|The lives of this family are about to be shattered|
Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda) is an unassuming family man who plays bass fiddle in a band at New York's tony Stork Club. When he goes to an insurance company to find out how much he can borrow on his wife's policy -- they need several hundred dollars to fix her painful dental problems -- the clerks there react with fear and disbelief. Apparently Manny looks just like the man who has robbed the office on two occasions, as well as other places. Manny is arrested, identified by other people as the robber, and hires a lawyer (Anthony Quayle) he can't afford. Meanwhile his wife, Rose (Vera Miles) is so beset with fear and tension that she has to be institutionalized, leaving Manny to face this ordeal alone except for his devoted mother (Esther Minciotti). Based on a true story, The Wrong Man is a Hitchcock film in a low-key mode in all departments and this approach is very effective. Fonda, playing 38 at 51, is quite good, and although Miles is a little off in some scenes, she also gives a very nice performance. Doreen Lang, who later was the hysterical woman in the restaurant in The Birds, is excellent as one of the women in the insurance office; all of the witnesses are very well cast and quite good. William Hudson, Nehemiah Persoff, and Bonnie Franklin all have small roles. The film is expertly photographed by Robert Burks, and has a snappy if sinister theme by Bernard Herrmann. Beautifully done, The Wrong Man is, in its own way, quite disturbing and chilling, and builds up to a very moving finale. It's sad to realize that in real life there was no happy ending.
Verdict: A certified Hitchcock classic. ***1/2.