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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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The Wrong Man (1956)

The Wrong Man (1956)

(p.215) 29 The Wrong Man (1956)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

The Wrong Man was based on the true story of Manny Balestrero, a New York musician who was unjustly accused of armed robbery and hounded by the legal system until his wife suffered a nervous breakdown. Hitchcock felt so strongly about following the true story that he filmed in a semi-documentary fashion, shooting in black and white and using authentic New York locations wherever possible. The censors’ review of the script elicited only three suggestions, the fewest they had to offer on any of the director’s American films. The Code office asked that the toilet fixture be eliminated from Manny’s cell, that Manny not be shown ‘quite naked,’ and that the word geez be eliminated. Hitchcock easily accommodated these suggestions, but argued with Warner Bros. over the coda at the end of the film, which suggested in on-screen words over a family strolling beneath palm trees that the Balestrero family lived happily ever after. In actuality, Manny’s wife Rose never recovered fully from her depression. But Warner’s need to tack a happy ending onto the grim story outweighed the director’s pursuit of reality.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, Manny Balestrero, Rose Balestrero, semi-documentary, Production Code Administration, true story, miscarriage of justice, happy ending, The Wrong Man

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