Hitchcock and The Wrong Man

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Alfred Hitchcock is best remembered for Psycho and The Birds, fictional tales where the ordinary turns frightening. But in 1956, Hitch found a real story of mistaken identity that had enough terror to stick to the facts...

1. Hitchcock really wanted to do the project.

According to Hitchcock, he had to make a film for Warner Brothers. Before Wrong Man, he had been working with Paramount Pictures. But, allegedly, his previous contract with Warner, outlined that he owed them one last film. It's unknown if that's actually true. Nevertheless, Hitchcock was so enthusiastic about the project that he waived his salary so production would get the go-ahead.

2. The film was based on real life.

Life magazine featured an article in 1953 about Herbert Brean, a jazz musician who had been wrongfully accused of stealing money. The actual criminal was eventually caught, but not before the publicity from the event and a trial caused severe damage to Brean's life and reputation. In fact, just as the film details, his wife suffered a mental breakdown.

3. Hitchcock wanted to be authentic.

The screenwriters interviewed the judge, attorneys, and the wife’s doctor in order to get as many details as they could. They tried to work with the police, but they were turned down since the department felt the project would cast them in a poor light. As a result, Hitchcock hired retired cops to work as consultants. He also filmed at the actual locations where the events happened, and he made sure the script didn't deviate too far from the real chronology or authenticity of the case.

4. Fonda and Miles were the first cast.

In fact, the script was written for Henry Fonda and Vera Miles, whom Hitch was very particular about. Miles was considered by some to be “the new Grace Kelly," and Hitch hired Edith Head to outfit his leading lady (read more about her here). Miles said, "It is true that Hitchcock had a bit of a Pygmalion Complex. He wanted to make me into a superstar, but I just wasn't interested." 

5. Hitchcock cut his original cameo.

Hitch is famous for popping up in his own films in unique and sometimes comical ways. He originally filmed a cameo for The Wrong Man in which he appeared in a scene with Fonda. However, it was removed because he felt it ruined the authentic feel that he was striving for. Instead, Hitchcock chose to open the film, as shown in this image.