The Trouble With Harry

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, a dandy 1955 black comedy charmer from Alfred Hitchcock. While poor Harry is wherever he ought to be, the trouble with him is given over to a choice cast  enjoying a funny script in gloriously colorful settings backed by a impish music score that makes the morbid cheerful.

A bucolic Autumn day in a New England village is disturbed—more like perturbed—when a man’s dead body is found on a hillside. ‘Captain Wiles’ (Edmund Gwenn) thinks one of his rifle shots at a rabbit missed the hopper and found a Harry. His guilt—he has help burying the body from undiscovered artist-in-residence ‘Sam Marlowe’ (John Forsythe)—is somewhat assuaged when both Harry’s ex-wife ‘Jennifer’ (Shirley MacLaine, debut) and ‘Miss Gravely’ (Mildred Natwick) each think they may have caused the death—both of them having bonked Harry on the noggin. ‘Deputy Sheriff Wiggs’ (Royal Dano) senses something’s afoot (or under it).

Delightful interplay with the actors, dark humor in a low-key, twin budding romances, grand Vermont foliage captured by Robert Burks camera, Bernard Herrmann’s jaunty score, the first of seven he’s conjure for the director, and for an extra smile, 6-year-old Jerry Mathers, as ‘Arnie’, Jennifer’s inquisitive tyke.

John Michael Heyes wrote the screenplay, based on a British novel done by Jack Trevor Story. Hitchcock and Heyes deftly adapted the whimsical English musing to suitably character-flavored Vermont. Gwenn, 78 and Natwick, 50, make an endearing combo, Forsythe and MacLaine an amiable match. Hitchcock’s associate producer spied MacLaine in a Broadway play (The Pajama Game) on the one night the 20-year-old dancer was tapped to understudy the lead (Carol Haney) and a durable movie career was launched.

While making enough to cancel costs of $1,200,000, it was not a big hit in the States ($3,700,000, 89th place), instead doing considerably better in England, France and Italy. One of only three comedies Hitchcock made, plunked between 1941’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith and his 1976 swan song Family Plot.

With Mildred Dunnock, Parker Fennelly and Dwight Marfield. 99 minutes.

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