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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Music plays a key role in the only film Alfred Hitchcock ever remade. The picture gave Doris Day her signature song, the Oscar-winning “Que Sera, Sera” and reaches a nail-biting climax during a performance of Arthur Benjamin’s “Storm Clouds Cantata.”

A vacation turns into a nightmare for American doctor James Stewart and his wife, retired singer Day, when they witness a spy’s murder in Marrakesh. The dying man whispers information about an assassination to Stewart, so enemy agents kidnap their young son to ensure his silence. This leads to a wild chase from Morocco to London as the couple try to save their son, prevent a murder and cope with Day’s shallow show business friends, including a young Carolyn Jones.

Hitchcock had considered remaking his 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much as early as 1941, when David O. Selznick bought the rights for him, but he couldn’t come up with an effective way to update it until 1954. He bought the property from Selznick for $45,000 and set up his own production company with Stewart and agent Lew Wasserman. After working with Bernard Herrmann on The Trouble with Harry (1955), he gave the composer carte blanche on the new film. Surprisingly, rather than write a new piece for the concert hall scene, Herrmann decided to keep the cantata Benjamin had written for the original film, while expanding the orchestration and adding repeats to help extend the suspense for a 12-minute sequence with next to no dialogue. Herrmann himself is seen conducting the orchestra, which would be his only onscreen appearance.

d. Alfred Hitchcock, 121 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Universal Pictures