Cast & Crew
Harold J. Stone
As is his custom, Christopher Emanuel "Manny" Balestrero, a string bass player at New York City's Stork Club, returns home to Jackson Heights after the club closes just before dawn. His wife Rose is still awake, suffering from a toothache, and confides her anxiety about their inability to pay for having her tooth extracted. The couple, who are rearing two young boys, live frugally and have weathered their share of financial distresses. Remembering Rose's insurance policy, Manny suggests that they can borrow against it to pay for the procedure and plans to look into it when the office opens. Later, after promising to return at 5:30 to give music lessons to his sons, Manny visits his ailing father and then goes to the insurance company to see about the loan. Although he does not notice, the clerks become nervous in his presence and decide among themselves that he looks like the man who robbed them a month ago. The police, alerted by the insurance clerks, wait outside Manny's home and pick him up on his doorstep at 5:30. Without allowing him first to speak to his wife and without telling him why he is being taken into custody, they drive him to the station. There, after asking the bewildered Manny about his finances, the police conclude that he has a motive to steal money. They drive him to several stores that have been robbed in the past and ask the proprietors if he is the man who robbed them. When many of the victims express uncertainty about Manny being the thief, the police summon the insurance clerks to the station to identify him. To determine if his handwriting matches that of the robber, one of the detectives reads aloud a printed holdup note and asks Manny to print the words on a scrap of paper. Because Manny's printing is similar to the robber's, they ask him to print out a second sample. The second time, Manny, who has become increasingly frightened, misspells the word "drawer" as "draw," which, coincidentally, is the same way the robber spelled the word. Based on this mistake and the tentative word of the witnesses, Manny is booked on charges of assault and robbery, fingerprinted and put in a cell for the night. Meanwhile, Rose, whom Manny has never been allowed to contact, worries that he has been in an accident, as he has never been late without calling. By the time the police notify Rose, Manny's mother and sister and brother-in-law, Gene and Olga Conforti, are waiting with her. The next morning, Manny is taken to the felony court in a police wagon with suspects of other crimes. A trial date is set, but despite his appointed attorney's request for leniency, the judge sets the bail at $7,500 and Manny is taken to the Queens County jail. After the Confortis manage to raise the money for Manny's bail, Rose calls lawyer Frank D. O'Connor, who has been recommended to Manny's mother. Although O'Connor warns that he has little experience with criminal cases, he takes the case, and urges Manny to recall where he was on the dates of the alleged robberies. On the date of the first robbery, the Balestreros recall that they were on vacation at a resort in Cornwall, New York, and at the time in question, Manny was playing cards with three other vacationers. Rose and Manny try to track down the three men, whose names they get from the resort owners, but one, a boxer, is never found and the two other men have died. Manny remembers that at the time of the second robbery he was suffering from a toothache, and his dentist confirms that his jaw was so swollen that dental work had to be postponed. O'Connor believes this might provide an alibi in court, as none of the witnesses reported that the robber had a swollen jaw. Rose becomes increasingly depressed, and begins to blame herself for Manny's problems, illogically concluding that it was because of her that Manny went to the insurance office to ask for a loan. When her behavior deteriorates into paranoia, Manny takes her to a doctor, who admits her to a sanitarium in Ossining. As Manny's trial begins, the witnesses are called to the stand to identify Manny as the robber. During cross-examination, one of the jurors, who has already made up his mind about the case, asks the judge if they "have to sit and listen to this?" After a brief conference with O'Connor and the district attorney, the judge calls a mistrial, and O'Connor tells Manny that they will have to start over. Afterward, at home, Manny talks to his mother, who is taking care of the boys during Rose's absence, about his feeling of despair and she advises him to pray. Soon after, a man holds up a delicatessen. The owner signals to her husband, who approaches the robber from behind and holds him, while she phones the police. The robber is arrested and brought into the police station, where, in the hallway, he passes a detective working on Manny's case. Although the robber makes no initial impression on the detective, his resemblance to Manny soon strikes the latter, who follows up his hunch. Later, while performing at the Stork Club, Manny is summoned to the 110th precinct police station. When Manny arrives, the insurance clerks are there confirming that the robber is the same person who held them up. After identifying the correct man, they cannot meet Manny's eyes as they leave. The charges against Manny are dropped, but when he goes to Ossining to tell Rose, she is unresponsive.
Harold J. Stone
Michael Ann Barrett
William Le Massena
Charles J. Guiotta
Thomas J. Murphy
Rossana San Marco
John C. Becher
Earl Crain Sr.
William L. Kuehl
Daniel J. Mccauley
Frank D. O'connor
The Wrong Man (1957)
Manny Balestrero's story caught the eye of Alfred Hitchcock after reading a Life Magazine article, and it immediately appealed to the director. Hitchcock sought out playwright Maxwell Anderson, on the strength of his stage version of The Bad Seed, but the screenplay that Anderson turned in had an oddly detached quality that was at odds with what Hitch was looking for. The director then turned to screenwriter Angus McPhail to fix the various problems with Anderson's script. The two proceeded to visit all the locations of the story and the real Balestrero's life. In keeping with Hitchcock's scrupulous attention to detail and verisimilitude, the director sought out the Balestrero family's summer resort in upstate New York, and even Ossinning's Greenmont Sanitorium, where the poor Rose Balestrero was committed.
The final result was a picture that was well outside of the fare that Hitch's fans were used to. The Wrong Man (1957) featured no suspenseful chases, no cliffhanger action segments, and not even any of Hitchcock's trademark comic relief. Instead, it took a semi-documentary approach, with Henry Fonda as the bewildered Manny, and Vera Miles as his high-strung, long-suffering wife. Its stark black-and-white look even dispensed with many of Hitch's stylistic trademarks, opting for a nearly newsreel-style authenticity. The result was a movie that was a hit with audiences, but the fact that it was a true story, combined with its subdued tone, made it one of the director's more subtly terrifying films. Surprisingly, critical reception was lukewarm. The New York Times' A.H. Weiler noted, "Frighteningly authentic, the story generates only a modicum of drama", and described Fonda's performance as "disquietingly even". Nonetheless, The Wrong Man is an harrowing film made all the more unnerving by the fact that a quirk of fate could land the viewer in the same predicament as Manny Balestrero.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producer: Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Coleman (associate)
Screenplay: Maxwell Anderson, Angus MacPhail
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Art Direction: Paul Sylbert
Cast: Henry Fonda (Manny Balestrero), Vera Miles (Rose Balestrero), Anthony Quayle (Frank O'Connor), Harold Stone (Lt. Bowers), John Heldabrand (Tomasini), Doreen Lang (Ann James).
by Jerry Renshaw
The Wrong Man (1957)
An innocent man has nothing to fear, remember that.- Lt. Bowers
narrating the film's prologue. The only time he actually spoke in any of his films.
Although based on a true story, Hitchcock deliberately left out some of the information that pointed to Manny's innocence to heighten the tension.
The "right" man (the real culprit) can be seen several times during the film: outside the Stork Club, in the Victor Moore arcade and near one of the liquor stores where the police take Manny.
Hitchcock filmed one of his usual cameos, standing in a restaurant as Manny sits, but decided on using a narrated prologue instead.
The Victor Moore Arcade was torn down in the late 1990s as part of a project to build a new transport hub.
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.
Released in United States Winter December 1956
Released in United States Winter December 1956