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The Wrong Man

Original film poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Uncredited:
Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Story:
Maxwell Anderson
The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero
Maxwell Anderson
Angus MacPhail
Starring Henry Fonda
Vera Miles
Anthony Quayle
Harold Stone
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) December 22, 1957 (U.S.)
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$1,200,000

The Wrong Man is a 1956 film by Alfred Hitchcock which stars Henry Fonda and Vera Miles. The film is based on a true story of an innocent man charged for a crime he did not commit, even though witnesses swear he is guilty. The story was based on the book The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero by Maxwell Anderson and the article "A Case of Identity" (Life magazine, June 29, 1953) by Herbert Brean.

The Wrong Man has had a significant influence on many directors. The Wrong Man provoked the longest piece of criticism written by Jean-Luc Godard and was an influence on Taxi Driver.[1]



The film examines the experience of Manny Balestrero (Fonda) who works as a musician in the Stork Club, a nightclub in New York City. Manny and Rose (Miles), his wife, have very little money. When Rose needs some dental work, Manny attempts to borrow on her insurance policy at the insurance office. Unfortunately, he bears a resemblance to an armed robber who had held up the office twice before, so the police are called. Manny is identified by several witnesses and, when providing a handwriting sample, he nervously misspells a word that was also misspelled on the robbery note. He is arrested and charged with the crime.

His defense attorney, Frank O'Connor, builds a case based on mistaken identity. At the time of the first hold-up, Manny had a swollen jaw - a fact which the insurance-office employee would have noticed if Manny had been the robber. At the time of the second hold-up Manny was away on vacation with his family. Manny and Rose look for the three people who could have testified that he was present at the vacation hotel on the day of the hold-up, but two had died in the intervening months and the third could not be found. The stress of all this has a devastating effect on Rose who slowly descends into depression to the point where she is institutionalized.

During the trial a juror, bored with the minutia of one witness's testimony, makes a remark which prompts the judge to grant a mistrial. While Manny is awaiting re-trial the real robber is arrested in the act of robbing a grocery store and Manny is exonerated. He visits Rose at the sanatorium to tell her the good news but she remains in an apathic state. The film closes with a textual epilogue that reveals that two years later Rose had fully recovered and the family moved to Florida.

Historical notes

The real O'Connor (1909-1992) was a New York State Senator at the time of the trial. He went on to become district attorney of Queens County (New York City, New York), president of the New York City Council and an appellate-court judge.


Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In The Wrong Man he can be seen (at the beginning of the film before the movie actually starts) in silhouette standing in a darkened street as he tells the audience the film is a true story.

The prison scenes were filmed in a real prison (City Prison in Queens, New York). When Manny (Henry Fonda) is taken to his cell, one of the actual inmates shouts "What'd they get ya for, Henry?".

The film was scored by Bernard Herrmann who wrote the soundtracks for all of Hitchcock's films from The Trouble with Harry (1955) through Marnie (1964). It is one of the most-subdued scores Herrmann ever wrote and one of the few he composed with some jazz elements, primarily to represent Fonda's appearance as a musician in the nightclub scenes.

It was the final film that Hitchcock made for Warner Bros., completing a contract commitment that had begun with two films produced for Transatlantic Pictures and released by Warner Bros. in the late 1940s, Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949) (his first two films in Technicolor). After The Wrong Man, Hitchcock resumed his work at Paramount Pictures until he moved to Universal Pictures for the remainder of his career. He also made a single film for Metro-Goldwyn-MayerNorth by Northwest (1959) that has since passed on to Warner Bros.


See also


  1. ^ Godard on Godard, translated by Tom Milne, Da Capo Press) in his years as a critic; and in Scorsese on Scorsese(edited by Ian Christie and David Thompson), it is cited as an influence on Taxi Driver.

External links

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