The Wrong Man

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The Wrong Man
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by Maxwell Anderson
Angus MacPhail
Based on The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero
by Maxwell Anderson
Starring Henry Fonda
Vera Miles
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by George Tomasini
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • December 22, 1956 (1956-12-22) (US)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$1.2 million
Box office US$2 million

The Wrong Man is a 1956 American docudrama film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Henry Fonda and Vera Miles.[1][2] The film was drawn from the true story of an innocent man charged with a crime, as described in the book The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero by Maxwell Anderson[3][4] and in the magazine article "A Case of Identity" (Life magazine, June 29, 1953) by Herbert Brean.[5]

It is one of the few Hitchcock films based on a true story and whose plot closely follows the real-life events.

The Wrong Man had a notable effect on two significant directors: it prompted Jean-Luc Godard's longest piece of written criticism in his years as a critic,[6] and it has been cited as an influence on Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.[7]


Alfred Hitchcock appears on screen to tell the audience that the film's "every word is true".

Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda), a down-on-his-luck musician at New York City's Stork Club, needs $300 for dental work for his wife Rose (Vera Miles). When he visits the office of a life insurance company to borrow against Rose's policy, he is mistaken by the staff there for a man who had twice held them up. He is questioned by police, and without being told why, is instructed to walk in and out of a liquor store and delicatessen, which had also been robbed. He is then asked to write the words from a "stick-up note" note used in the insurance office robbery; he misspells the word "drawer" as "draw" – the same mistake seen in the robber's note. After being picked out of a police lineup by a worker at the insurance office, he is arrested.

Attorney Frank O'Connor (Anthony Quayle) sets out to prove that Manny cannot possibly be the right man: at the time of the first hold-up he was on vacation with his family, and at the time of the second his jaw was so swollen that witnesses would certainly have noticed. Of three people who saw Manny at the vacation hotel, two have died and the third cannot be found. All this devastates Rose, whose resulting depression forces her to be hospitalized.

During Manny's trial a juror's remark forces a mistrial. While awaiting a second trial he is exonerated when the true robber is arrested holding up a grocery store. Manny visits Rose at the hospital to share the good news, but, as the film ends, she remains severely depressed; a textual epilogue explains that she recovered two years later.


Cast notes

Historical notes[edit]

The real O'Connor (1909–1992) was a former New York State Senator at the time of the trial, and later became the district attorney of Queens County (New York City, New York), the president of the New York City Council and an appellate-court judge.

Rose Balestrero (1910–1982) died in Florida at the age of 72.[9]


A Hitchcock cameo is typical of most of his films. In The Wrong Man, he appears only in silhouette in a darkened studio, just before the credits at the beginning of the film, announcing that the story is true. Originally, he intended to be seen as a customer walking into the Stork Club, but he edited himself out of the final print.[10]

Many scenes were filmed in Jackson Heights, the neighborhood where Manny lived when he was accused. Most of the prison scenes were filmed among the convicts in a New York City prison in Queens. The courthouse was located at the corner of Catalpa Avenue and 64th Street in Ridgewood.[11]

Bernard Herrmann composed the soundtrack, as he had 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, here primarily to represent Fonda's appearance as a musician in the nightclub scenes.

This was Hitchcock's final film for Warner Bros. It completed a contract commitment that had begun with two films produced for Transatlantic Pictures and released by Warner Brothers: Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949), his first two films in Technicolor. After The Wrong Man, Hitchcock returned to Paramount Pictures.


The Rotten Tomatoes approval rating was 91% in March 2017.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Variety film review; January 2, 1957, page 6.
  2. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; December 22, 1956, page 204.
  3. ^ Harris, R.A.; Lasky, M.S. (2002). The Complete Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Citadel. ISBN 9780806524276. 
  4. ^ "The Wrong Man". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  5. ^ Brean, Herbert (June 29, 1953). "A Case of Identity". Life, p. 97.
  6. ^ Godard on Godard (translated by Tom Milne, Da Capo Press)
  7. ^ Scorsese on Scorsese (edited by Ian Christie and David Thompson)
  8. ^ "The Wrong Man (1956)" – via 
  9. ^ "". 
  10. ^ TV Guide Movie Reviews. The Greatest Films of All Time. 2005. p. 188. 
  11. ^ "RIDGEWOOD, Queens - Forgotten New York". 

External links[edit]