AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Man Who Knew Too Much
Alternate Title: Into Thin Air
Director: Alfred Hitchcock (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 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 Jun 1955; 25 Jun--24 Aug 1955; retakes and addl scenes 25 Aug 1955; 27 Sep 1955; 17 Oct 1955
Duration (in mins):   119-120
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   James Stewart (Dr. Ben McKenna)  
    Doris Day (Jo Conway McKenna)  
    Brenda de Banzie (Mrs. Lucy Drayton)  
    Bernard Miles (Mr. Drayton)  
    Ralph Truman (Inspector Buchanan)  
    Daniel GĂ©lin (Louis Bernard)  
    Mogens Wieth (Ambassador)  
    Alan Mowbray (Val Parnell)  
    Hillary Brooke (Jan Peterson)  
    Christopher Olsen (Hank McKenna)  
    Reggie Nalder (Rien, the assassin)  
    Richard Wattis (Assistant manager)  
    Noel Willman (Woburn)  
    Alix Talton (Helen Parnell)  
    Yves Brainville (Police inspector)  
    Carolyn Jones (Cindy Fontaine, also known as Elsa McDuff)  
    Alfred Hitchcock (Man watching acrobats in Moroccan marketplace)  
    Abdelhaq Chraibi (Arab)  
    Lou Krugman (Arab)  
    Betty Baskcomb (Edna)  
    Leo Gordon (Chauffeur)  
    Patrick Aherne (English handyman)  
    Louis Mercier (French policeman)  
    Albert Carrier (French policeman)  
    Anthony Warde (French policeman)  
    Lewis Martin (Detective)  
    Gladys Holland (Bernard's girl friend)  
    John O'Malley (Uniformed attendant)  
    Peter Camlin (Headwaiter)  
    Ralph Neff (Henchman)  
    John Marshall (Butler)  
    Eric Snowden (Special branch officer)  
    Patrick Whyte (Special branch officer)  
    Edward Manouk (French waiter)  
    Donald Lawton (Desk clerk)  
    Mahin S. Shahrivar (Arab woman)  
    Allen Zeidman (Assistant manager)  
    Milton Frome (Guard)  
    Walter Gotell (Guard)  
    Frank Atkinson (Workman in taxidermist shop)  
    Liddell Peddieson (Workman in taxidermist shop)  
    Mayne Lynton (Workman in taxidermist shop)  
    John Barrard (Workman in taxidermist shop)  
    Alexis Bobrinskoy (Foreign prime minister)  
    Janet Bruce (Box office woman)  
    Alma Taylor (Box office woman)  
    Naida Buckingham (Lady in audience)  
    Janet Macfarlane (Lady in audience)  
    Clifford Buckton (Sir Kenneth Clarke)  
    Barbara Burke (Girl friend of the assassin)  
    Pauline Farr (Ambassador's wife)  
    Harry Fine (Edington)  
    Wolf Fress (Aide to foreign prime minister)  
    George Howe (Ambrose Chappell, Sr.)  
    Harold Kasket (Butler)  
    Barry Keegan (Patterson)  
    Lloyd Lamble (General manager of Albert Hall)  
    Enid Lindsey (Lady Clarke)  
    Richard Marner (Aide to the ambassador)  
    Leslie Newport (Inspector at Albert Hall)  
    Elsa Palmer (Cook)  
    Arthur Ridley (Ticket collector)  
    Guy Verney (Footman)  
    Peter Williams (Police sergeant)  
    Richard Wordsworth (Ambrose Chappell, Jr.)  
    Alex Frazer    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
  Filwite Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Director: Alfred Hitchcock (Dir)
  Howard Joslin (Asst dir)
  Ralph Axness (2d asst dir)
  Ned Dobson (2d asst dir)
  Basil Keys (Asst dir, London)
  Herbert Coleman (2d unit dir)
Producer: Alfred Hitchcock (Prod)
  Herbert Coleman (Assoc prod)
Writer: John Michael Hayes (Scr)
  Charles Bennett (Based on a story by)
  D. B. Wyndham-Lewis (Based on a story by)
  Angus McPhail (Contr wrt)
Photography: Robert Burks (Dir of photog)
  Leonard South (2d cam)
  Paul Uhl (Asst cam)
  Ken Lobben (Stills)
Art Direction: Hal Pereira (Art dir)
  Henry Bumstead (Art dir)
Film Editor: George Tomasini (Ed)
  Sam Vitale (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Sam Comer (Set dec)
  Arthur Krams (Set dec)
  Walter Broadfoot (Props)
  Neil Wheeler (Props)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost)
  Lee Forman (Ladies' ward)
  Leonard Mann (Men's ward)
Music: Bernard Herrmann (Mus score)
Sound: Paul Franz (Sd rec)
  Gene Garvin (Sd rec)
  Henry Keener (Rec)
  Frank Carroll (Mike grip)
Special Effects: John P. Fulton (Spec photog eff)
  Farciot Edouart (Process photog)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup supv)
  Dan Greenway (Makeup)
  Virginia Darcy (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Constance Willis (Tech adv [English])
  Abdelhaq Chraibi (Tech adv [Arabic])
  Frank Caffey (Prod mgr)
  Hugh Brown (Asst prod mgr)
  C. O. "Doc" Erickson (Unit prod mgr)
  Cecil R. Foster Kemp (Unit mgr, London)
  Eddie Morse (Casting)
  Bill Cowitt (Casting)
  Bill Greenwald (Casting)
  Tony Regan (Casting)
  Gary Fifield (Casting)
  Tish Morgan (Casting secy)
  Charles Morton (Scr clerk)
  Art Sarno (Pub)
  William Pillar (Stage eng)
  Darrell Turnmire (Company grip)
  Vic Jones (Gaffer)
  Don Ring (Gaffer, London)
  Adolph Froelich (Elec)
  Dick Rabis (Standby labor)
  Catherine Barton (Welfare worker)
Color Personnel: Richard Mueller (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English

Music:
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.
Composer: Arthur Benjamin
  Ray Evans
  Jay Livingston
  D. B. Wyndham-Lewis
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Filwite Productions, Inc. 16/5/1956 dd/mm/yyyy LP6469

PCA NO: 17717
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor
  Widescreen/ratio: VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Espionage
  with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Americans in foreign countries
  Espionage
  Kidnapping
  Murder
  Physicians
  Secret agents
  Singers
  Vacations
 
Subjects (Minor): Acrobats
  Airports
  Albert Hall (London, England)
  Ambassadors
  Arabs
  Assassins
  Buses
  Chapels
  Chases
  Churches
  Concerts
  Cymbals
  Embassies
  Falls from heights
  Fathers and sons
  French
  Hotels
  Impersonation and imposture
  Knife wounds
  London (England)
  Marketplaces
  Ministers
  Morocco
  Orchestras
  Police detectives
  Prime ministers
  Racial impersonation
  Rescues
  Restaurants
  Scotland Yard (London, England)
  Taxidermy

Note: 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 below) 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." 

Bibliographic Sources:   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.

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