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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Plot Summary: Dr. Benjamin "Ben" McKenna (James Stewart), his wife, popular singer Josephine “Jo” Conway McKenna (Doris Day), and their son Henry "Hank" McKenna (Christopher Olson) are vacationing in French Morocco. Traveling from Casablanca to Marrakesh, they meet Frenchman Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin) and the friendly English couple, Lucy and Edward Drayton (Bernard Miles and Brenda de Banzie). After agreeing to meet up in the marketplace the next day with the Draytons, the McKennas see Bernard in disguise being chased and stabbed to death. The dying Bernard whispers that a foreign statesman will be assassinated in London and that Ben must tell the authorities about "Ambrose Chappell". However, just as Ben is to tell the police his story, a mysterious phone call tell Ben that Hank has been kidnapped. Will the McKennas find Hank and stop the assassination?


  • James Stewart as Dr. Benjamin "Ben" McKenna

  • Doris Day as Josephine “Jo” Conway McKenna

  • Brenda de Banzie as Lucy Drayton

  • Bernard Miles as Edward Drayton

  • Ralph Truman as Inspector Buchanan

  • Daniel Gélin as Louis Bernard

  • Christopher Olsen as Henry "Hank" McKenna


  • The film was a commercial success. Filmed on a budget of $1.2 million, it grossed $11,333,333 at the domestic box office, earning $4.1 million in US theatrical rentals.

  • The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)", sung by Doris Day.

  • In 2004, American Film Institute included the song "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" as No. 48 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.

Did You Know:

  • In the book-length interview Hitchcock/Truffaut (1967), in response to fellow filmmaker François Truffaut's assertion that aspects of the remake were by far superior, Hitchcock replied "Let's say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional."

  • Throughout the filming, Doris Day became increasingly concerned that Alfred Hitchcock paid more attention to camera set-ups, lighting, and technical matters than he did to her performance. Convinced that he was displeased with her work, she finally confronted him. His reply was, "My dear Miss Day, if you weren't giving me what I wanted, then I would have to direct you!"

  • Movie buffs considered this one of the "Five lost Hitchcocks" (with Rear Window (1954), Rope (1948), The Trouble with Harry (1955), and Vertigo (1958)) because they were unavailable for thirty years because their rights were bought back by Alfred Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter. The five movies were re-released in theaters around 1984. This movie was revived again in 2018 movie archive circuits, in the original projection system (VistaVision) and dimensional sound system (Perspecta Sound), due to the preservation work of UCLA movie archive.

  • At first Doris Day refused to record "Que Sera, Sera" as a popular song release, dismissing it as "a forgettable children's song". It not only went on to win an Academy Award, but also became the biggest hit of her recording career and her signature song. She sang the same song in two more movies, Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), and it was used as the theme song for all one hundred twenty-four episodes of her television series, The Doris Day Show (1968).

  • The movie was originally to be produced by Paramount Pictures and Patron, a company to be jointly owned by James Stewart, Doris Day and Alfred Hitchcock. When the movie finally went before the cameras, the production company was Filwite Productions, Inc., co-owned by Hitchcock and Stewart. The reason Day was not included in the final production deal has not been publicly disclosed. However, it may have had something to do with Day's husband and manager at the time, Martin Melcher, a man absolutely despised and considered shady by many in Hollywood. (There was good reason for this. Ms. Day eventually learned that she was all but penniless as a result of his management.)

  • The plot called for a man (Daniel Gélin in the role of Louis Bernard) to be discovered as "not Moroccan" because he was wearing dark make-up. After numerous trials, the make-up artists couldn't find a make-up that would come off easily. Instead, they painted James Stewart's fingers with light-colored powder, so that he would leave pale streaks on Gélin's skin (according to Patricia Hitchcock, this idea was suggested by Daniel Gélin).

  • The Albert Hall sequence lasts twelve minutes without a single word of dialogue and consists of one hundred twenty-four shots.

  • Initially, the script contained a great deal of dialogue at the Royal Albert Hall. According to The New York Times, James Stewart was originally to deliver a page-long speech about why they had to stop the concert. But this didn't go over well with Alfred Hitchcock. "You're talking so much, I'm unable to enjoy the London Symphony", Hitchcock complained to Stewart. "Just wave your arms a lot and run up the stairs." This was apparently normal behavior for Hitchcock, who was "suspicious of the spoken word."

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: In a oft used trope of Hitchcock, a case of mistaken identity wraps an American couple up in a case of espionage, crime, and murder.

Best Performance: Doris Day (Jo)

Best Secondary Performance: Alfred Hitchcock (Director)/Bernard Herman (Composer)

Most Charismatic Award: Doris Day (Jo)/Alfred Hitchcock (Director)

Best Scene:

  • Bus Ride

  • Arabian Dinner

  • Marrakesh Marketplace

  • Ambrose Chapel

  • Royal Albert Hall

  • The Embassy

Favorite Scene: Royal Albert Hall/Taxidermist Ambrose Chappell

Most Indelible Moment: Royal Albert Hall

In Memorium:

  • N/A

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Jo McKenna: Do you live in France, Mr Bernard?

Louis Bernard: Sometimes.

Hank McKenna: Do you eat snails?

Louis Bernard: When I'm lucky enough to get them.

Hank McKenna: Well, if you ever get hungry, our garden back home is full of snails.

Louis Bernard: Thank you for the invitation.

Hank McKenna: If you ever get hungry, our garden back home is full of snails. We tried everything to get rid of them. We never thought of a Frenchman!

Ambassador: [to Drayton] You English intellectuals will be the death of us all.

Louis Bernard: There are moments in life when we all need a little help.

Jo McKenna: Ben, are we about to have our monthly fight?

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6

Impact/Significance: 7.75

Novelty: 8.25

Classic-ness: 9

Rewatchability: 7.5

Audience Score: 8.5 (86% Google, 84% RT)

Total: 46.95

Remaining Questions:

  • Is the Ambassador caught?

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