfect dénouement between O’Neal and Oates. The result is an entertaining caper picture with a resonant subversive undercurrent.