The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

119-120 mins | Drama | June 1956

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HISTORY

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 12 May 1955 in Marrakech. Filming on location in Morocco was completed on 20 May 1955, and the production then moved to London, where it resumed filming on 25 May 1955. After finishing shooting in London on 21 Jun 1955, the production returned to the Paramount studio lot in Hollywood, where interiors commenced filming on 25 Jun 1955 and ended on 24 Aug 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 ... More Less

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 12 May 1955 in Marrakech. Filming on location in Morocco was completed on 20 May 1955, and the production then moved to London, where it resumed filming on 25 May 1955. After finishing shooting in London on 21 Jun 1955, the production returned to the Paramount studio lot in Hollywood, where interiors commenced filming on 25 Jun 1955 and ended on 24 Aug 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 12 Oct 1955, McPhail protested his lack of screen credit on the film to the Screen Writers Guild, arguing that he worked on the project from 25 Jan 1955 to 25 Apr 1955. At that time, screenwriter John Michael Hayes was brought onto the project, and the draft of the screenplay dated 7 May 1955 contained both writers' names. McPhail further argued that he continued to work on the project, making changes to the 7 May draft between 9 May 1955 and 7 Jun 1955, and thus deserved first screenwriter credit. Hayes, however, wrote on 8 Aug 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.
       HR 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. LAT reported that the Los Angeles premiere of The Man Who Knew Too Much was held on 22 May 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 (See Entry) 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, NYT 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, HR 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 Jan 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." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 May 1956.
---
Daily Variety
1 May 56
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1965.
---
Film Daily
1 May 56
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 55
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 55
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 55
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1955
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 55
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 55
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 56
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 1965.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1983.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
6 Feb 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 May 1956.
---
Motion Picture Daily
1 May 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
5 May 56
p. 881.
New York Times
17 May 56
p. 37.
New York Times
23 Mar 1963.
---
Variety
2 May 56
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Patrick Aherne
Mahin S. Shahrivar
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir, London
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Props
COSTUMES
Cost
Ladies' ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv [English]
Tech adv [Arabic]
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Unit mgr, London
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting secy
Scr clerk
Pub
Stage eng
Company grip
Gaffer, London
Standby labor
Welfare worker
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Storm Cloud Cantata," music and lyrics by Arthur Benjamin and D. B. Wyndham-Lewis: performed by London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Herrmann, Covent Garden Chorus, Barbara Howitt, Soloist
"Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" and "We'll Love Again," music and lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Into Thin Air
Release Date:
June 1956
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 16 May 1956
Los Angeles opening: 22 May 1956
Production Date:
12 May--20 May 1955
25 May--21 June 1955
25 June--24 August 1955
retakes and addl scenes 25 August 1955
27 September 1955
17 October 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Filwite Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 May 1956
Copyright Number:
LP6469
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
119-120
Length(in reels):
12
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17717
SYNOPSIS

While on an extended European vacation following a medical conference in Paris, American physician Ben McKenna and his family are traveling on a bus in French Morocco when his young son Hank accidentally pulls the veil off a Moslem woman. An international incident is avoided when Louis Bernard, a Frenchman, intercedes on the McKennas' behalf. While Ben is happy to tell Louis all about his family and their planned excursions in Marrakech, his wife Jo is suspicious of the Frenchman's constant questioning. That night, Louis meets the McKennas in their hotel room for dinner, but suddenly cancels their supper plans when Rien, a hired assassin, appears at the McKennas' door. Later, at an Arab restaurant, Ben and Jo meet a British couple, the Draytons, who claim to be fans of Jo, who was a well-known singer prior to her marriage to Ben. The next morning, the McKennas and Draytons meet at the local marketplace. The usual frivolity of the market crowd is broken when a man being chased by the police collapses in Ben's arms, having been fatally stabbed in the back. It is Louis, disguised as an Arab, who, with his dying breaths, tells the physician that there is a plot to assassinate an unnamed statesman in London. While the McKennas are taken to the police station for questioning, Mrs. Drayton agrees to care for Hank in their absence. In the midst of being interrogated, Ben receives a phone call from a kidnapper, threatening his son with grievous harm if he tells the authorities what Louis said to him. After giving the high-strung Jo a sedative, Ben informs his wife ... +


While on an extended European vacation following a medical conference in Paris, American physician Ben McKenna and his family are traveling on a bus in French Morocco when his young son Hank accidentally pulls the veil off a Moslem woman. An international incident is avoided when Louis Bernard, a Frenchman, intercedes on the McKennas' behalf. While Ben is happy to tell Louis all about his family and their planned excursions in Marrakech, his wife Jo is suspicious of the Frenchman's constant questioning. That night, Louis meets the McKennas in their hotel room for dinner, but suddenly cancels their supper plans when Rien, a hired assassin, appears at the McKennas' door. Later, at an Arab restaurant, Ben and Jo meet a British couple, the Draytons, who claim to be fans of Jo, who was a well-known singer prior to her marriage to Ben. The next morning, the McKennas and Draytons meet at the local marketplace. The usual frivolity of the market crowd is broken when a man being chased by the police collapses in Ben's arms, having been fatally stabbed in the back. It is Louis, disguised as an Arab, who, with his dying breaths, tells the physician that there is a plot to assassinate an unnamed statesman in London. While the McKennas are taken to the police station for questioning, Mrs. Drayton agrees to care for Hank in their absence. In the midst of being interrogated, Ben receives a phone call from a kidnapper, threatening his son with grievous harm if he tells the authorities what Louis said to him. After giving the high-strung Jo a sedative, Ben informs his wife that their only son has been abducted. Aware that the Draytons left Marrakech on a private plane, Ben and Jo decide to go to London and search for Hank there. Greeted at the airport by both Jo's fans and the police, the McKennas are interviewed by Inspector Buchanan of Scotland Yard, who tells them that he is well aware of the reason why their son was kidnapped. Despite his wife's pleas, Ben refuses to tell the inspector what Louis said to him, claiming that the British secret agent had spoken to him in French. Jo then receives a phone call from Mrs. Drayton, who allows the McKennas to briefly speak to Hank. Checking into a London hotel, the McKennas attempt to call Ambrose Chappell, the name Louis told Ben, but they are interrupted by the arrival of Jo's old acquaintances: Val and Helen Parnell, Jan Peterson and Cindy Fontaine. While Jo stays behind with her friends, Ben sneaks out through the hotel's service entrance to meet Chappell. At the Ambrose taxidermy shop, Ben is slow to realize that neither Ambrose Sr. nor Ambrose Jr. is involved in his son's kidnapping, and is forced to make a quick escape before the police arrive. Meanwhile, at the hotel, Jo realizes that "Ambrose Chapel" is a place, not a person, and she is soon met there by Ben. Inside the church, Hank is being held captive by the Draytons, with the help of their assistant, Edna. Also there is Rien, who is being instructed by the Draytons as to the exact moment during an Albert Hall concert that he is to commit the assassination: at a climactic cymbal crash in the performance of a cantata. The McKennas enter the chapel just as the service, administered by Mr. Drayton, is about to begin. While Ben stays inside, Jo leaves to call the police, so the Draytons cut short the service. Hearing his son's voice, Ben rushes to Hank's aid, only to be knocked unconscious by one of Draytons' henchmen. By the time the police arrive at the chapel, the Draytons have made their escape with Hank. Refusing to enter the locked church without a search warrant, the police leave, so Jo calls the police station, begging for help. She asks to speak to Buchanan, but is told that he is at an important diplomatic function at a concert at Albert Hall. When the policeman refuses to contact Buchanan, she heads off alone to Albert Hall to find him. When Rien sees her there, the assassin reminds Jo that Hank's safety depends on her silence. Meanwhile, Ben escapes the locked chapel by climbing the church bell's rope and also makes his way to the concert. Realizing that Rien is about to shoot a visiting foreign prime minister, Jo screams, causing the startled assassin to merely wound the dignitary in the arm. Ben then jumps Rien, and in his attempt to escape, the assassin falls from the balcony to his death. Back at the embassy, the Draytons are informed by the ambassador that their assassination attempt on the prime minister has failed. Despite Mrs. Drayton's objection, the ambassador then orders her husband to kill Hank. With the police unable to go into the embassy due to diplomatic immunity, the McKennas enter alone, as the invited guest of the grateful prime minister. Jo is asked to perform for the guests, and her singing voice is soon recognized by Hank. Under Mrs. Drayton's instruction, the young boy whistles along with her singing, guiding Ben to the room in which his son is being held. Mr. Drayton then appears, but rather than killing them, he decides to use Ben and Hank as human shields during his escape from the embassy. As they make their way down the grand staircase, Ben pushes Drayton, and the spy is killed when he falls on his own gun. The reunited McKennas then head back to their hotel room, where Jo's friends have been waiting the entire time. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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