Jeff’s Watchlist: The Wrong Man (1956)

The Wrong Man is a 1956 film by Alfred Hitchcock. It is the only time that Hitchcock spoke in any of his films. 

From the opening credits, we learn that a real Detective and District Attorney consulted on this film, and that it was based on a true story. So when the events unfold, you are drawn in because this must be what actually happened. And this must be what it’s like to be put up by the police. 

This retro Warner Bros. Logo in front of a party still looks awesome today.

The cinematography completely carries this film coupled with the insanely well executed editing. I think this is why I have the patience to sit down and watch a 64 year old movie, because the viewer’s eyes are treated with respect. 

Here is a fantastic article from the legendary Guy Hamilton: “Film directors must be gentle to the viewer’s eye”

The camera eases us gently into the story and is not jarring. Then- when you are finally comfortable- the editing creates the intensity and suspense! The fast cutting in the jail cell when our main character Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda) is finally booked, it’s just terrifying. 

The eyelines, the double takes, the first person views, all incredible use of the camera.

Vera Miles as Rose knocks it out of the park with her acting. Miles and Fonda’s scenes feel totally real, this is a black and white film on the edge of the explosion of filmmaking that was the 60’s, I would say this is really incredible acting. 

Frank O’Connor (Anthony Quayle) as the defense attorney was great, the whole cast including the ladies at the insurance company played great.

According to IMDb this is the only time Fonda and Hitchcock collaborated, and they really did incredible work making these characters. Only for one moment- when he says his age is 38- did I feel it was a bit unreal. The choke-hold at the end was a bit tame in the action department, but overall I’m watching a movie of its time. Its a movie of its time but that doesn’t hold it back at all! It makes it more authentic. 

There are many universal truths in this film, no one wants to be wrongly accused. I can’t imagine how horrifying it must have been to watch this film when it was just released!