By the mid-1950s, Alfred Hitchcock already had 25 years of hit films to his name, but in fact was just hitting his stride, with classics like Vertigo and Psycho still ahead. Coming off Rear Window in 1954, he made the unusual decision to remake one of his films from 20 years earlier, but with a substantially updated plot. For this version, James Stewart is an American doctor vacationing in Morocco with his son and wife, played by Doris Day in one of her most serious film turns. Since no one in a Hitchcock film is likely to enjoy a relaxing vacation, the couple and their child are soon embroiled in an international assassination plot that takes them from Marrakesh to London, with a race toward the famed Albert Hall.
The film is full of twists and turns, and, of course, no one is who they seem to be. It is the perfect movie to illustrate the core of Hitchcock’s form, and in this seminar we will discuss it in the context of some of his more famous films and in comparison to the 1934 original, which featured Peter Lorre in his first English-speaking role. Hitchcock’s masterpieces are so ubiquitous that it can be hard to see the essence of his films clearly, but The Man Who Knew Too Much might be the ideal film to help us understand “typical” Hitchcock, which managed to keep audiences on the edge of their seats for decades. How did he do it? What were his secrets? If we go digging, what might we find?