Saturday, May 12, 2012

Random Hitchcock: The Wrong Man (1956)

To my knowledge, this is the only Hitchcock film based directly on a true story.  Granted the back story in Rope was inspired by true events from the 1920's, but the play that film is based on is fiction.  This is not.  The screenplay come from the true crime book by Maxwell Anderson The True Story Of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero, which, in turn, was inspired by a 1953 article that appeared in Life magazine by Herbert Brean entitled "A Case Of Identity."  This is a straight story, told with very little change to the basic facts of the real life events that took place.  The basic facts of the case was one of serious mistaken identity.  Balestrero, or "Manny" as he was affectionately known, bore a striking resemblance to a person who had held up an insurance office twice.  When Balestrero went to the insurance company to borrow from an insurance policy taken out by his wife Rose, for purposes of getting some dental work for her, several office workers "recognized" him and the police were called.  He was subsequently arrested for both hold up, despite that during the time period of the first robbery is was out of town on vacation with his family, and at the time of the second, he had a seriously swollen jaw, something that any eye-witness to the hold up would have noted.  The actual robber had no swollen face.  Manny's lawyer Frank D. O'Connor, who would go on to be a justice on the New York Supreme Court, managed, after a long and arduous trial to get a mistrial, but this was not before Rose Balestrero was institutionalized for serious stress related depression.  While awaiting a second trial, the real robber was arrested during an attempt to rob a grocery store--Manny was then released.  Rose would eventually recover and the family moved to Florida.  Balestrero is portrayed by Henry Fonda in the film, his only time working with Hitchcock, and British actor Anthony Quayle takes on the role of his hard working attorney O'Connor.  Rose is played by Vera Miles.  

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