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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

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An American physician and his wife take matters into their own hands after assassins planning to execute a foreign Prime Minister kidnap their son.

Director:

Alfred Hitchcock

Writers:

John Michael Hayes (screenplay), Charles Bennett (based on a story by) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Stewart ... Dr. Benjamin McKenna
Doris Day ... Josephine Conway McKenna
Brenda de Banzie Brenda de Banzie ... Lucy Drayton
Bernard Miles ... Edward Drayton
Ralph Truman Ralph Truman ... Inspector Buchanan, Special Branch
Daniel Gélin ... Louis Bernard
Mogens Wieth Mogens Wieth ... Ambassador
Alan Mowbray ... Val Parnell
Hillary Brooke ... Jan Peterson
Christopher Olsen ... Hank McKenna
Reggie Nalder ... French Marksman
Richard Wattis ... Albert Hall Assistant Manager
Noel Willman ... Woburn, Special Branch
Alix Talton ... Helen Parnell
Yves Brainville Yves Brainville ... French Police Inspector
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Storyline

While attending a medical conference in Paris, American physician Dr. Ben McKenna, his wife, retired musical theater actress and singer Jo McKenna née Conway, and their adolescent son Hank McKenna decide to take a side trip to among other places Marrekesh, French Morocco. With a knife plunged into his back, Frenchman Louis Bernard, who the family met earlier in their bus ride into Marrakesh and who is now masquerading as an Arab, approaches Ben, cryptically whispering into Ben's ears that there will be an attempted assassination in London of a statesman, this news whispered just before Bernard dies. Ben is reluctant to provide any information of this news to the authorities because concurrently Hank is kidnapped by British couple, Edward and Lucy Drayton, who also befriended the McKennas in Marrakesh and who probably have taken Hank out of the country back to England. Whoever the unknown people the Draytons are working for have threatened to kill Hank if Ben divulges any information ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Alfred Hitchcock strikes the highest note of suspense the screen has yet achieved! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Arabic | French

Release Date:

1 June 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$10,250,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Albert Hall sequence drew some inspiration from Henry Mayo Bateman's comic "The One-Note Man", which followed the daily life of a musician who only plays one note in a symphony, similar to the cymbal player in this movie. See more »

Goofs

In the climactic scene at the Albert Hall concert, when the cymbalist stands, turns and grabs his cymbals, the timpanist beside him is playing, but is clearly not hitting the drums. Also, the timpanist is not the same person who was playing (correctly) during the title sequence. See more »

Quotes

Edward Drayton: Remember, you will only have time for just one shot. If you need another, the risk is yours.
Rien: I don't take risks.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: A single crash of Cymbals and how it rocked the lives of an American family. See more »

Alternate Versions

The original film opened with the Paramount logo followed by their patented wide screen process, Vista Vision. In the 80's, Universal re-issued the film with their logo, and dropped the reference to Vista Vision. The Blu-Ray edition retains the Paramount/Vista Vision logos at the start, but carries the 80's Universal logo at the end. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Whatever Will Be
(1956)
by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
Performed by Doris Day (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
the famous twelve-minute sequence at the Albert Hall alone is enough to demand an audience for this richly entertaining thriller
25 January 2010 | by TheUnknown837-1See all my reviews

In 1956, Alfred Hitchcock owed a film to Paramount Studios and was given the task of remaking not just any film, but one of his own. That film was his 1934 movie "The Man Who Knew Too Much" which starred Leslie Banks and Edna Best as vacationing parents who unwillingly become involved in an international espionage involving an assassination plot. In order to keep their mouths shut, foreign spies kidnap their daughter and hold her hostage. Hitchcock was in no particular hurry to tell the same story again, but he did owe Paramount a movie and proceeded to do it again. But like a professional, he did not simply tell the same story. He used the same plot and circumstances, but generated a newer, better film with a fresher story from his 1934 hit. This time casting the always competent James Stewart and the lovely Doris Day as the vacationing parents and having a son – not daughter –being kidnapped, Hitchcock created one of his most underrated films that I think deserves to be placed alongside his lists of masterpieces.

This was the third of the four movies that Hitchcock made with James Stewart and this is the one that is the least dark and the most free-spirited. It is not a dark, twisted movie like "Vertigo" or "Rear Window" nor is it as good as the said features, but it's one of the director's most thoroughly enjoyable movies. It takes a serious tone, but also has carefully placed moments of comedy that do generate laughs. Hitchcock was a gifted and versatile filmmaker who has entries in his filmography that should accommodate for all mainstreams in the audience. And for those who just want Hitchcock as an exciting, adventurous level, this is the movie I recommend.

Part of the reason why I enjoy this more than the original is that I like the parents in the movie more. We get more three-dimensional development from them this time and we sense the struggle to find their son and possibly save a diplomat's life if they can. The movie is held up by the performances by James Stewart and Doris Day. This is the least dark Stewart was in the four movies he had with Hitchcock and it's probably the most conventional performances he did for the Master of Suspense, but nevertheless a very good one. He is totally believably and competent as the frantic, but cool-headed father in love with his family. But what shocks me so much is that in reviews, people oftentimes overlook Doris Day, who I think is just as good as Jimmy Stewart. I'm enthralled by the enthusiasm and the energy that she puts behind her performance. Yes, Day is beautiful, but she's also a more than competent actress who carries out her scenes, especially her emotionally and distressful ones with absolute perfection.

If there is a weakness in the movie, it does relate to the villains whom we don't see very often, but that's part of what makes this movie work. Because we don't see the villains often, we sympathize and follow the parents played by Stewart and Day better than if we toggled frequently between both sides. Hitchcock always liked to play against conventions and it shows here. That's another one of the minor differences this has from the original, which did jump between parties more often.

And if you're seeking Alfred Hitchcock performing his art of suspense…you will find it here, never you fear. Hitchcock believed in a theory called pure cinema, in which you did not need sound or dialogue, merely images to generate any emotion. And there is one very famous scene in this movie taking place at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which proves this theory. Hitchcock tells us what to look for – but not the protagonists – and this builds up tension that can go on for as long as he wants to. The scene goes on for twelve minutes – twelve minutes – and every moment of it is sheer suspense coupled with powerful emotion. And there's no dialogue. The sound is dominated by the music. It's very much like watching a silent movie. And it's the most powerful scene in the picture.

The original "The Man With No Name" is one of the most interesting examples of Hitchcock's career as an amateur, but the remake, done by a professional, is vastly superior and infinitely entertaining. If I do have a complaint, it's the last thirty seconds of the movie which wrap up a little suddenly, but the previous two hours were so much fun I easily forgive that and enthusiastically shell out my highest rating. "The Man With No Name" is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most entertaining pictures.


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