The Wrong Man (1956)
Starring Henry Fonda and Vera Miles
The plot is simple. Henry Fonda is Christopher Emmanuel "Manny" Balestrero, a man charged with several counts of armed robbery who must do all he can to convince the court of his innocence. Meanwhile, his wife (Vera Miles) slowly begins to lose faith that her husband will win his case and begins to go insane, wracked with guilt for a slew of reasons that I won't get into here.
This is certainly the saddest Hitchcock film I've seen thus far. As I said, there's a realness on display here that is unlike anything I've ever seen from Hitch. We don't get relief from comedic side characters. Instead, side characters such as Manny's son provide us with some genuine heart-wrenching moments, rather than moments of laughter.
Henry Fonda is pretty fantastic here. Like Jimmy Stewart, Fonda is your regular everyman. Unlike Stewart who oftentimes seems to have a slight "winking at the audience" smirk or smile on his face, Fonda is the "serious" everyman. Fonda's role certainly adds a bleakness to the film that we're not used to seeing from Hitch's actors. Vera Miles is also quite good as the beleaguered wife, but unfortunately, her insanity plot, while true to life, seems almost tacked on in the film. While there's a great deal of time spent on her problem, it seems too secondary to ever gain any traction.
I'm gonna paraphrase a quote from director Peter Bogdanovich who said that The Wrong Man shows a restraint that we're not used to seeing from Hitchcock. That's an accurate assessment of the film -- it's what makes the film unique to the Hitchcock oeuvre and one that I recommend to see a different side of the Master of Suspense.
The RyMickey Rating: B