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The working title of this film was Into Thin Air. The Man Who Knew Too Much opens with the following written statement: "A single crash of Cymbals and how it rocked the lives of an American Family."
According to the file on the film in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, The Man Who Knew Too Much originally was to be produced by the studio and Patron, Inc., a company to be jointly owned by actors James Stewart and Doris Day, along with producer-director Alfred Hitchcock. When the film finally went before the cameras, however, the production company was Filwite Productions, Inc., which was co-owned by Hitchcock and Stewart. It has not been determined why Day was not included in the final production deal.
According to production charts found in the Paramount Collection, shooting on The Man Who Knew Too Much began on May 12, 1955 in Marrakech. Filming on location in Morocco was completed on May 20, 1955, and the production then moved to London, where it resumed filming on May 25, 1955. After finishing shooting in London on June 21, 1955, the production returned to the Paramount studio lot in Hollywood, where interiors commenced filming on June 25, 1955 and ended on August 24, 1955. In all, The Man Who Knew Too Much finished production thirty-seven days behind schedule, including six shutdown days. Paramount internal memos show that the film went well over its original budget, costing $1,834,000, exclusive of the stars' and director's salaries.
According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, writer Angus McPhail worked on the screenplay to The Man Who Knew Too Much. In a letter dated October 12, 1955, McPhail protested his lack of screen credit on the film to the Screen Writers Guild, arguing that he worked on the project from January 25, 1955 to April 25, 1955. At that time, screenwriter John Michael Hayes was brought onto the project, and the draft of the screenplay dated May 7, 1955 contained both writers' names. McPhail further argued that he continued to work on the project, making changes to the 7 May draft between May 9, 1955 and June 7, 1955, and thus deserved first screenwriter credit. Hayes, however, wrote on August 8, 1955 that he did not believe McPhail deserved co-writer credit and the Screen Writers Guild agreed with his opinion, granting Hayes the lone screenwriting credit. The Man Who Knew Too Much was the fourth and final film collaboration between Hitchcock and Hayes.
Hollywood Reporter news items include Edith Russell, Greta Ullman, June Wood, Edna Smith, Frieda Stoll, Howard Beals, Walter Bacon, Sybil Bacon, Ruth Barnell, Estelle Bennett, Arline Bletcher, Helen Bruno, Henriette Burns, Vicky Coe, Adele Corliss, May Cruze, Millie Fitzgerald, Charles Dunbar, Mary Adam Hayes, Marion Lessing, Ann Kunde, Boots Kaye and Lottie Fletcher in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo by appearing in the Moroccan marketplace, watching the acrobats. Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles premiere of The Man Who Knew Too Much was held on May 22, 1956, as a benefit for the University Religious Conferences. The film received the 1956 Academy Award for Best Song for the Jay Livingston-Ray Evans composition "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)." The song became a trademark hit for singer-actress Doris Day, who performed it again in two other films, M-G-M's 1960 release Please Don't Eat the Daisies and M-G-M's 1966 film The Glass-Bottomed Boat (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Day also used it as the theme song for her 1960s CBS television series. In 1963, New York Times reported that Paramount was reissuing The Man Who Knew Too Much as a double feature with another Hitchcock film, The Trouble with Harry (see below).
In 1965, Hollywood Reporter reported that Hitchcock and Stewart had filed suit against Paramount for $4,000,000, arguing that their eight-year agreement with the studio had ended and that Paramount had breached their copyright by televising the film. The director and actor also requested that the film's original negative be returned to them by the studio. The final disposition of this lawsuit has not been determined, but the film remained out of commercial distribution for many years. The Man Who Knew Too Much was one of five Hitchcock productions purchased by Universal in 1983, and was re-released by that studio in January 1984.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is a remake of a 1935 Gaumont-British Picture Corp. production of the same name, starring Leslie Banks and Edna Best and directed by Hitchcock (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Charles Bennett and D. B. Wyndham-Lewis, whose onscreen credits for the 1956 version reads "Based on a story by," wrote the original story for the 1935 version. Although the two films have a number of differences, for example, changing the site of the kidnapping from Switzerland to Morocco, the plots are quite similar. In discussing his work on the two films in an interview published by modern sources, Hitchcock stated: "Let's say that the first version was the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional."