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The Wrong Man

The Wrong Man(1957)

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Before the opening credits, producer-director Alfred Hitchcock, appearing onscreen in silhouette, introduces the film as being a different kind of suspense story than he had made in the past because it is true, adding that "elements are stranger than the fiction he made before." Shots of the Stork Club in New York City are then shown under a written prologue: "The early morning hours of January the fourteenth, nineteen hundred and fifty-three, a day in the life of Christopher Emanuel Balestrero that he will never forget..." During the opening credits, the following acknowledgment appears between the writers' credits and the rest of the crew credits: "This picture made with the cooperation of The Department of Commerce and Public Events, City of New York."
       After the film the following epilogue appears: "Two years later, Rose Balestrero walked out of the sanitarium completely cured. Today she lives happily in Florida with Manny and the two boys-and what happened seems like a nightmare to them-but it did happen..." At the end of the film, a final written acknowledgment appears: "We are grateful to Mr. Sherman Billingsley for his gracious cooperation in permitting scenes of this picture to be photographed at the Stork Club in New York City." Although the real robber's identity remains hidden from the other characters until near the end of the film, the robber is revealed to the audience in a scene before the final robbery when Manny's face dissolves into the face of the robber. Although the Variety review lists the film's duration as 110 minutes, the copyright record and the MPH review list 105 minutes.
       The true story of Stork Club musician "Manny" Balestrero began when he was arrested on January 14, 1953 outside his home in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. After three witnesses identified him as the man who robbed a Prudential Insurance Company office in that neighborhood, he was charged with two armed robberies and, despite his innocence, brought to trial, represented by attorney Frank D. O'Connor. As depicted in the film, an outburst by a member of the jury resulted in a mistrial in April 1953. According to a modern source, the real thief, Charles James Daniell, was caught before Balestrero's second trial commenced. Daniell consequently confessed to forty robberies, including the two for which Balestrero was accused. Although the indictment against Balestrero was dismissed by County Court Judge William B. Groat, Balestrero's wife Rose had meanwhile suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted into an Ossining, NY sanitarium. As stated in the epilogue, the family moved to Florida after the ordeal.
       Hitchcock, who, according to a modern source, read about Balestrero's story in Life magazine, chose to film in black-and-white, and in the actual locations where the true story occurred. In a February 1957 American Cinematographer article, Hitchcock was quoted as saying, "I want it to look like it had been photographed in New York in a style unmistakably documentary." According to reviews and contemporary news items, Balestrero's 74th Street home in Jackson Heights, the Stork Club, the 110th and Roosevelt Avenue police stations, Ridgewood Felony Court, and the actual courtroom used for Balestrero's trial at Queens Felony Court were used as location sites in the film. The Greenmont Sanitarium in Ossining, NY and Edelweiss Farm in Cornwall, NY were also real locations from Balestrero's story. In addition, Hitchcock filmed on Queens and Brooklyn streets at cafeterias, delicatessens and liquor stores. The American Cinematographer article reported that O'Connor's office in the Victor Moore Arcade was also used as a shooting site.
       According to modern sources, Hitchcock joked that he needed to add to the film all the reality he could get, because the premise of the true story was so unbelievable. Therefore, he used real people from some of the incidents in Balestrero's life in the film. According to the American Cinematographer article, the husband-and-wife liquor store owners, a policeman, detectives and Cornwall resort owners were real people who portrayed themselves in the film. Sherman Billingsley, the well-known proprietor of the Stork Club, also appeared as himself in the film. The Wrong Man marked British actor Anthony Quayles's American feature film debut. The film was also Tuesday Weld's first production, although another film in which she appeared, Rock, Rock, Rock! was released first.
       An April 1956 New York Times article reported that Hitchcock planned to make his customary cameo appearance at the beginning of the film, as a man getting out of a cab and entering the Stork Club, but later, according to a modern source, decided to limit his appearance to his introductory remarks. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, contemporary Hollywood Reporter news items add Fred Purcelli, Claudia Bryar, Dee Carroll, Ruth Swanson and Irene Harbor to the cast. In his autobiography, Sam O'Steen stated that he served as assistant film editor for the film.
       Balestrero's story was also dramatized on Robert Montgomery Presents in the episode entitled "A Case of Identity," which aired on January 11, 1954 on the NBC network and was based on a Life magazine article bearing the same title. Balestrero appeared on an episode of the popular game show, To Tell the Truth, which aired on January 15, 1957 on the CBS network. According to a 2002 Newsday article, Balestrero's son Gregory stated that Rose, who died in 1982, never fully recovered from the trauma. The article stated that Balestrero died at the age of 88 in 1998.