Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much is the only film of his that he remade. The original was released in 1934 to great success, and so was the 1956 version. Some critics still prefer the original, but personally, anytime Hitch and Jimmy Stewart teamed up they churned out a classic. This was their third collaboration, following Rope in 1948 and Rear Windowin 1954. In my opinion, Jimmy Stewart is the greatest actor of all time. His work in the ’50’s alone, from Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 in 1950to Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder in 1959, is the most consistent of any American actor. Stewart was always concerned about being pegged as the nice everyman. He did everything he could to keep from being typecast, and it’s not until very recently that audiences have really begun to discover how much talent was inside this man, and his work with Hitchcock was probably his best. That being said, this film is not as good as it could have been, but it’s still worth watching.
The film opens up with the McKenna family traveling to Morocco. Stewart plays Dr. Ben McKenna, while Doris Day plays his wife, Jo. They are accompanied by their somewhat annoying son, Hank. On the bus to Morocco, the McKenna’s meet a man by the name of Louis Bernard. Bernard is a very mysterious man who asks a lot of questions. Stewart doesn’t seem to mind, but Day is very concerned. The next day in a market place, a man with a knife in his back stumbles up to Stewart, and tells him that a statesmen will be killed in London. After being questioned by the police, the McKenna’s find that their son has been kidnapped in order to keep the secret about the assassination quiet. That’s really all you need to go on. I wouldn’t dare give away the twists in the plot, but they are riveting.
I was on the edge of my seat throughout the film, but I was disappointed as well. First of all, Doris Day is good in her role, especially when Stewart drugs her to tell her the news about their son, but she seems like someone Hitchcock settled for, she’s a little too plain for one of his famous blondes. Stewart is very good, but he isn’t given enough to work with, and he’s kept in the background during the assassination sequence at Albert Hall. The film also has way too many endings. The Albert Hall sequence is brilliant in it’s staging, but it felt as if the film should have ended there. The film is pretty famous for Day’s singing of “Que Sera, Sera,” and while she has a great voice, I found the use of her singing it in the climax to be somewhat corny.
Even though it seems as if I’m ragging on the movie, I did enjoy it while it was playing. There are many sequences that are essential Hitchcock, the Albert Hall sequence, and the confrontation at the Taxidermy Shop were my favorite, but the film doesn’t have the power to stick with you. It’s extremely entertaining, but it’s not as deep as some of his other films. I do recommend it, but don’t go in expecting Vertigo or Rear Window.
Like all of Universal’s Hitchcock films, The Man Who Knew Too Much is available on a couple DVD’s. They are all pretty much the same, they have the same bonus features, and the color and sound are not that different. Pick it up, check it out, enjoy it, just don’t expect a masterpiece.