Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Wrong Man (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Wrong Man (1956)

In Alfred Hitchcock's stark, film-noirish crime drama filmed in semi-documentary style:

  • the rare opening (before the title credits) of director Hitchcock, seen in silhouette within a deep triangular-shaped shadow at a distance on a movie soundstage, lighted in extreme chiaroscuro and speaking directly to the audience: "This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking. In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one. The difference lies in the fact that this is a true story, every word of it. And yet it contains elements that are stranger than all the fiction that has gone into many of the thrillers that I've made before"
  • the characterization of Stork Club string bass player-musician Christopher Emanuel "Manny" Balestrero (Henry Fonda), a devoted family man who was living in the Jackson Heights (Queens) neighborhood of New York City
  • the early sequence in which he was mistakenly identified as a suspect for robberies (at gunpoint) at the Associated Life Insurance Company office - he had visited the insurance office to obtain a loan from wife Rose's (Vera Miles) policy, to pay for her expensive $300 dental work, and the three suspicious female clerks in the office were certain that he was the man who had twice robbed the office
  • the scene of his detainment and intense questioning for armed robbery without a lawyer (Manny called the grilling a "meatgrinder") in the 110th Precinct - when unusual coincidences caused police to believe that he was responsible for a string of robberies
  • during questioning, Manny's mis-spelling of the word "drawer" as "draw" - the same mistake made by the robber in his hold-up note - Manny was arrested for assault and robbery and ultimately put in jail - with his utter dejection as he leaned back against his cell wall in the oppressive and nightmarish space, his confinement and disorientation was depicted by the camera's rotation (moving in rapid, clockwise circles) - a subjective shot from an objective POV
  • innocent 'everyman' Manny protested the charges, claiming he was "the wrong man" - after being bailed out for $7,500 after a night in jail, inexperienced criminal attorney Frank D. O'Connor (Anthony Quayle) was hired to defend Manny; his alibi was that he was at a resort hotel in Cornwall, NY with Rose during one of the robberies, but it couldn't be substantiated
  • the brief, kinetically-filmed bedroom sequence between Rose and Manny when she completely lost control, pushed the comforting Manny away, and struck him with a hairbrush - she broke a mirror and lacerated his forehead - seen in a fragmented mirror image; due to the stress of the case, Manny's strained and guilt-ridden wife Rose fell into depression, became totally apathetic, and was institutionalized in a mental hospital in Ossining, NY
  • during the trial, Manny was convincingly prosecuted, although it was judged a mistrial due to a juror's remarks; meanwhile, the real robber was caught while Manny awaited a second trial; the case against him was ultimately dismissed, but his life and the life of his family had been shattered
  • the most memorable sequence when falsely-accused Manny began to pray for strength, following the advice of his mother (Esther Minciotti) at the kitchen table ("My son, I beg you to pray") - he began to pray in the kitchen, then moved to his bedroom to pray more (as he clutched his rosary), in front of an iconic painting of Jesus; as his lips moved in prayer, the astonishing match-cut scene in which the face of the actual look-alike robbery criminal (wearing a hat and overcoat) became super-imposed and merged onto Balestrero's transparent face - there was an unmistakable resemblance between the real armed robber and Manny
The Miraculous Double-Exposure Prayer Shot
  • the heartbreaking sequence of Manny's visit to see Rose in the sanitarium when she calmly rejected him: ("Nothing can help me. No one. You can go now")
  • in the film's epilogue, Rose was "completely cured" two years later, left the sanitarium, and the couple moved to Florida: "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..."


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