Moroccan Make-up in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) (film still from The Man Who Knew Too Much)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

When French spy Louis Bernard (Daniel Gélin) is stabbed in the back in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much, he uses the last of his energy to seek out American tourist Dr. Ben McKenna (Jimmy Stewart). McKenna doesn’t recognise him immediately because he’s disguised as a native Moroccan, complete with a blacked up face. It’s only when Bernard’s make-up comes off on McKenna’s fingers that his identity is revealed…

…so the story has it, anyway. The actual process of filming the scene was a tad more complicated. In order for the shot to be visually effective, the make-up had to come off in clean stripes to reveal Bernard’s white face, but the make-up department couldn’t find a dark make-up that would do this: vague, icky smears weren’t much use.

Eventually, they solved the problem by reversing it. Instead of having McKenna’s fingers wipe Bernard’s make-up off, they covered his fingers in a white substance that streaks onto the other man’s face, over the top of the dark make-up.

Apparently this creative solution to the problem was actor Daniel Gélin’s idea, and when you watch the film, it’s hard to tell that make-up is being added to his character’s face, rather than taken away.

Leave a Reply