The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Doris Day and James Stewart
Doris Day and James Stewart

'The Man Who Knew Too Much' is an exciting, suspense thriller movie, made in 1956, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring James Stewart and Doris Day. The film is a remake of one of Hitchcock's own films - his 1934 film of the same name.

The movie was nominated for, and won, one Academy Award in 1957, for Best Music, Original Song to Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the song "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)", which became Doris Day's theme song for the rest of her career. The movie was also a success commercially. It grossed over $11million in the US box office after being filmed on a budget of $1.2million.

Because it is Hitchcock's only remake, it raises the issue of the superiority of his American work to his British productions. Though the original 1934 version is witty, the remake is more lavish and expert, containing some of Hitchcock's most powerful scenes in widescreen VistaVision and Technicolor.


James Stewart, in the third of the four movies that he made with Hitchcock, plays an American doctor, Ben McKenna, on holiday in Morocco with his family, who accidentally learns of a political assassination which is to take place in the near future. A friendly English couple are in fact spies in on the plot, and they kidnap Stewart's young son, Hank, played by Christopher Olsen, to ensure his silence. So Ben must prevent the killing without putting his son in harm's way.

As in most Hitchcock films, the international intrigue is less important than the odyssey of the hero. Stewart indeed "knows too much", not valuing the capabilities of his wife, played by Doris Day. As the plot unfolds, however, her assistance proves essential, despite his fears of her emotional collapse (he even drugs her before telling her of the kidnapping).

The film climaxes in the Albert Hall, in one of Hitchcock's best-ever set pieces which lasts 12 minutes with no dialogue and consists of 124 shots.

. 'The Man Who Knew too Much' features excellent performances by Stewart and Day, and by Bernard Miles and Brenda De Banzie as the British agents. The score by Bernard Herrmann, who appears in the film directing the orchestra, is one of his best and the performance of Arthur Benjamin's cantata 'Storm Clouds', unchanged from the original 1934 film, is the memorable climax of the movie.


In 1941, Alfred Hitchcock first considered a remake of his 1934 success 'The Man Who Knew Too Much', but he only brought the idea to fruition in 1956 in order to make a film that would fulfill a contractual demand from Paramount Pictures. It was at first intended to be produced by Paramount and a company called Patron, jointly owned by James Stewart, Doris Day and Alfred Hitchcock. When shooting finally began it was produced by Filwite Productions, a company owned by Hitchcock and Stewart only. It seems highly likely that the omission of Doris Day was because of her then husband, and manager, Martin Melcher, a man heartily and justifiably despised and mistrusted in Hollywood.

Hitchcock wanted James Stewart in the role of Ben McKenna and for his usual blonde lead, requested Doris Day as she had impressed him with her performance in 'Storm Warning' in 1951. Other actresses, both blonde and brunette, such as Lana Turner, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Jane Russell, Gene Tierney and Ava Gardner were also considered for the role.
Hitchcock hred Screenwriter John Michael Hayes for the screenplay, with the stipulation that he would not watch the 1934 version nor read its script. When shooting began, only the opening scenes were ready and subsequent script pages were sent by airmail as Hayes finished them.
The movie was shot on location in London and Marakesh. St. Saviour's Church Hall in Brixton Hill, London was used to film the exterior of Ambrose Chapel whilst the internal shots were filmed on a conventional soundstage in Hollywood.

Filming finished thirty-seven days behind schedule, including six days when the whole shoot was closed.

Main Cast

James Stewart ... Dr. Benjamin 'Ben' McKenna
Doris Day ... Josephine Conway 'Jo' McKenna
Brenda De Banzie ... Lucy Drayton
Bernard Miles ... Edward Drayton
Ralph Truman ... Inspector Buchanan
Daniel Gélin ... Louis Bernard (as Daniel Gelin)
Mogens Wieth ... Ambassador
Alan Mowbray ... Val Parnell
Hillary Brooke ... Jan Peterson
Christopher Olsen ... Henry 'Hank' McKenna
Reggie Nalder ... Rien
Richard Wattis ... Assistant Manager
Noel Willman ... Woburn
Alix Talton ... Helen Parnell
Yves Brainville ... Police Inspector


Director ... Alfred Hitchcock
Producer ... Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Coleman
Cinematography ... Robert Burks
Writer ... John Michael Hayes
Screenwriter ... Charles Bennett
Based on a Story by D. B. Wyndham-Lewis
Based on a Story by Angus McPhail
Music ... Bernard Herrmann
Music Score ... Arthur Benjamin
Composer ... Ray Evans, Jay Livingston

Academy Awards

One win:
Best Music, Original Song ... Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the song "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)"