The Wrong Man (1957)

105 or 110 mins | Biography, Drama | 26 January 1957

Full page view
HISTORY

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 Var review lists the film's duration as 110 minutes, the copyright record and the MPH review list 105 minutes.
       The ... More Less

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 Var 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 14 Jan 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 Apr 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 Feb 1957 AmCin 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 AmCin 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 AmCin 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! (see above) was released first.
       An Apr 1956 NYT 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 HR 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 11 Jan 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 15 Jan 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. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 57
pp. 84-5, 112-14.
Box Office
29 Dec 1956.
---
Daily Variety
21 Dec 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Jan 57
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 1956
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 56
p. 3.
Life
29 Jun 1953
pp. 97-100, 102, 104, 107.
Life
1 Feb 1954
pp. 45-46.
Los Angeles Examiner
24 Jan 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Jan 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Dec 56
p. 193.
New York Times
9 Apr 1956
p. 21.
New York Times
29 Apr 1956
Section II, p. 7.
New York Times
24 Dec 56
p. 8.
New Yorker
5 Jan 1957.
---
Newsday
9 Dec 2002.
---
Newsweek
7 Jan 1957.
---
Saturday Review
19 Jan 1957.
---
The Nation
5 Jan 1957
p. 27.
Time
14 Jan 1957.
---
Variety
2 Jan 57
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Allan Ray
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner-Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
District Attorney, Queens County, New York
Tech adv
Sergeant, New York City Police Department, Ret.
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 January 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 22 December 1956
Los Angeles opening: 23 January 1957
Production Date:
26 March--6 June 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 January 1957
Copyright Number:
LP10036
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
105 or 110
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18117
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

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 ... +


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. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.