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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Sunday, March 24, 2013
5:00 p.m. The Man Who Knew Too Much
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1956)

Of the two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock said, “Let’s say that the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional.” The remake replaces the leading British couple with thoroughly American Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, and St. Moritz with a Technicolor Marrakech. While the major plot elements are the same—an international spy ring, a kidnapping, an assassination attempt—the dynamics of suspense are altered by the well-played friction between Stewart and Day, who gives a surprisingly acute performance as a singer who has forgone a successful career for a more ordinary domestic role. The crucial scene at the Albert Hall (with composer Bernard Herrmann at the conductor’s podium) is a brilliant orchestration of space and shifting points of view as Day’s thwarted singer makes her comeback with a scream.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by John Michael Hayes, from a story by Charles Bennett, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis. Photographed by Robert Burks. With James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda De Banzie, Bernard Miles. (120 mins, Color, 35mm, From Universal)