Culture Wikia
This article is about the action/adventure series. For the reality series, see It Takes a Thief (2005 TV series).

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It Takes a Thief
File:It takes a thief astaire wagner 1969.JPG
Fred Astaire and Robert Wagner, 1969.
Created byRoland Kibbee
StarringRobert Wagner
Malachi Throne
Fred Astaire
Ed Binns
Theme music composerDave Grusin
ComposersDave Grusin
Benny Golson
Oliver Nelson
Billy Goldenberg
Lyn Murray
Ernie Freeman
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes66 (list of episodes)
Executive producersJack Arnold
Gordon Oliver
Frank Price
ProducersGene L. Coon
Leonard Horn
Glen A. Larson
Paul Mason
Winston Miller
Leslie Stevens
Running time60 minutes [1]
Original networkABC
Original releaseJanuary 9, 1968 (1968-01-09) –
March 24, 1970 (1970-03-24)

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It Takes a Thief is an American action-adventure television series that aired on ABC for three seasons between 1968 and 1970. It stars Robert Wagner in his television debut as sophisticated thief Alexander Mundy, who works for the U.S. government in return for his release from prison. For most of the series, Malachi Throne played Noah Bain, Mundy's boss.

It was among the last of the 1960s spy television genre, although Mission: Impossible continued for several more years. It Takes A Thief was inspired by, though not based upon, the 1955 Cary Grant motion picture To Catch a Thief, directed by Alfred Hitchcock; both of their titles stem from the English proverb "Set a thief to catch a thief."


File:Malachi Throne Robert Wagner It Takes a Thief 1968.jpg

Malachi Throne with Robert Wagner in It Takes a Thief, 1968.

It Takes a Thief, which was created by television writer Roland Kibbee, featured the adventures of cat burglar, pickpocket, and thief Alexander Mundy, who steals to finance his life as a polished playboy and sophisticate. He is in prison when the U.S. government's SIA (the fictional Secret Intelligence Agency) proposes a deal to Mundy: steal for the government in exchange for his freedom. Mundy is puzzled and asks, "Let me get this straight. You want me to steal?" In the main opening titles, his new SIA boss, Noah Bain, uses the catch phrase, "Oh, look, Al, I'm not asking you to spy. I'm just asking you to steal." In pre-production, the title for a while was Once a Crook.[2]

The series opened with its pilot episode, a ninety-minute (with commercials) special premiere titled "A Thief is a Thief is a Thief," written by Kibbee and directed by Leslie Stevens. When the series was released in syndication in the 1970s, the pilot episode was withheld from the package and was expanded into a 99-minute feature film for overseas release; this was eventually released in a separate domestic syndication package, under the title Magnificent Thief. The pilot feature film version was released on home video in the 1990s.

In the series' third season, Throne was replaced by Edward Binns as Mundy's SIA boss, Wallie Powers. As Throne explained: "They had this idea of shooting the whole season in Italy, but they wanted me to stay behind and give Wagner’s character...orders over the phone. I told them if I didn’t go I’d quit, and I did. The show didn’t last another half a season."[3] Throne's version of events was incorrect, as the third season was not shortened. In the end, portions of season three were filmed in Europe and Binns, Throne's replacement, filmed some scenes there.

Also during the third season, Fred Astaire played Alistair Mundy, Alexander's father, in five episodes. Alistair is also a master gentleman-thief, who says bemusedly, at the start of each episode in which he appears, "I've heard of stealing from the government, but for the government?" Alistair was the lead character in most episodes in which he appeared, rather than Wagner's character of Alexander, who was relegated to supporting or even cameo roles in these episodes. This is somewhat reminiscent of the way the 1950s TV series Maverick would introduce a relative of the previously established main character, and then alternate the two characters the leading series role from week to week.

The following is drawn from Dean Brierly's writings in Cinema Retro magazine on Friday, July 18. 2008.

"For all Wagner's abilities, however, It Takes a Thief was its most effective when Throne made his powerful presence as Noah Bain manifest. Wagner's stage-trained primary cast-mate, whose trademarks included a deep distinctive voice, was a working actor in many 'cult' television productions during the 1960s and 1970s. His burly physique and stolid slab-like face enabled Throne to excel as gruff authority figures, and his keen intelligence and surprisingly wide emotional range added fascinating layers to his performances. The potent onscreen chemistry he and Wagner displayed gave a real edge to their characters' adversarial relationship. Bain, whom Magnificent Thief had shown to be the police detective who had brought about Mundy's arrest and imprisonment, was hard-nosed, with a ruthless streak, and he frequently threatened to return Mundy to prison if the latter stepped out of line. Yet he also maintained a healthy respect for Mundy’s criminal talents, as well as a grudging affection for the master criminal himself."

Susan Saint James appeared in five episodes. Charlene Holt appeared in three episodes. Other guest stars included prominent veteran Hollywood movie stars like Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Paul Henreid, Fernando Lamas, and Ida Lupino.


Main article: List of It Takes a Thief (1968 TV series) episodes

DVD releases[]

On November 15, 2011, Entertainment One released It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the first time. The 18-disc set features all 66 episodes of the series, several bonus features, an interview with Robert Wagner, and a special feature length cut of the pilot episode.[4] The DVD set was promoted in commercials broadcast on Antenna TV, which featured Wagner publicizing the DVD set. Entertainment One would later release The Complete First Season as a standalone DVD set on October 2, 2012; this set also had the feature-length pilot episode.

In Region 4, Madman Entertainment has released the entire series on DVD in Australia and New Zealand as three season box sets.[5][6][7]


As of early May 2012, It Takes a Thief could be seen in syndication on the Antenna TV network.[8]


Universal Pictures is developing a film version of the series with John Davis producing through Davis Entertainment, along with Joseph Singer. Derek Dauchy is supervising the project for Davis and Scott Bernstein for Universal. Greg Russo is writing the script.[9]

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  1. It Takes a Thief on IMDbTemplate:Unreliable source?
  2. Weiner, Ed; Editors of TV Guide (1992). The TV Guide TV Book: 40 Years of the All-Time Greatest Television Facts, Fads, Hits, and History. New York: Harper Collins. p. 174. ISBN 0-06-096914-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. "It Takes A Thief Now Playing On A Computer Near You". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  4. "It Takes a Thief DVD news: Date Change for It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  5. "It Takes a Thief: The Complete First Season". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  6. "It Takes a Thief: The Complete Second Season". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  7. "It Takes a Thief: The Complete Third Season". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  8. "Program Schedule" (PDF). Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  9. Universal Turning 1970s Series ‘It Takes a Thief’ into Film (EXCLUSIVE)

External links[]