The Man Who Knew Too Much
Action / Drama / Thriller
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Action / Drama / Thriller
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 ...
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September 03, 2018 at 08:39 AM
Revisting the man and his wife.
I hadn't seen it since I was in college. I remembered it like a fun, absurd movie. Now in 2018 what hit me the most was the wife played by Doris Day. She is spectacular and the absurdity becomes totally real just by looking at her. James Stewart is great of course but he seems to be the foil here rather than the center that keeps us connected to that essential leap of faith. The scene in which he gives her the tranquilizers before telling her the terrible news. What Doris Day manages to do with her character is extraordinary. Brenda de Banzie is a terrific villainess and Bernard Herrmann's score another major plus. I'm sure that even my grandchildren's grandchildren will talk about The Man Who Knew Too Much and about Doris Day.
Que Sera Sera
The original The Man Who Knew Too Much brought Alfred Hitchcock acclaim for the first time outside of the United Kingdom. Of course part of the reason for the acclaim was that folks marveled how Hitchcock on such a skimpy budget as compared to lavish Hollywood products was able to provide so much on the screen. The original film was shot inside a studio.
For whatever reason he chose this of all his films to remake, Hitchcock now with an international reputation and a big Hollywood studio behind him (Paramount)decided to see what The Man Who Knew Too Much would be like with a lavish budget. This is shot on location in Marrakesh and London and has two big international names for box office. This was James Stewart's third of four Hitchcock films and his only teaming with Doris Day and her only Hitchcock film.
I do wonder why Hitchcock never used Doris again. At first glance she would fit the profile of blond leading ladies that Hitchcock favored. Possibly because her wholesome screen image was at odds with the sophistication Hitchcock also wanted in his blondes.
Doris does some of her best acting ever in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Her best scene is when her doctor husband James Stewart gives her a sedative before telling her their son has been kidnapped by an English couple who befriended them in Morocco. Stewart and Day play off each other beautifully in that scene. But Doris especially as she registers about four different emotions at once.
Day and Stewart are on vacation with their son Christopher Olsen in Morocco and they make the acquaintance of Frenchman Daniel Gelin and the aforementioned English couple, Bernard Miles and Brenda DaBanzie. Gelin is stabbed in the back at a market place in Marrakesh and whispers some dying words to Stewart about an assassination to take place in Albert Hall in London. Their child is snatched in order to insure their silence.
For the only time I can think of a hit song came out of a Hitchcock film. Doris in fact plays a noted singer who retired from the stage to be wife and mother. The song was Que Sera Sera and I remember it well at the age of 9. You couldn't go anywhere without hearing it in 1956, it even competed with the fast rising Elvis Presley that year. Que Sera Sera won the Academy Award for Best Song beating out such titles as True Love from High Society and the title song from Around the World in 80 Days. It became Doris Day's theme song for the rest of her life and still is should she ever want to come back.
In fact the song is worked quite nicely into the plot as Doris sings it at an embassy party at the climax.
Instead of doing it with mirrors, Hitchcock shot the assassination scene at the real Albert Hall and like another reviewer said it's not directed, it's choreographed. You'll be hanging on your seats during that moment.
This was remake well worth doing.
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Great dramatic turn by Doris Day
It's well known that Alfred Hitchcock had a penchant for casting icy blondes as his leading ladies, but it's often forgotten Doris Day was once one of them. In The Man Who Knew Too Much, the pronunciation of which was forever immortalized by Robert Osbourne, she's married to James Stewart, another of Hitchcock's favorites. In a rare dramatic turn, Doris shows her hidden talents. There's a famous and heart-wrenching scene that's nearly impossible to watch without a tissue handy. Doris and Jimmy's son has been kidnapped, and Doris is having a meltdown. James injects her with a sedative because he's a doctor and believes that's the best way to help her, and she hysterically cries until she passes out.
While Doris usually gets all the acting praise from this movie, it's probably because everyone expects James Stewart to be great in a Hitchcock film. But let's not forget he was the other actor in that difficult scene, watching and deciding how to help his wife. He's wonderful in this movie, but if you know and love him like the rest of the country, it's not really a surprise.
The Man Who Knew Too Much isn't the most famous Alfred Hitchcock movie out there, but it's absolutely worth watching. It has Doris's quintessential song "Que Sera Sera" and she also credits it with spawning her lifelong devotion to animals. Plus, it's pretty suspenseful, a necessity in a Hitchcock movie. There are exotic locations, good-looking leading actors, murder, and intrigue. What else do you want?