Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cinema Sunday ~ The Wrong Man (1956)

In this tale we get the rare introduction by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock himself...which really is the only time that he ever spoke to the audience in any of his films.  We're used to just watching for his cameo at some random point in his movies.  Come to find out that the movie The Wrong Man is acutally a true story that he bought the rights to.  Why would he do that?  Because it hit close to home for him...according to AMC, when little Alfred had done something wrong, his daddy told the police to keep him overnight to teach him a lesson.

Alfred Hitchcock knows how to pick a leading man and chose one of Hollywood's greatest "good guys", Henry Fonda, to deliver a tale that is quite chilling if you really think about it.  What would you do if you were wrongly accused of a crime?  What if every person that had been wronged separately confirm that it was you who wronged them?  What if nothing you could say and none of your alibis could clear you?

We watch as Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda), a poor muscian at the Stork Club, makes his way home to his adoring wife, Rose (Vera Miles) and son.  His life seems to be just as anyone's might be and we can see that he's just your typical husband/dad trying to make a living for his family...who likes to spend his time on the way home playing the races (yet never really makes a bet).

Life is good until Rose needs to get some dental work done.  Here's where Manny's life takes a turn for the worse.  Something so simple as walking into his insurance office to try to borrow from her insurance policy triggers events that no one would have foreseen.  The clerk Manny is attended by remembers "that face" from a series of robberies that occured just two months prior to this day...and other women, including the clerk who attended the robber, finger him as that same man.  Manny is picked-up by the police the next day on his way home from work and is forced to go with them without notifying Rose that he won't be home for a while.  (and though he continually asks to call his wife, the police never allow him the moment he needs to settle her mind)

Manny is ushered from one location to another and told to simply walk in, turn around and walk out of the establishments.  Unfortunately for him every time he does so witnesses finger him as the man who committed robbery at each location. (I love saying that, "fingered", it makes me feel like the narrator in an old black and white)  Though he continues to cooperate with the police, Manny ends up digging a larger hole with every step through the night...even misspelling a word in a writing test just as the robber did in a note given during a robbery. At this point you know that he's in big trouble...time to attorney-up.

Attorney Frank O'Connor is sought out and agrees to take Manny's case, albeit grim seems to be the best term for it.  Manny & Rose are instructed to try to put together a strong alibi, which leads them on a hunt for men that he had played cards with on the night of the second robbery.  Here they hit a brick wall when their search comes up with no living witnesses...yep, both men had died since that night.  The stress from all that has happened causes Rose to go into a panic.  She loses all hope and begins to spiral out of control losing her mind in the process of trying to prove her husband's innocence. We watch as Manny is forced to place Rose into a care facility (mental institution) and walk away from the woman he loves.  (confession: I couldn't help but shed a tear for him)

As the trial goes on for Manny we see a glimmer of hope...a mistrial is granted thanks to one of the jurors.  This is exactly the break that Manny needed for the simple fact that there is another robbery attempted...and foiled!  The true culprit is apprehended by the police and Manny is called back to the come face to face with his look-alike.  (incidently, if you watch the movie closely you will find several moments that the true robber appears)  When Manny goes to see Rose and inform her of his exonneration, she simply wants nothing to do with him and is lost within her own world.  The look on Manny's face says it all...but in the end we find out that she recovers and the family moves to Florida to continue their lives.

Can you imagine?

No comments:

Post a Comment