The Wrong Man (1956)

Trying to get the taste of Dr. Giggles out of my mouth from this morning’s DailyView, I went back to an old standby, one of my favorite directors of all-time, Alfred Hitchcock. There have not been many Hitchcock films that I have not enjoyed and this is another one that fits right into that category. The Wrong Man was from 1956 starring Henry Fonda.

Christopher Emanuel “Manny” Balestrero (Henry Fonda) is a kind, honest, selfless man, a great husband and father. He plays in a local band and struggles to get by in the world. Despite this, he is happy with his wife Rose (Vera Miles) and two sons.

Rose was having dental problems and they needed $300 for the trip to the dentist. Manny went to the insurance company to borrow money against his wife’s policy. While there, the staff of the insurance company believed that he was the same man who had robbed their business twice before. Manny was arrested and put on trial for the crmes.

The film started off with a monologue from Alfred Hitchcock himself stating that this movie was unlike any one he had done before because the movie told the case that was real and that every single word was true. He said that there were twists that created the same amount of suspense as anything that he could have made up.

Henry Fonda is very compelling as the innocent man accused of the crime. Watching him as he trustfully allowed the police to do whatever they wanted, walking him through the shops he was meant to have robbed was just amazing. If these are true, the evidence collection of the police is totally tainted. This was one of the best parts of the film, watching the police doing their job, honestly, but incompetently, collecting evidence. The lineup seemed to easily argued against with the way they ran it. I kept waiting for the defense attorney to go after the lineup, but it did not happen.

The nervous breakdown by Rose was a hugely tragic moment of the film and with it being a true story, this really showed how painful this false arrest caused. Manny was such a respectful and honest guy, but his milquetoast personality allowed things to go too far. Someone a little more confident would have stopped things earlier. The costs to prove his innocence was more than just monetary.

The tension of the story came from the reality of the situation. Knowing off the bat that this was a true story and that every word was true, as Hitchcock said, limited the film in my opinion. However, the details did still feel as if it were made up, proving that the cliché about truth being stranger than fiction is completely true.

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