Entertainment Weekly

TO CATCH A THIEF (NOT) ($136 MILLION JEWEL)

MOVIE STARS, WORLD LEADERS, AND LUMINARIES HAVE DESCENDED ON THE LUXURIOUS CARLTON HOTEL—HOME OF THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL—FOR MORE THAN SEVEN DECADES. BUT THE SETTING OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S CAT-BURGLAR CLASSIC HAS ALSO BEEN THE SCENE OF TWO OF THE WORLD’S MOST MYSTERIOUS HEISTS.
Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in 1955’s To Catch a Thief

PART 1 / THE STORY

Three masked gunmen walk into a luxury hotel and start blasting machine guns.

It’s August 1994, and outside the historic Carlton Cannes, it’s a quiet afternoon on the French Riviera. Sidewalks bustle with the usual deep-pocketed shoppers and snapshot-seeking tourists as sunbathers frolic on the hotel’s golden Mediterranean beach across the street. Inside the hotel, guests and workers plunge to the ground for cover as fire and noise rip the air overhead. In the hotel’s jewelry store, diamonds and other gems reported to be worth between $43 million and $77 million are roughly liberated from their display cases and stuffed into bags, soon to vanish forever—along with the trio of assailants.

As the smoke clears, the victims rise back to their feet. Is anyone dead? Anyone injured?

It appears not. The only harm must have been to the belle epoque hotel, built in 1911, long renowned as the heart of the annual Cannes Film Festival and a lavish home away from home to some of the most wealthy, beautiful, and famous people in the world. Except…there were no bullet holes. The walls, light fixtures, and columns were unmarked. Like so many who flock to Cannes, flaunting their jewels and themselves, it was all for show. The robbers had been firing blanks.

Have a drink in the Carlton lobby during the annual film festival in May and someone will likely regale you with the story. It’s still discussed by hotel workers, who sometimes fret to journalists about their safety amid luxury goods that attract such vicious criminals. The 1996 Guinness Book of World Records ranked the crime as the costliest jewel heist in history, and the incident has been recounted by National Geographic, Britain’s BBC, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and countless other news outlets, usually in the context of other costly or daring heists.

surveillance footage taken during the 2013 jewel heist at the Carlton hotel

This violent episode in the Carlton’s otherwise elegant past has become part of its legend. Even the hoax aspect of fake

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