Wednesday, September 12, 2018
The Wrong Man (1956)
The Wrong Man is the story of a musician (Manny Balestrero, played by Henry Fonda) who is falsely accused of a series of robberies. Coming from Hitchcock you might therefore expect something along the lines of The 39 Steps, though, with the protagonist dashing off across the countryside in pursuit of the real criminal with the police hard on his heels. What you get is something quite different. There is no action at all. No chases. The first half hour simply follows Manny’s life an establishes him as the archetypal regular guy – quiet, sober, a devoted husband and father, a man so law-abiding and inoffensive that he’s probably never even had a parking ticket.
The rest of the film follows the progress of Manny’s case, which has been taken on by lawyer Frank O’Connor (played by Anthony Quayle), and it also follows the gradual mental breakdown of his wife Rose (Vera Miles) under the strain.
There’s no comedy at all in this movie. Just as Manny and Rose find no escape from the remorselessness with which fate seems determined to crush them, so the viewer gets no escape either.
Vera Miles is superb as Rose – she never pushes her performance too far. Henry Fonda (an actor I’m afraid I’ve never liked) is about as perfectly cast as it’s possible for an actor to be.
This is one of the few movies in which Hitchcock deals directly with his Catholic faith, but the religious elements certainly don’t overpower the story.
Given Hitchcock’s own loathing of the police it’s reasonable to surmise that this was a rather personal film for him!
The Wrong Man is one of Hitchcock’s more underrated films. It’s a very compelling and very powerful film. Highly recommended.