This is not your ordinary family holiday with Director Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
(Scene with Daniel Gélin, Christopher Olsen, Doris Day and James Stewart.)
Alfred Hitchcock made two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The original film was made in 1934 and starred British and Continental actors including Leslie Banks and Peter Lorre. Although it was made with a limited budget, it brought the still relatively unknown director (outside of the UK anyway) worldwide acclaim. Twenty-one years later, with a huge studio behind him and with it an extravagant budget, Hitchcock decided to give it another shot.
The director apparently first considered a remake of the film in 1941 in order to fulfil a contractual obligation to Paramount Pictures. Scriptwriter John Michael Hayes was hired. He had already written some scripts for Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief and Rear Window and a number of other award-winning films. There were certain conditions. Hayes was not to see the first film or see the original script. He would only get briefed by Hitchcock on the plot details. Hayes would only have the opening scenes ready when filming began and was given instructions to send any subsequent scripts by airmail as he finished them. I’ve seen both versions, and although neither is my favourite, simply because there are other Hitchcock films I would put at the top of the list, they are still both worthwhile seeing. This 1956 version is still a highly enjoyable film, it is a Hitchcock film after all, the man really knows his stuff and is not too far off the mark with either one. What resulted is a film not so different from the first film in plot, but two versions with vastly different locales, the first being Switzerland and London, although the film was actually shot in the studio and in black and white, the second in colourful Marrakesh, Morocco and London and both with actors we can all enjoy.
Is it any wonder that James Stewart is my favourite actor! Everytime I see him on screen I discover something else to love about the guy! He is mesmerizing in every role I’ve seen him play. This was Stewart’s third film with the brilliant director and he was obviously by this time Hitchcock’s favourite actor. Who else! The female lead is singer-actress-comedienne Doris Day in a dramatic role I wouldn’t often associate with her. I had become more familiar with her 1960’s comedies and her tv show which I enjoyed on reruns through the 70’s and 80’s.
Scene with (Lord) Bernard Miles, Christopher Olsen, Brenda de Banzie, Doris Day and James Stewart.
Hitchcock leads us on a breathless adventure with this film shot location in dazzling Technicolor. James and Doris, don’t they sound just like your next-door neighbour, are on a family holiday with their young son in Morocco where their son gets kidnapped. Christopher Olsen plays the young boy. He is the older brother of child actress Susan Olsen who played youngest daughter Cindy in The Brady Bunch. It’s obvious from the start that our lead actors have found themselves in a culture very different from anything they have ever encountered and that this “ordinary” husband and wife, as if we can call James and Doris ordinary, were going to very soon find themselves in an extraordinary situation.
Scene of the marketplace bazaar in the film.
The stars in a scene from the film. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be an extra in one of these films ……. “All right, you there, the lady in the blue dress over there, I said “Cut”!… Hey, I may audition for that play after all.
The film is strongly supported by a talented cast of characters and villains including French actor Daniel Gelin, father of actress Maria Schneider, British actors (Lord) Bernard Miles, father of actress Sarah Miles, Brenda de Banzie and brilliant and prolific Austrian actor Reggie Nalder whose scarred face adds to his enthusiastic portrayal of the villain assassin. These actors were so amazing that I wish we could have seen more of them.
Would you ever want to run into Reggie Nalder’s menacing look? What an amazing character actor!!
Doris Day with child actor Christopher Olsen singing the film’s theme son Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)
Que Sera Sera, Doris Day’s signature song came out of this film and won the Academy Award for best song in 1957 against such titles as True Love from High Society, Thee I Love from Gentle Persuasion sung by Pat Boone, Written on the Wind from the film of the same title by The Four Aces, Julie from the film Julie which Ms. Day starred in and sang the theme song for as well. Thank you, YouTube!