Ep. 95: The Wrong Man

Alfred Hitchcock states this is a true story in his monologue. This sets the stage for suspense and we are zoomed into the macro life of Emmanuel Ballestero 1953.

The Wrong Man (1956)
Not Rated | 1h 45min | Drama, Film-Noir | 26 January 1957 (USA)

In 1953, an innocent man named Christopher Emmanuel “Manny” Balestrero is arrested after being mistaken for an armed robber.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Maxwell Anderson (screen play), Angus MacPhail (screen play) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle

This reminded me of the Dragnet intro where Jack Webb would say: “The stories are true but the names were changed to protect the innocent.” Viewers are drawn to crime stories. I’m sure there is a psychological reason for it but it’s undeniably true. In this movie, I identified with the protagonist and felt like what was happening to him was happening to me. I found this quite uncomfortable at times.

Henry Fonda and Vera Miles are the couple that shine in this film. He is a regular Joe bringing in the milk, Doing his music job on the bass at the club, checking on his kids in bed when he gets home at night. This family is strapped for cash. It represented to me the American family and debt. There really is no way around it when you are young. Fonda’s character Ballestero, is 38 which is kind of young but old enough to where you’d like to see he was doing a little better for himself. His wife complains of her wisdom teeth needing surgery. She says it will be 300 dollars. Then she doesn’t complain, she keeps her pain inside. I suppose at that time, a perfect wife. Nowadays, I kept thinking, ibuprofen would have cured her pain for the night. Why isn’t he getting her some? Simple answer is: it wasn’t invented yet. The wife is breathtakingly beautiful at the beginning and we only have clues as to how she may be weaker than we think.

For the rest of my film summary and review, I will be getting into some plot spoilers.

You have to ask why the exposition of a family is being portrayed so long. HItchcock has a purpose for everything. It’s wonderful watching his films because you can feel free to see almost everything as meant and as a clue. In literature, these are often called “significant particulars.” Hitchcock has them coming at you from the opening credits. I noticed he lists as “consultants” the DA office of some county. See he’s already adding verisimilitude there.

When Ballestero goes to the insurance office, he is seeking a loan to get his wife’s teeth worked on. Immediately, the teller panics because she thinks he is the man who held up the window the month before. Hitchcock knows the way panic spreads along with rumors. He is followed as he walks home, apprehended by the police and they take him in for questioning. I like how he continually asks to tell his wife why he wouldn’t be coming home. The police don’t care in fact they even lie to him saying repeatedly, “It’s already been taken care of.” He does whatever they ask of him at the station. I understand this guy but he’s stupid! One should always err on the side of having representation. One should always have a lawyer. A public defender could have come right in there in that room and prevented so much turmoil for he and his family. Unfortunately, he either didn’t know that or his ego prevented him from asking for it. You really feel for the guy. He should have demanded a lawyer. Should have said “are you gonna charge me with something?” I was yelling at the TV as they are taking him in to stores. Back then and probably now people had such extreme respect for the police. Keep it in check with your rights!

“You’ve been identified as a hold up man by many witness …” They tell him. He agrees to write dictation. 2x This implicates him (assumedly). I really respect him how he goes in without a clamour. He is very respectful. Above all things, when dealing with the legal system, it is wise to be respectful. His family posts bail and it is an exciting scene. He is exhausted. Then it’s the wife to the rescue!! She finally calls the lawyer. At this point it becomes like a classic courtroom drama. The lawyer is so supportive but even he couldn’t avoid a mistrial. Some juror yelled out and it had to be over. Then they have to start again.

His wife is losing it. Her frail nerves we saw evidence of at the beginning have collapsed. He has to put her in a home where she seems to not be recovering. In the end, the real robber tries it again and he is caught. This gets Ballesteri off the hook. Sigh. But what about the wife?
The end credits say she did recover and went back to her husband and lives in Florida. Imagine that, a Hitchcock happy ending! This is a classic but not dark enough to be a 10/10. I give it a 9. Well worth watching.

The Wrong Man (1956) Notes

Alfred Hitchcock states this is a true story in his monologue. This sets the stage for suspense and we are zoomed into the macro life of Emmanuel Ballestero 1953. This reminded me of the Dragnet intro where Jack Webb would say: “The stories are true but the names were changed to protect the innocent.” Viewers are drawn to crime stories. I’m sure there is a psychological reason for it but it’s undeniably true. In this movie, I identified with the protagonist and felt like what was happening to him was happening to me. I found this quite uncomfortable at times.

Henry Fonda and Vera Miles are the couple that shine in this film. He is a regular Joe bringing in the milk, Doing his music job on the bass at the club, checking on his kids in bed when he gets home at night. This family is strapped for cash. It represented to me the American family and debt. There really is no way around it when you are young. Fonda’s character Ballestero, is 38 which is kind of young but old enough to where you’d like to see he was doing a little better for himself. His wife complains of her wisdom teeth needing surgery. She says it will be 300 dollars. Then she doesn’t complain, she keeps her pain inside. I suppose at that time, a perfect wife. Nowadays, I kept thinking, ibuprofen would have cured her pain for the night. Why isn’t he getting her some? Simple answer is: it wasn’t invented yet. The wife is breathtakingly beautiful at the beginning and we only have clues as to how she may be weaker than we think.

For the rest of my film summary and review, I will be getting into some plot spoilers.

You have to ask why the exposition of a family is being portrayed so long. HItchcock has a purpose for everything. It’s wonderful watching his films because you can feel free to see almost everything as meant and as a clue. In literature, these are often called “significant particulars.” Hitchcock has them coming at you from the opening credits. I noticed he lists as “consultants” the DA office of some county. See he’s already adding verisimilitude there.

When Ballestero goes to the insurance office, he is seeking a loan to get his wife’s teeth worked on. Immediately, the teller panics because she thinks he is the man who held up the window the month before. Hitchcock knows the way panic spreads along with rumors. He is followed as he walks home, apprehended by the police and they take him in for questioning. I like how he continually asks to tell his wife why he wouldn’t be coming home. The police don’t care in fact they even lie to him saying repeatedly, “It’s already been taken care of.” He does whatever they ask of him at the station. I understand this guy but he’s stupid! One should always err on the side of having representation. One should always have a lawyer. A public defender could have come right in there in that room and prevented so much turmoil for he and his family. Unfortunately, he either didn’t know that or his ego prevented him from asking for it. You really feel for the guy. He should have demanded a lawyer. Should have said “are you gonna charge me with something?” I was yelling at the TV as they are taking him in to stores. Back then and probably now people had such extreme respect for the police. Keep it in check with your rights!

“You’ve been identified as a hold up man by many witness …” They tell him. He agrees to write dictation. 2x This implicates him (assumedly). I really respect him how he goes in without a clamour. He is very respectful. Above all things, when dealing with the legal system, it is wise to be respectful. His family posts bail and it is an exciting scene. He is exhausted. Then it’s the wife to the rescue!! She finally calls the lawyer. At this point it becomes like a classic courtroom drama. The lawyer is so supportive but even he couldn’t avoid a mistrial. Some juror yelled out and it had to be over. Then they have to start again.

His wife is losing it. Her frail nerves we saw evidence of at the beginning have collapsed. He has to put her in a home where she seems to not be recovering. In the end, the real robber tries it again and he is caught. This gets Ballesteri off the hook. Sigh. But what about the wife?
The end credits say she did recover and went back to her husband and lives in Florida. Imagine that, a Hitchcock happy ending! This is a classic but not dark enough to be a 10/10. I give it a 9. Well worth watching.

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