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Alfred Hitchcock is perhaps best remembered for Psycho and The Birds, fictional tales where the ordinary turns frightening. But in 1956, Hitch found that a real story of mistaken identity had enough terror to stick to the facts...
1. Hitchcock really wanted to do the project.
At the time, Hitchcock had been working with Paramount Studios, and so he said that he had to return to Warner Brothers to make good on his contract, which required one last film. It's unknown if that's actually true. Nevertheless, Hitchcock was so behind 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. A mistrial, due to a juror's outburst, allowed enough time for the actual murderer to be caught, but not before causing severe damage to the man’s reputation and to his family, especially his wife, who suffered a mental breakdown. Ironically, when the real criminal was caught, he yelled, “Let me go! My wife and kids are waiting for me!”
3. Hitchcock wanted to be authentic.
The screenwriters visited the jail and interviewed the judge, attorneys, and the wife’s doctor. They even tried to work with the police, but were turned down since they didn't want to be associated with the false arrest. Hitchcock then hired retired cops as consultants to help. Hitch also worked to stage scenes in the actual locations that they happened and reigned in the writing whenever he felt it deviated from the chronology or authenticity of the case.
4. Fonda and Miles were the first cast.
In fact, the film was made for Henry Fonda and Vera Miles. Edith Head was once again hired to outfit the leading lady, and Hitchcock felt that Vera wore too many colors. Miles was considered by some to be “the new Grace Kelly”. She said, "It is true, I supposed, 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 placing himself in his own films in unique and sometimes comical ways. He also filmed a cameo for The Wrong Man in which he appeared in a scene with Fonda. However, it was removed because it didn’t match the authenticity he was striving for. Instead, Hitchcock chose to open the film with narration and dramatic lighting casting his shadow.