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Three— The Director Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock Remakes Himself
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The Director Who Knew Too Much:
Hitchcock Remakes Himself

Stuart Y. McDougal

L. B. Jeffires [James Stewart]: Why would Thorwald want to kill a little dog?
Lisa [Grace Kelly]: Because it knew too much.
Rear Window

Scottie [James Stewart]: One doesn't often get a second chance.

The notion of a remake becomes complex with a filmmaker like Alfred Hitchcock, who was continuously and obsessively remaking his own work. Such a practice is well documented among modern writers: Yeats, Auden, and Marianne Moore, for example, frequently rewrote their earlier poetry. Prose writers have this luxury less often, because of the greater costs of publishing fiction. The exceptions usually involve collected editions, such as the New York Edition of Henry James's work, a publishing event that gave him the opportunity to revise his work and write extensive introductions. Similarly, Graham Greene revised his short fiction when publishing his Collected Short Stories . For literary scholars as well as publishers, these revisions raise problematic issues about whether one text should be privileged over another. Does a publisher print the long version of Marianne Moore's "Poetry/I, too, dislike it" or the final short version? Or both?

Because of the economics involved, the situation with film is much more complicated. With the advent of video, some films have been reissued in multiple versions, from a choice of wide-screen or pan-and-scan to, more recently, the director's cut. But very few directors have been able to remake an earlier work of their own; Hitchcock is one of them.[1] Before considering The Man Who Knew Too Much , which Hitchcock first made in 1934 and filmed a second time twenty years later, I would like to comment on the centrality of remaking as a process in all of Hitchcock's work. Throughout his career, Hitchcock remade his early work in a variety of ways, combining his exploration of the expressive potential of film with a desire for technical perfection.

Hitchcock often remade a single shot or a transition between shots. One


of the most innovative transitions in his early sound films occurs in The Thirty-Nine Steps when Hannay's landlady enters his flat, finds the recumbent body of Annabella Smith with a knife in her back, and screams. Hitchcock cuts directly from a close-up of her screaming face to the express train carrying Hannay to Scotland. Her scream blends with the harsh, piercing whistle of the train and seems to be propelling Hannay northward. Try as he will, Hannay cannot escape her scream or the accusations that will accompany it. Hitchcock had experimented with a similar transition as early as The Lodger (1927). Here the close-up of a screaming woman is followed by a black screen (as in the opening of the film) or by exposition (as in the flashback concerning the lodger's sister). In Blackmail (1929), Hitchcock's first sound film, a shot of Alice, the heroine, screaming at the sight of an outstreched hand on the London street is followed immediately by a shot of the screaming landlady as she discovers the body of the murdered artist. Hitchcock refines this idea through a series of films until he is satisfied with the effect. In The Thirty-Nine Steps , he succeeds in combining the shock of the abrupt transition with continuity on several levels.

One could cite many other such examples like this from Hitchcock's work. But his remaking extends beyond the single shot or juxtaposition of shots. Entire sequences are remade, as well. In addition, Hitchcock takes extended themes and remakes them in different contexts, often culminating in an entire film devoted to that theme. Thus, Hitchcock introduces the theme of "the wrong man" in The Lodger , a theme that he will develop (in The Thirty-Nine Steps and elsewhere) before making The Wrong Man in 1957. Two years later, in North by Northwest , Hitchcock obsessively returns to this theme. Similarly, Hitchcock introduces the fear of heights in The Lodger and returns to it throughout his career before exploring this fear systematically in Vertigo (1958).

Hitchcock's continuous remaking of shots, sequences, and themes contributes to a sense of cohesion in his oeuvre. But there is yet another way in which remaking is central in his work—and that results from the fact that over 75 percent of his films are adaptations of novels, stories, or plays. Of his remaining films not based on literary sources, many are loose remakes of his earlier work. Thus, two of his "original" works, Saboteur (1942) and North by Northwest (1959), are in some sense American remakes of The Thirty-Nine Steps; the action in Saboteur traverses America from west to east at the outbreak of the Second World War; North by Northwest reverses that trajectory during the Eisenhower years of the cold war.

These different forms of remaking reflect Hitchcock's desire to get things right—they are a part of his obsession with the details of moviemaking as he developed as an artist. But in remaking an entire film, much more is involved. Deeply seated personal concerns shape his selection of a project as well as the ways in which he transforms an earlier project while remaking


it. A comparison of the two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much , then, will clarify Hitchcock's development as an artist as well as illuminate some of the psychological dynamics of his filmmaking.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) was an enormous success in Britain and reestablished Hitchcock's reputation after several relative flops. It marked a return to the suspense genre and the development of an idea the Hitchcocks first discussed on their honeymoon at the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz in 1926 (Spoto, 94–95). The 1934 film chronicles the adventures of an English family whose vacation in St. Moritz is interrupted by the murder of a close friend and the kidnapping of their own daughter. As they struggle to get their daughter back, the couple have to rethink their relationship and assume new roles. The film is a study of the dynamics of a marriage as well as the conditions of spectatorship and passivity (related to both marriage and film viewing).

The Man Who Knew Too Much opens with a series of three performances, at each of which Bob, the husband (Leslie Banks), is a spectator and in two of which his wife, Jill (Edna Best), "performs" with a potential rival: a ski competition involving the potential rival, Louis Bernard (Pierre Fresnay), a dashing and mysterious Frenchman and a friend of Bob and Jill; a skeetshooting competition between Jill and Ramon (Frank Vosper), another mysterious "foreigner"; and a ball where Jill and Louis Bernard dance together amid other couples in the hotel ballroom. The first two performances are disrupted by Betty (Nova Pilbeam), the Lawrence's precocious daughter, so that both Louis Bernard and Jill lose their respective competitions. The dance, observed by Bob and Betty, is fraught with sexual banter and an underlying sexual tension. It is the culmination of a series of flirtations between Jill and Louis Bernard. Bob picks up Jill's knitting project (a symbol of domesticity, if ever there were one) and hooks the end of one strand of wool on the button of Bernard's tuxedo. As the sweater comes unraveled, the couples on the dance floor become caught up in a web created by the strand of wool. Just as the film audience relaxes at the humor of the situation, Louis Bernard is shot and dies in Jill's arms. Jill, the skilled markswoman, is unable to provide any sort of protection for her dance partner and, like many sexually aggressive women in Hitchcock's films, she is punished for her behavior. The rapid movement from humor to horror is typical of Hitchcock, as is the sudden intrusion of death into a public and apparently secure situation. The metaphorical use of knitting suggests both the unraveling of Bob and Jill's relationship (as well as the unraveling of Bernard's life) and the simultaneous entanglement of Bob in the lives of others.

As Bob acts on the entreaties of the dying Bernard to seek out a note hidden in the handle of Bernard's shaving brush, he becomes implicated in a plot he is unable to comprehend. Before he can show the note to the


police, he receives a message that his daughter has been kidnapped and will be harmed if he speaks out. He shares this note with his wife and she faints—a decisive moment in the development of her character. For the next third of the film, she is either absent or seen in a more passively feminine role, as when she clutches Betty's doll in the nursery. She won't assume an active role again until after her near-fainting in Albert Hall.

With the killing of Louis Bernard and the kidnapping of Betty, the villains are responsible for separating the two pairs clearly established as couples in the opening exposition: Jill and Louis Bernard and Bob and his daughter, Betty. Both of these losses represent wish fulfillments for the married couple: Bob is relieved of his rival and Jill is relieved of the daughter who was both a sexual threat and an impediment to her relationship with Louis Bernard. (Remember that Betty caused both her mother and Louis Bernard to fail in their respective competitions.)

As the Lawrences return to England from Switzerland, Hitchcock creates a "decisive . . . contrast between the snowy Alps and the congested streets of London" (Truffaut, 91–92). The disparity between the expansive spaces of the resort and the civilized interiors of the upper-middle-class hotel and the grimy, crowded cityscape is also a difference predicated on class. St. Moritz was a place known well by the Hitchcocks: they honeymooned there and returned often for holidays with their young daughter, Patricia, in tow. The Hitchcocks always stayed in a first-class hotel. In London, however, because of his Cockney accent, Hitchcock could not enter a first-class hotel without experiencing class discrimination. The settings in London—with the exception of Albert Hall—are all the lower-middle-class environment of Hitchcock's youth. The sense of authenticity in this version is strong because Hitchcock is using locales with which he is intimately familiar. Bob must enter the dark maze of lower-class London to rescue Betty. Only Jill remains outside and, in some ways, untouched by it.

In Hitchcock's original conception of the film, Jill was to have played a more central role in the London sequences, rather than be relegated to the sidelines until the Albert Hall scene. As Hitchcock explained to Truffaut, he planned to have Jill accompany Bob to the Tabernacle of the Sun, there to be hypnotized by Nurse Agnes. Then Jill would be taken to Albert Hall, where she would shoot the statesman herself. "On thinking it over," Hitchcock added, "I felt that even a crack shot might not aim accurately while in a hypnotic trance. So I dropped it" (Truffaut, 92). In eliminating Jill from this sequence, Hitchcock is forced to create a new accomplice for Bob in the person of Clive (Hugh Wakefield), the infantilized bachelor uncle. Clive is introduced in the nursery playing with the electric train he had given Betty. He represents the immature childishness that Bob must overcome. At the same time, Jill is at her most maternal in London after the loss of Betty. She clutches a doll in the nursery and faints on two occasions—some-


thing she would have seemed incapable of doing as a markswoman. She must succeed in bringing the feminine and masculine aspects of her character into alignment, just as Bob must become more assertive and responsible in order for the family to survive.

The London sequences concentrate on the activities of Bob and Clive, who behave like two adolescents. Clive accompanies Bob to the dentist and then to the chapel, where he is hypnotized and doesn't come to until Bob breaks a chair over his head during a fight with the villains. Clive escapes through the chapel window and telephones Jill. He urges her to go to Albert Hall. He then calls the police, who meet him in front of the chapel. In a scene that Hitchcock will remake in North by Northwest , the villains persuade the police that Clive is intoxicated and should be booked on drunk and disorderly conduct, leaving Bob locked inside. And that's the last we see of Clive. Without Clive, Bob can now begin to act more like an adult.

Although Hitchcock was correct in recognizing a problem with having Jill do the shooting in Albert Hall, there is an equal problem in eliminating her from this part of the action. When she goes to Albert Hall, she does so with the knowledge that an assassination is about to occur. (See figure 5.) She meets the killer (Ramon, her former antagonist in the shooting competition) and he hands her the brooch that she had given to Betty just prior to her last competition. It was the brooch which precipitated her loss in the competition with Ramon; now it represents Betty metonymically. The close-up of her left hand, juxtaposing the brooch with her wedding band, underscores her responsibility for her family, now in conflict with her public responsibility as a citizen. Jill enters the theater and sits alone in the back, her eyes searching the balcony for the killer and his target. She knows what is about to happen and as she considers the consequences, she becomes a surrogate for the film spectator who wants to intervene but is unable to. She begins to faint and the screen goes white. Suddenly a gun enters the blank screen from the right and turns toward the viewer—as though the gun had come from the depths of Jill's unconscious. Although she is no longer the one to pull the trigger in this scene, the connection between her and the rifle remains strong. When Jill comes to, she screams, thereby violating the decorum of the performance hall but succeeding in averting the assassination.

The Albert Hall sequence feels like it should be the climax of the film, and the shoot-out that follows has struck critics as something of an afterthought. When it becomes apparent that the assassin and his gang are going to be defeated, Abbott (Peter Lorre) declares that they will have to use the girl as a shield to escape from their headquarters. Here Bob plays an integral role and is wounded helping Betty to escape. He pushes her out the third-story window onto the roof, like a mother bird pushing a baby from the nest. Betty's separation from the family must be sanctioned by her


Figure 5.
Preparing for the assassination attempt, as Ramon (Frank Vosper), Bob
(Leslie Banks), Betty (Nova Pilbeam), and Abbott (Peter Lorre) listen to the
recording in  The Man Who Knew Too Much  (1934).

father if she is to enter adulthood—and if Bob and Jill are to survive as a couple. As Betty makes her way across the roof, she resembles an actress making her debut by stepping gingerly across a stage, the footlights glaring in her eyes. If her father has facilitated this moment, her mother must sustain it. On the street below, Jill takes a rifle from the policeman, draws a bead on Ramon, and drops him in his tracks, as though he were a duck in a shooting gallery. Thus she vanquishes her earlier opponent, gets revenge for the murder of Louis Bernard, and saves her child. Bob, through her participation, has moved from being an apathetic childlike spectator to an active adult—first by overcoming the sinister dentist in his chair and discovering the hideout of the assassins, and then by freeing his daughter and helping her escape. Neither he nor Jill alone could have saved Betty; only by working together are they able to succeed. Betty, too, must take some initiative. The final shot of the film—with Bob and Jill embracing Betty, and with Jill reaching affectionately over to Bob—reaffirms their unity as a family. For the first time in the film, Bob and Jill appear as equals.

Hitchcock's dissatisfaction with the two climaxes in The Man Who Knew


Too Much can be seen in his structuring of the climax in his next film, The Thirty-Nine Steps . In some ways this can be viewed as a remake of the Albert Hall sequence. The Thirty-Nine Steps concludes with a sequence in the London Palladium that is not in the novel from which Hitchcock adapted the film. Like the Albert Hall sequence, the climactic scene takes place within a theater where innocent spectators wait to be entertained. The hero or heroine is a surrogate for the film viewer, as he or she looks from the performance on the stage to the audience and attempts to understand what is happening. In both cases the hero or heroine's life is at stake, although no one in the theater, except for the killer and the hero or heroine, knows this. The policeman comments to Hannay, as he attempts to lead him out of the theater, "You don't want to disturb these people. They're here to be entertained." For Hitchcock, spectators enter theaters to be entertained at their own risk: to remain passive is to incur self-destruction. In The Thirty-Nine Steps , Hitchcock uses this scene to solve the puzzle ("What are the thirty-nine steps?"), expose the villains, and unite the man and woman. It is the simultaneous resolution of all parts of the drama that makes this climax so satisfying.

Hitchcock began thinking about remaking The Man Who Knew Too Much as early as 1938, when David O. Selznick was negotiating with him to come to America to make Rebecca (Spoto, 248). At one point in their correspondence, Selznick suggested a remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much , noting that he was sure he could get Ronald Colman for the lead. In 1941, Selznick (who, like Hitchcock, had a fondness for adaptations and remakes) bought the rights to The Lodger and The Man Who Knew Too Much . He assigned John Houseman to help Hitchcock with a remake of the latter. By the end of 1941, Houseman wrote to Selznick that they had been working on a version that would begin in Sun Valley, Idaho, and move to Rio de Janeiro during Mardi Gras. Spies would plot to kill the president of Brazil during a concert at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, with the final encounter taking place at their hideout in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Hitchcock was apparently dissatisfied with the political aspects of the story and the characterizations of the American family (Spoto, 359), and he shelved the project for nearly a decade. By December of 1954, when Hitchcock spent the Christmas holidays in St. Moritz with his wife, he had decided to remake the film.

Apart from Selznick's interest in the project, why would Hitchcock choose this of all his earlier films to remake? Although he refused to state in interviews that he preferred the second version, he did go as far as to acknowledge in his self-deprecating way that "the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional" (Truffaut, 94). Part of Hitchcock's dissatisfaction no doubt refers to his unhappiness with the climax in his first version. This problem is not addressed by Houseman's description of the new project (above), although it is treated some-


what in the 1955 remake. But there were other, more compelling personal reasons as well.

In the 1955 remake, Hitchcock works with different social, political, and geographical dynamics. Although this is usually referred to as the "American version," none of the movie takes place on American soil. Instead, Hitchcock presents the well-off American innocents abroad—first in North Africa and then, for most of the film, in London. Here the contrast is between the teeming marketplace of Marrakesh and the surprisingly deserted streets of London. Or, to contrast the two versions, between the cold, snowy alpine slopes and the hot, arid North African deserts, and between the lower-class London that Bob Lawrence and Clive explore and the middle- and upper-class London the McKennas pass through. In both versions the vacation locale aptly characterizes the protagonists: Bob Lawrence is cold and passionless while Ben McKenna is fiery tempered. Hitchcock has altered the dynamics of the family rather significantly. In place of the Lawrences about whom we know too little, we have an American family, about whom we know too much: Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart), Jo Conway McKenna (Doris Day) and their son, Hank (Christopher Olsen). The change of the child's sex is not accidental. With the marriage of Hitchcock's only daughter, Patricia, in 1952 and the birth of her first child in 1954, coupled with the reluctance of her husband to seek work in Hollywood, it had become apparent to Hitchcock that Patricia would not continue the acting career she had once pursued on the stage and more recently in Stage Fright (1959) and Strangers on a Train (1951).[2] There would be no one to carry on the Hitchcock name. Hitchcock's own wife, Alma Reville, had given up a very promising career (as writer, editor, and potential director) to submerge her identity in her husband's—although she continued for some time to have her name in the credits (as Alma Reville). Preoccupied with surnames and the patriarchal power they carry, Hitchcock plots a film in which the oedipal struggle (between father and son) reflects the dynamics of succession within his own family as well as his own struggle as a mature filmmaker with the earlier product of his youthful energy.

Hitchcock has transformed the externally motivated drama of the 1934 film into an internal quest for identity. This is clear in the altered nature of the MacGuffin (the device that propels the plot of his films forward). In the first version, the man from the Foreign Office appeals to the Lawrences' patriotism by comparing the possibility of this assassination to another Sarajevo. In the remake, by contrast, the conflict remains within the family, as the ambassador of an unidentified country attempts to have his own prime minister assassinated.

The opening sequence of the second version, which takes place on a bus from Casablanca to Marrakesh, sets up a crucial encounter that clearly in-


dicates the oedipal dynamics of the conflicts. Hank is bored by doing nothing but watching the scenery, which reminds him of an earlier vacation with his family in Las Vegas, so he gets out of his seat in the back of the bus and makes his way forward. Suddenly the bus lurches forward, and Hank loses his balance. As he reaches out for support, he grabs the veil of an Arab woman seated on the aisle, thereby exposing her face. She remains mute (a characteristic of women in the film) but her outraged husband speaks for her and screams at Hank, while pursuing him back to his seat. Hank's father is puzzled and unable to protect him; an ugly confrontation is averted only by the intervention of a polished European who understands the customs and language (Arabic) of Morocco. The European then joins the McKennas, introduces himself as Louis Bernard, and explains what has happened. As we learn later, this is the first of several cases of mistaken identity, since Bernard assumes at first that the McKennas are the English-speaking assassins (i.e., the Draytons) he is seeking. Before they have reached Marrakesh, Bernard has adroitly questioned Ben so that he has elicited considerable information about the McKennas. The detailed exposition sets up the film's dynamics—one of them being, as Jo comments, that Louis Bernard knows a great deal about Ben and his family and but that they know very little about Louis Bernard.

Jo's suspicions here are related to her ambivalence about being the object of the gaze of others. As subsequent incidents demonstrate—her passing an English couple (the Draytons) while entering the hotel and her later encounter with them at a restaurant—Jo is suspicious by nature. It is only after she and Ben have spoken with the Draytons in the restaurant that we learn why people might stare at her—she is a well-known singer who has performed in Europe as well as America, something Louis Bernard had failed to recognize. Names tend to shield identities. Indeed, the relation between that patriarchal signifier, the surname, and identity is crucial in this film. The doctor's own name, McKenna, is a play on knowledge ("ken") and hence the title of the film, as well as on Hitchcock's "MacGuffin." When Ben introduces Louis Bernard to his family, he begins with "Mrs. McKenna" and then introduces Hank. A moment later he refers to his wife as Jo. "But I thought his name was Hank," Bernard declares. Ben corrects him and then adds, "Nobody knows her by any other name." "I do," his son says: "Mommy." His son's correction underlines the significance of names in this film. For Mrs. McKenna is also Jo Conway, the well-known singer. And Jo is a woman, not a boy, just as the Ambrose Chapel sought by Jo and Ben will turn out to be a place and not a person.[3] The instability of identity in this version is emphasized by the fact that the McKennas remain on foreign soil throughout the film (either in North Africa or London), where differences in language and customs confound them.[4]

A related issue is introduced when Hank pulls the veil from face of the


Moslem woman. Of Hitchcock's critics, only Robin Wood has underscored its significance (Wood, 367). The veil obscures the woman's identity from everyone but her husband. Similarly, Ben McKenna has insisted that his wife give up her identity (as Jo Conway, the singer) to become Jo McKenna, the doctor's wife. In addition, he has required his wife to put aside her voice (like the Moroccan woman, who immediately covers her mouth), her singing, except, apparently, in moments of relaxation with her son. As we learn in the scenes that follow, Jo has paid a great price for this—with her reliance on tranquilizers and her monthly fights with her husband. Although she and her son, Hank, are very close, her relationship with her husband is somewhat strained.

The veil has an additional significance. In removing it, Hank violates a woman's privacy. It is as close to undressing a mother figure as he comes in this film and a surrogate father must intervene to protect him. The dynamics of the family have been altered by this act for which the boy must ultimately pay.

In Rear Window and Vertigo, Hitchcock's two films with James Stewart that bracket The Man Who Knew Too Much, the characters played by Stewart have been viewed as—among other things—surrogates for the director. In The Man Who Knew Too Much Ben McKenna has assumed the prerogative of the director to rename his wife—from Jo Conway to Mrs. McKenna—and to remake her as a domestic figure. (He also controls her behavior, as in the scene when he drugs her.) To underscore this point, Hitchcock has cast a woman known primarily as singer in a dramatic role. By focusing on Jo's voice—as that which saves the prime minister in Albert Hall and helps save Hank in the embassy—Hitchcock has created a work with a greater thematic consistency than the original. Her voice is precisely that link between her personal and professional identities (as well as a link with her son), a link that her husband has attempted to suppress by concealing her identity and insisting that she remain off the stage. Unlike the first version, however, the heroine has put aside this skill before the beginning of the film, and it is the source of much friction between them. Ben insists that motherhood cannot coexist with a career, and he has forced Jo to stop singing. It will be necessary to reforge this link to save Hank, and this will require adjustments in Ben as well as Jo.

In remaking The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock retained the structure of the original but changed the characterizations and many of the incidents. As we have seen, the opening exposition is much more thorough. Louis Bernard becomes a surrogate father for Hank (on the bus) and a mysteriously foreign and attractive presence for Jo. The film has two bedroom scenes (always an important location in a Hitchcock film), and the first involves Louis Bernard. He has been invited for drinks in the McKenna's hotel room in Marrakesh and apparently arrives while they are still dress-


ing. When the scene opens Ben is standing before the mirror fixing his necktie and Jo is adjusting her dress and singing for Hank—and for Louis Bernard, who listens with a drink in his hand in the next room. Her husband in very much on the sidelines here, as was the husband at the dance sequence in the first version. But here the scene furthers the oedipal drama, as mother dances with son. Indeed, as Jo sings and dances with Hank, she displays a greater intimacy with him than she ever does with her husband. Finally, Jo moves to Barnard's side on the balcony, and he mixes a drink for her as she interrogates him intensely. The scene is disturbed by a knock on the door. A bilingual stranger glances across the room and recognizes Louis Bernard before apologizing by saying he was looking for someone else. The moment of recognition that occurred on the public ski slope in the first version has here been shifted to the private spaces of the parents' bedroom. This act of recognition will have dire consequences for Louis Bernard.[5]

The relationship between the McKennas and the kidnappers (the Draytons) is also strikingly different in the remake. Clearly, Hitchcock intends for the Draytons to double for the McKennas, quite unlike the psychopathic couple in the first version.[6] In the opening exposition, the McKennas are mistaken for the Draytons by Louis Bernard. The couples pass each other in a moment of odd recognition before their hotel and the Draytons introduce themselves later that evening to the McKennas at a restaurant in Marrakesh—a scene that comes to include all the principals in the action, except for Hank. (By this time, the Dryatons know of the relationship between Louis Bernard and the McKennas). The Draytons join the McKennas, sitting like mirror images across the table. Ben's physical awkwardness, lack of manual dexterity, and boorishness about foreign customs point to deeper flaws in his character. His repressed anger erupts twice, when Louis Bernard enters with a woman and Ben threatens to go over and make a scene, and when he is unable to eat chicken with his fingers. It is the Draytons who mollify him, and they conclude by making plans to visit the marketplace together the next morning. The viewer, like the McKennas, accepts the Draytons without suspicion. In the marketplace, Mrs. Drayton forms a bond with Hank, as the two wander around. Ben and Jo are left on their own. They begin friendly banter about the exchange of operations and body parts for their vacation ("A gall stone for my dress.") which connects them with Louis Bernard (he "buys" and "sells") and prepares us for the exchange about to take place. The conversation gradually leads to their greatest moment of intimacy: "I'd like to know when we're going to have another baby," Jo declares. Before Ben can respond, Hank interrupts their intimacy, and almost immediately a police chase disrupts the marketplace. Hitchcock follows the chase through the streets until we see one of the two Arabs being pursued stab the other in the back with a knife. The dying


Arab struggles through the marketplace with a knife in his back, while the police continue to follow his assailant. He spots the McKennas and stumbles forward. Ben moves cautiously toward him and then catches him as he falls. The dark greasepaint on his face stains Ben's hands and Louis Bernard is unmasked. Ben, the doctor who practices at the Good Samaritan Hospital, is unable to offer the slightest assistance. With his recognition of Louis Bernard, Ben is now fully implicated in the plot that began with Hank's careless gesture. "Why should he pick me out to tell?" Ben asks Jo as they move away from the dead man. For the same reason that Hannay is picked out in the Music Hall at the beginning of The Thirty-Nine Steps: because he is an innocent foreigner, totally unconnected with the plot. But, of course, this is only a partial answer. Louis Bernard has been killed for his knowledge, and this knowledge becomes a burden Ben must now carry. An exchange has taken place and this new knowledge separates Ben from his son and imperils his son's existence. He must first reluctantly share the burden with his wife (but only after drugging her) and then work with her to help bring Hank back. Jo's role in this activity depends on her shifting identity, from Mrs. McKenna to Jo Conway and to some combination of the two at the end of the film. Ben will be required to rethink his own identity as well.

Jo's domestic identity has depended very much on her relationship with her son. Louis Bernard's comment about their names is the first suggestion of their intimacy, and the scene in their hotel bedroom with Bernard confirms this. Jo and Hank sing "Que Sera, Sera" and dance together as well. The lyrics of the song ("When I was just a little boy, I asked my mother, what would I be") develop the mother-son relationship further. When Hank is gone, then, Jo's own identity is threatened.

In England, the conflict between Jo's two selves—Mrs. McKenna and Jo Conway—becomes exacerbated. At the airport Jo is greeted like a celebrity by her British fans. When she and Ben arrive at the hotel, a group of old friends come by, one of whom addresses Ben as Mr. Conway.[7] For them, Ben is an appendage of Jo; a pleasant American, but someone who has stood in the way of her return to the London stage. Ironically, he is responsible for this unscheduled stop and it is he who will insist that she perform again in England.

In both versions, the search in London for the child is marred by serious conceptual problems. As noted earlier, the British version leaves Jill on the sidelines while Bob and Clive seek the child. In the remake, Ben goes off on a wild-goose chase when he mistakes the name of a place for the name of a person—another example of the problematic nature of naming and the complexity of identity. On the way to the taxidermist's shop, the son (Ambrose Chapel Jr.) had overtaken the father (Ben McKenna) and at the shop chaos results from the confusion of the father (Ambrose Chapel Sr.) with his son. Versions of the oedipal struggle are everywhere in the


film. So is the confusion that confronts an American in a foreign culture—even when the cultures share a common language. Although the scene is both threatening and mysterious, Hitchcock later acknowledged it to be a failure.[8]

The scene demonstrates that Ben's intellect is no match for Jo's intuition. It was Jo, after all, who was first suspicious of Louis Bernard and later the Draytons; Ben succeeded in convincing her through logical argumentation that her suspicions were ill founded, only to discover that she had been right all along. It is Ben who looks up "Chapel, Ambrose" and races off to confront the villains who turn out to be innocent taxidermists. During Ben's absence Jo realizes—in response to a comment by her friend, Val—that Ambrose Chapel, like Albert Hall, is a place, not a person. She finds the church and is later joined there by Ben. She then leaves Ben in the church with the service still in progress to telephone the Scotland Yard inspector who had earlier offered them assistance. When the police fail to help her, Jo seizes the initiative and goes alone to find the inspector at Albert Hall, leaving Ben behind in the chapel. This reverses the trajectory that had taken her from being Jo Conway (the theater) to Mrs. McKenna (the chapel). The chapel is the first of two locations—the other being the embassy—that are off limits to the police and where, as a result, the McKennas are on their own. In both of these locations, Ben must overcome earlier handicaps, both physical (by climbing the rope to the bell tower) and emotional (by reasserting his patrimony in the embassy).

The Albert Hall sequence of the remake is one of the great set pieces in Hitchcock's work. In an attempt to make the sequence the logical climax of the remake, Hitchcock expands it considerably and stresses the element of performance. But unlike the first version, where Jill arrives at Albert Hall with a clear idea of why she is there and what will happen, here Jo is motivated solely by her desire to seek the help of Inspector Buchanan. Instead, Jo encounters the assassin, whom she recognizes as the mysterious intruder who had knocked on their door in Marrakesh, when they were entertaining Louis Bernard. She watches him disappear upstairs as Buchanan enters with the prime minister and his entourage and mounts the opposite staircase. Alone, Jo looks from one staircase to the other, trying to figure things out. She enters the theater, studies one box and then another, and finally realizes what is about to happen. Hitchcock builds suspense as he cuts from the orchestra to the singers to Jo and to the boxes containing the gunman and the prime minister, choreographing this action to the music. The audience keeps waiting for the crescendo that seems to be continually receding.[9] Finally Jo is joined by Ben, but he is not at her side when the climax comes. As Ben attempts unsuccessfully to thwart the gunman, the music reaches its climax and Jo, the professional singer, cries out, giving voice to her re-


Figure 6.
Doris Day performs "a tranquil coda" in  The Man Who Knew Too Much  (1955).

pressed desire. Only too late does Ben succeed in finding the assassin, who jumps from his box and falls to his death.

The final sequence takes place at the embassy of the prime minister, where a reception in his honor is taking place. By building continuity between this scene and the preceding sequence in Albert Hall, it becomes much less of an anticlimax. The McKennas contrive to be invited, and on the way there Ben tells his wife that she must sing so that he can have an opportunity to search the embassy for Hank, whom Buchanan has told them is being hidden there. At the embassy, the prime minister introduces Jo to the other guests as "the American singer, Jo Conway." The veil has been removed, and it is as Jo Conway—and not Jo McKenna—that she will be able to help save her son. To emphasize the relationship between this scene and the Albert Hall sequence, Hitchcock has the injured prime minister say to Jo, "I beg you, madame, a tranquil coda to conclude a dramatic evening." And it is a coda, in which the dramatic moments of the Albert Hall sequence are replayed and resolved. (See figure 6.)

Once again Hitchcock uses a musical number as a ticking clock. Before the arrival of the McKennas at the embassy, Hitchcock has shown us the


ambassador upbraiding Drayton for his failed attempt. "I want that child removed from this embassy . . . and removed in such a way that he won't be able to say any more where he has been tonight." This time it is Jo, and not the Hitchcock surrogate Bernard Herrmann, who calls the tune. The song, "Que Sera, Sera" is "remade" to focus on her: "When I was just a little girl," she sings, changing the sex from the first time we had heard this song. It is now her song, and we know that Ben must find Hank before she finishes singing. Hitchcock takes his camera through the vast corridors and empty staircases of the embassy as Jo's song fills the halls, finally reaching the room where Hank is hidden. Hank hears the song and thinks he must be dreaming; Mrs. Drayton hears it as well and, fearing for the boy's life, asks if he can whistle the tune—as we have heard him do in the hotel room in Marrakesh. Mother and son begin a duet, and father pursues the sounds to the upper levels of the embassy. But the song is over before Ben reaches the room. Hitchcock cuts to the interior of the room and we see the doorknob being turned from the outside. Mrs. Drayton, fearing that it is her husband, screams and Ben breaks down the door and enters. The confusion between Mr. Drayton and Dr. McKenna is significant. By screaming, Mrs. Drayton has just assumed Jo's role in the Albert Hall sequence and has gained sympathy from the audience as a result.[10] Ben must show that he is capable of protecting his son, as he was unable to do at the beginning of the film, and he must rescue Hank from his "mother." He must also defeat Drayton, his parental rival. Drayton appears, gun in hand, and reasserts his control just as Ben is about to flee with Hank. Deserting his wife, Drayton attempts to leave the Embassy with Hank and Ben as his cover. The three descend the vast staircase, in a remake of the staircase scene at the end of Notorious .[11] As Drayton holds the gun in his pocket, its resemblance to a phallus is unmistakable. Halfway down the staircase, Ben turns suddenly and lurches toward Drayton—duplicating the action of his son on the bus at the beginning of the film. Drayton falls and the gun goes off in his pocket, killing him.

By having the assassins try "to liquidate one of their own big shots" (Buchanan), Hitchcock has internalized the action upon which the film pivots. The political intrigue provides a perfect parallel for the struggle within the McKenna family, between the domineering and manipulative father who knows too little, rather than too much, about the needs of his family, and his wife. When Jo and Hank sing in the hotel room in Marrakesh, "When I was just a little boy, I asked my mother . . ." Ben interrupts them for the benefit of Louis Bernard and says, "He'll make a fine doctor." There is a strong tension in this film between the rigid, rational, headstrong power of the patriarchy—embodied in Dr. McKenna—and the intuitive, "musical" intelligence of his wife, Jo, as well as a concern with patriarchal succession and oedipal struggle that is lacking in the first version.


Knowledge, for Dr. McKenna, begins with the death of Louis Bernard, Hank's surrogate father and Jo's potential suitor. This death precipitates the loss of McKenna's son, Hank, who is kidnapped by another surrogate father and a surrogate mother (the Draytons). The McKennas' success in finding Hank in London is possible only through a reconceptualization of their roles as husband and wife. Similarly, Hank's maturation depends upon a separation from his parents. When they are reunited as a family, they are vastly different from the trio we saw vacationing in Marrakesh. They have earned the right to be together.

Earlier I noted that this film shared characteristics with Rear Window and Vertigo insofar as it could be read as an allegory of some of film's properties. After hearing Louis Bernard's words in the marketplace, Ben asks, "Why should he pick me out to tell?" Similarly, near the end of Vertigo , Scottie (Jimmy Stewart) asks Judy, "Why did you pick on me? Why me?" Scottie has spent considerable time and energy remaking Judy in the image of a woman he once loved, a woman who herself was the remake of her former lover's dead wife. In addition, she was the remake of an historical antecedent, the "mad Carlotta." Vertigo is in part a meditation on the process and consequences of remaking by a director for whom this had been a lifelong concern. So too is The Man Who Knew Too Much . As we have seen, both versions revolve around an exchange: a child for a secret. The remake itself is a form of exchange, as Hitchcock rethinks the relations between texts, between characters (real and fictional), and between the work of a younger, more exuberant director and a mature craftsman.[12] In demonstrating that a director can shape those relations at will, Hitchcock affirms the power of art to renew itself continually.

Works Cited

Bogdanovich, Peter. The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Museum of Modern Art Film Library, 1963.

Bonitzer, Pascal. "The Skin and the Straw." In Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock) , edited by Slavoj Zizek. New York: Verso, 1992.

Cameron, Ian. "The Mechanics of Suspense." In Movie Reader , edited by Ian Cameron. New York: Praeger, 1972.

———. "Suspense and Meaning." In Movie Reader , edited by Ian Cameron. New York: Praeger, 1972.

Durgnat, Raymond. The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock or, the Plain Man's Hitckcock. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974.

Finler, Joel W. Hitchcock in Hollywood. New York: Continuum, 1992.

Hark, Ina Rae. "Revalidating Patriarchy: Why Hitchcock Remade The Man Who Knew Too Much. " In Hitchcock's Rereleased Films: From Rope to Vertigo , edited by Walter Raubicheck and Walter Srebnick. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991.

Kapsis, Robert E. Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Leff, Leonard J. Hitchcock & Selznick. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1987.

Leitch, Thomas M. Find the Director and Other Hitchcock Games. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Lesser, Wendy. His Other Half: Men Looking at Women through Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991.


Rohmer, Eric, and Claude Chabrol. Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films. Trans. by Stanley Hochman. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1979.

Rothman, William. Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1982.

Ryall, Tom. Alfred Hitchcock & the British Cinema. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1986.

Sloan, Jane E. Alfred Hitchcock: A Guide to References and Resources. New York: G. K. Hall, 1993.

Spoto, Donald. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures. New York: Hopkinson and Blake, 1976.

———. The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Boston: Little, Brown, 1982.

Sterritt, David. The Films of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Truffaut, François. Hitchcock. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Weis, Elisabeth. The Silent Scream: Alfred Hitchcock's Sound Track. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982.

Wood, Robin. Hitchcock's Films Revisited , New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Yacowar, Maurice. Hitchcock's British Films. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1977.


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