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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is a suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart and Doris Day. The film is a remake in widescreen VistaVision and Technicolor of Hitchcock's 1934 film of the same name.

In the book-length interview, Hitchcock/Truffaut (1967), Hitchcock told fellow filmmaker François Truffaut that he considered his 1956 remake to be superior, saying that the 1934 version was the work of a talented amateur, the 1956 version the work of a professional.

The film won an Academy Award for Best Song for "Whatever Will Be, Will Be ," sung by Doris Day at several points in the action. It was also entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.


An Americanmarker family, Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart), his wife Jo (Doris Day) and their son Hank (Christopher Olsen) are on vacation, traveling in Moroccomarker. They befriend a fellow traveler, the mysterious Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin), on a bus. Bernard is friendly enough, but Mrs. McKenna becomes suspicious and thinks he is hiding something. Bernard offers to take the McKennas out to dinner that night, but suddenly cancels when a sinister-looking man arrives at the door of the McKenna's hotel room. Later, the couple meets another vacationing couple, the Draytons (Bernard Miles and Brenda De Banzie), at dinner in a local restaurant. Louis Bernard also comes to the restaurant, but sits at a separate table from the McKennas and the Draytons.

The next day, while exploring a busy outdoor marketplace in Marrakeshmarker, the McKennas see a man being chased by police officers. Shortly afterward, the same man approaches them after being stabbed in the back by an assassin. Ben discovers that the man is wearing brown makeup and is really Louis Bernard. Before dying, Bernard whispers into Ben's ear a terrible secret: that someone's life is in danger. After the murder, The Draytons offer to return Hank to the hotel while Dr. and Mrs. McKenna are questioned by the authorities. The interrogator reveals that Louis Bernard was a spy. At the police station, Ben receives a telephone call from a mysterious man who informs him that Hank has been kidnapped and threatens to harm him unless the McKennas say nothing to the police about Bernard's last words.

After following a number of false leads, Ben tracks the kidnappers to a church, where Mr. Drayton is posing as the minister. Ben learns that the Draytons are involved in a plot to assassinate a European head of state during a symphony orchestra concert at the Royal Albert Hallmarker.

Ben and Jo separately track the killer to the concert, where he is to shoot the dignitary at the exact moment of time when the orchestra's music features a loud and climactic cymbal crash. At the moment of truth, Jo screams. The sudden unexpected sound causes the assassin to misfire. Ben chases the assassin, who falls to his death from a balcony.

The couple then follow the kidnappers to the ambassador's residence in London, where they are welcomed as heroes for saving the head of state's life. Mrs. Drayton, unable to be complicit in the plan to kill Hank, helps the boy find his father. Mr. Drayton tries to escape with the two as hostages, but is struck by Ben and falls down the stairs to his death when the gun he is holding fires accidentally. It is never explained what ultimately happens to Mrs. Drayton, but she does witness her husband's death.


Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In The Man Who Knew Too Much he can be seen 25 minutes into the film watching acrobats in the Moroccan marketplace, with his back to the camera, just before the spy is killed.


Music plays an important part in this film. Although the film's composer, Bernard Herrmann, wrote relatively little "background" music for this film, the performance of Arthur Benjamin's cantata Storm Clouds, conducted by Herrmann, is the climax of the film. In addition, Doris Day's character is a well-known, now retired, professional singer. Several times in the film, she sings the Livingston & Evans song "Que Sera, Sera " which won the 1956 Best Song Oscar under the alternate title "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)." The song reached number two on the U.S. pop charts and number one in the UK.

Herrmann was given the option of composing a new cantata to be performed during the film's climax. However, he found Arthur Benjamin's cantata Storm Clouds from the original 1934 film to be so well suited to the film that he declined. Herrmann can be seen conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and singers during the Royal Albert Hall scenes. The sequence in Albert Hall runs 12 minutes without any dialogue, from the beginning of Storm Cloud Cantata until the climax, when the Doris Day character screams.

Comparison of the 1934 and 1956 versions

The plots of the two versions vary substantially. The first version opens in St Moritz, Switzerland; not in Morocco. The first climaxes in a siege and shoot-out in London's East End - this scene was not incorporated in the later film. The kidnapped daughter in the 1934 version becomes a son in the remake.

Home video

The film has been released on home video by Universal Pictures, which acquired the rights to Hitchcock's Paramount films, in both VHS and DVD formats. The 2000 DVD includes a special documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, and members of the production crew. The DVD retains the original VistaVision aspect ratio, capturing the full widescreen impact of the film, with digitally restored images.



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