The Wrong Man

Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man

A man - coincidentally at the wrong place at the wrong time - is falsely accused of murder and is hunted by both the police and the bad guys.

The Lodger, 1926/1927
Blackmail, 1929
The 39 Steps, 1935
Young and Innocent, 1937/1938
Suspicion, 1941
Saboteur, 1942
Spellbound, 1944/1945
Strangers on a Train, 1950/1951
To Catch a Thief, 1954/1955
The Wrong Man, 1956
North by Northwest 1958/1959
Frenzy, 1971/1972

 

The Wrong Man (1956)

The Wrong Man is based on a true story. It was produced and released in 1956. It is characterized by grim almost documentary like realism. Superb acting by Henry Fonda and Vera Miles contributes to making this "non-Hitchcockian" film a great experience.

Christopher "Manny" Balestreros (Henry Fonda) is wrongly accused of robbery. Henry Fonda's superlative performance as the little man experiencing his worst nightmare ranks among his best achievements and may well be considered the best acting achievement in any Hitchcock movie.

Vera Miles in The Wrong Man

Vera Miles as Manny Balestreros' wife, one of the most moving characters in Hitchcock's films.

"This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking. In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one. The difference lies in the fact that this is a true story, every word of it. And yet it contains elements that are stranger than all the fiction that has gone into many of the thrillers that I've made before." (Alfred Hitchcock addressing the audiences at the beginning of the film.)

Cast

Henry Fonda... Christopher Emanuel 'Manny' Balestrero
Vera Miles... Rose Balestrero
Anthony Quayle... Frank D. O'Connor
Harold J. Stone... Det. Lt. Bowers
Charles Cooper... Det. Matthews
John Heldabrand... Tomasini
Esther Minciotti... Mama Balestrero
Doreen Lang... Ann James
Laurinda Barrett... Constance Willis
Norma Connolly... Betty Todd
Nehemiah Persoff... Eugene 'Gene' Conforti
Lola D'Annunzio... Olga Conforti, Manny's Sister
Kippy Campbell... Robert Balestrero
Robert Essen... Gregory Balestrero
Richard Robbins... Daniel, the guilty man
Dayton Lummis... Judge Groat
Peggy Webber... Miss Dennerly

The Wrong Man Motif

In many Hitchcock movies an innocent man is escaping from the police (and often also the bad guys).

  • The Lodger, 1926/1927
  • The 39 Steps, 1935
  • Young and Innocent, 1937/1938
  • Saboteur, 1942
  • Spellbound, 1944/1945
  • Strangers on a Train, 1950/1951
  • I Confess, 1952/1953
  • To Catch a Thief, 1954/1955
  • The Wrong Man, 1956
  • North by Northwest 1958/1959
  • Frenzy, 1971/1972

 

Double Exposure Shot in The Wrong Man

      

Alfred Hitchcock on the double-exposure scene in The Wrong Man: "If you take a real case, then you are restricted and bound. As a matter of fact, I think I made an error myself when I made that little film, The Wrong Man, in which I had to follow everything that happened in the actual case. I put in certain shots which I shouldn't have. For example, I wanted to show, at the moment when the real man is discovered, that he and the wrong man looked very much alike. I did it by taking a close-up of Henry Fonda whispering a prayer to the figure of Christ on the wall, and then over that big head I double-exposed a real street in Queens - and there's a man walking towards us. He gets closer and closer and comes right into close-up, and I fitted his face over that of Fonda. Fonda's face disappeared and the man turned and went into this general store and tried to hold it up. That's how he was really caught. He was knocked down by the little man who owned the store, while the wife phoned for the police. Now, I should never have done the double-exposure scene, because that never happened in the real story. I was introducing creative elements into a story that didn't need to be improved upon." (Sidney Gottlieb: Alfred Hitchcock Interviews)

 

> See more examples of double exposed shots here!

 

The Wrong Man (1956)- Title Design

Title Design: The Wrong ManTitle Design: The Wrong ManHenry Fonda. Title Design: The Wrong ManVera Miles. Title Design: The Wrong ManTitle Design: The Wrong ManTitle Design: The Wrong ManAnthony Quayle. Title Design: The Wrong ManTitle Design: The Wrong ManTitle Design: The Wrong ManTitle Design: The Wrong ManTitle Design: The Wrong ManBernard Herrmann. Title Design: The Wrong ManHerbert Coleman. Title Design: The Wrong Man

Subjective Camera in The Wrong Man

In an interesting subjective shot in The Wrong Man, the camera moves around like a ferris wheel as Manny Balestreros leans toward the wall in his prison cell. It is the camera - the voyeur - that is dizzy due to the identification with the man who is wrongly accused and imprisoned. A subjective shot taken from an objective point of view.

Francois Truffaut: The real problem is with the direction. You're trying to make the public identify with Fonda, but when he goes into his cell, for instance, you show the walls spinning in front of the camera. That's an antirealistic effect. I feel it would have been a good deal more convincing if you had simply shown Henry Fonda sitting on a stool in the cell.
Alfred Hitchcock: Maybe so, but wouldn't that be rather dull?
(Francois Truffaut: "Hitchcock")

 

Mother in The Wrong Man

Henry Fonda as Manny Balestreros in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man.

Hello, mother! Henry Fonda as Manny Balestreros in The Wrong Man (1956).

 

High Angle Shots: Examples from The Wrong Man

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda has just made the same spelling mistake as the robber, writing "cash draw" instead of "cash drawer". The detectives are certain that he is the robber.

"Give me your right hand. Relax." Manny Balestreros is being booked for assault and robbery.

The Bars Motif in The Wrong Man

Henry Fonda behind bars in The Wrong Man.

Henry Fonda behind bars in The Wrong Man.

Peggy Webber (as Miss Dennerly) behind bars at the Associated Life office as she thinks she sees the man who previously robbed the office.

Henry Fonda behind bars at the Associated Life office foreshadowing his arrest and imprisonment.

Henry Fonda entering his prison cell.

 

Montage at the Moment of Truth in The Wrong Man

                         

 

Quotes from The Wrong Man

Kid 1: It says here that Mozart wrote this when he was five, so I should be able to play it - I'm 8.
Kid 2: I'm 5, so I should be able to write it.

 

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