The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH revealed another success for Alfred Hitchcock in the 1956 remake of his own 1934 original. Upscale this time out, using James Stewart again (following Rope and Rear Window), giving Doris Day a chance to exercise the dramatic chops she’d just delivered opposite a different James—Cagney—in Love Me Or Leave Me, venturing abroad (Morocco and England), in color, for another tight-knit ball of suspense and peril. A song became part of pop culture.  “Whatever will be, will be…”

A chance encounter on a sightseeing sidetrip to Morocco leads to American ‘Dr. Ben McKenna’ (Stewart), his wife ‘Jo’ (Day) and their young son ‘Hank’ (Christopher Olsen) meeting mysterious strangers, witnessing a murder, enduring the boy’s kidnapping, and racing against the clock to prevent an assassination of an unknown, important person, set to occur somewhere in London.

Excellently scripted by John Michael Hayes (The Trouble With Harry, Rear Window, To Catch A Thief) and edited by 9-time Hitch-man George Tomasini, the tension is further boosted by Bernard Herrmann’s scoring. Herrmann also appears as himself, conducting the orchestra in the famous 12-minute Albert Hall sequence. Some location work was done in Marrakesh and London.

Stewart and Day make a sure-fire team, though 9-year-old Olsen is a bit too “movie kid” squeaky (he was better that same year, facing parent problems in the fine, overlooked Bigger Than Life). Day sings “Que Sera, Sera”; Jay Livingston & Ray Evans won an Oscar for the two-minute ballad. Livingston recalled “She didn’t want to record it but the studio pressured her. She did it in one take and said, ‘That’s the last you’re going to hear of this song.'” It became the year’s #2 hit record, and Day’s signature tune, forever associated with the actress. *

Plaguing Jimmy, Doris and Chris are great villains, subdued but sinister, put over by Bernard Miles, Brenda de Banzie and Reggie Nalder. Austrian dancer and stage actor Nalder makes an unsettling impression as the assassin. Horror fans later would shiver in delight from his vampire ‘Barlow’ in the TV movie of Salem’s Lot.

Production costs amounted to $1,834,000 (exclusive of salaries for Hitch, Jimmy and DD). Fans made it the 22nd most popular night out of the year, with a gross of $11,333,000.  With Daniel Gelin, Ralph Truman, Alan Mowbray, Frank Albertson, Hillary Brooke, Carolyn Jones, Betty Baskcomb.  If they don’t blink, eagle-eyed buffs will spot Leo Gordon and Walter Gotell.  120 minutes.

* Que Doris Sera: “The first time somebody told me it was going to be in that movie, I thought, “Why?” I didn’t think there was a place to put that song. I thought, “I’m not crazy about that. Where are they going to put it? For what?” I didn’t think it was a good song…I thought that was wonderful, because it became that because of children. And then I understood it. Because it was for our child in the movie. Then I realized, maybe it isn’t a favorite song of mine, but people loved it. And kids loved it. And it was perfect for the film. So I can’t say that it’s a favorite song of mine, but, boy, it sure did something.”

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