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Has a brilliantly macabre sense of humor, but is still less than the sum of its parts

Author: brchthethird from United States
7 August 2015

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY is probably the most atypical Hitchcock film I've seen so far. While it does have a brilliantly macabre sense of humor, the overall story is less than the sum of its parts. The basic story is that Harry is found dead in the woods, and a small group of people have trouble deciding what to do with his body. What the film does well is mining humor from the various situations arising from finding a dead body. Given that the subject matter is kind of grotesque, this results in more chuckles than outright guffaws. Fortunately, I thought the characters were also interesting, if a little underwritten. Shirley MacLaine did well in her first big screen role, and Edmund Gwynn (Kris Kringle in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET) was also rather entertaining to watch. I also thought that the tonal shifts, while a little odd at first, gave the film a quirky air that I grew to like. An example of how this plays out is in conversations that originally revolve around Harry, but then rather cavalierly shift to other, more banal, romantic comedy territory. If James Stewart and Grace Kelly coming together over a potential murder in REAR WINDOW was weird, two couples doing the same thing over a dead body for essentially the entire film here was downright odd. Ultimately, though, where the narrative ends up isn't as interesting as the journey taken to get there, and is a little underwhelming as a result. This isn't one of Hitchcock's greatest films, but it did provide a refreshing change of pace.

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Digging up the dirt

Author: Prismark10 from United Kingdom
26 May 2015

Hitch turns his hand in making a stylish black comedy with mixed results. The Trouble with Harry becomes laborious as Harry is buried, dug up, reburied and dug up again. On and on it goes and you kind of lose the plot and the joke.

The film is bright, colourful with some stylish shots and wonderful music by Bernard Herrman. The film is set in a small Vermont town whose residents interact with the dead body on a hillside and have no idea who he is. Some of them think they may be responsible for killing him and hence try to get rid of his body.

John Forsythe as a free willed artist gives a larger than life performance a world away from Blake Carrington. Shirley Maclaine makes her film debut and Welsh émigré Edmund Gwenn sounds so much like Anthony Hopkins I wondered if Hopkins actually re-dubbed his voice.

This kind of feels like an experimental film by Hitchcock, away from his genre of suspense. It was one of the slew of films that were re- released several years after his death.

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The Unexpected From Hitchcock

Author: CinemaClown
5 October 2013

Taking a break from his back-to-back delivery of nail-bitingly tense thrillers, Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry presents the master director experimenting with his storytelling ability in a new genre and although most of his films do have little elements of humour in it, this film qualifies as one of the few true comedies of his career.

Set in a small town in Vermont, The Trouble with Harry concerns the town's residents & their actions when they discover the freshly dead body of Harry on the hillside and are clueless about what to do with it. A darkly comic outing from Hitchcock, the film features some hilarious situations surrounding a dead body & also works as a light-hearted but effective mystery.

Skilfully directed, nicely scripted, decently performed, gorgeously photographed, cleverly edited & splendidly scored, The Trouble with Harry marks the beginning of Hitchcock's collaboration with composer Bernard Herrmann and confirms Hitchcock's greatness as a storyteller no matter what genre you bring him into.

And even though "The Unexpected from Hitchcock" tends to not sit very well with the most devoted fans of the director, it did click for me as I found it to be an entertaining, enjoyable & delightful cinematic experience. If you still haven't seen it then don't wait anymore & simply go for it. Definitely worth a watch.

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A really good film but badly promoted at the time

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
8 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While Alfred Hitchcock is my favourite director, I am not going to say that he hasn't made a disappointing film(and actually I haven't come across that many Hitch fans that have said that). But even his disappointments I find are not that terrible, certainly in comparison to the worst of other directors' resumes. The Trouble with Harry for me may fall short of being one of his top 10 films(Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, Rebecca, Notorious, The Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt, North By Northwest and The Birds) and it is one that seems to divide audiences, but it is nowhere near among his weakest like Jamaica Inn, Topaz, Under Capricorn and The Paradine Case. The Trouble with Harry does come across as pedestrian pace-wise sometimes, but even if people don't like it(and that is absolutely fine) I do find it difficult to believe personally that they'd give it a score that indicates that it has no redeeming values, then again that may be just me.

Dissenting opinions, saying that the film is not funny and that it has no plot, and that it was a flop at the box office might indicate for some that The Trouble with Harry is not a great film. I think a large part of why was how it was promoted/marketed. Anybody thinking it would be a murder mystery and that it would have suspense like Hitchcock's master of suspense nickname suggests will be disappointed, and I don't think it helped that Paramount clearly didn't know how to promote it. The Trouble with Harry is an acquired taste and I wouldn't go as far to say it's perfect, but to me it is an example of a film that succeeds at being different. Besides, how a film did at the box office or how much money has made has never been an overriding factor in how I judge films anyway, it isn't a fair criticism and there are many examples of films that made lots of money but actually aren't that good.

The Trouble with Harry is really well-made for a start. The cinematography is wholly professional and sometimes has a dream-like look to it. The scenery is a genuine beauty, and I'd go as far to say that The Trouble with Harry is one of Hitch's most visually pleasing films. Hitchcock splendidly directs, the opening sequence was a truly great touch and set the scene of the film really well, sure it is different to what he is known for, but there is the odd suspenseful moment. And there are those suspenseful moments you can tell that it is Hitch directing, which is more than I can say for something like Jamaica Inn or Under Capricorn where I was struggling to tell where it was Hitchcock directing or not. Bernard Hermann would do even better later with Psycho and especially Vertigo but the music score for The Trouble with Harry is still an atmospheric one that does a fine job fitting with the film.

I'll also say that I am one of those who did find The Trouble with Harry very funny, often hilarious. Black humour works wonders when done right, and the black humour I found was done right here. It is very wry and deliciously ironic, also with some of the one-liners with Edmund Gwenn and Mildred Natwick quite ahead-of-its-time. Some will find the story plot-less with not much of a point, compared to other Hitchcock films that is true as there are more tautly written stories. However the story here while somewhat odd is clever and I did love how dramatically understated it was. The characters are disparate and will not come across as very likable to people, but like with the subtle storytelling and understated drama to keep them like that- and to have them spending the time thinking who did it? and did I do it?- was a deliberate choice and one that came off very nicely. The most endearing character is Miss Graveley, closely followed by Arnie.

From an acting point of view, The Trouble with Harry is as excellent as the humour. Dwight Marfield is a little wooden, but it is not enough to harm anything and doesn't stick out too much like a sore thumb to everybody else. It is better to judge John Forsythe on his own, rather than comparing him to the likes of Cary Grant and James Stewart. His performance won't be up there with one of the greatest in a Hitchcock film, but his ruggedly handsome looks, subtle comic delivery and quiet intelligence makes it an above decent one. Shirley MacLaine was in her film debut, and it is a very charming and sweet(but not overly-so) debut indeed, again like Forsythe she works better being judged in her own way as well. Their chemistry is convincing enough, but that between Gwenn and Natwick was stronger. Mildreds Natwick and Dunnock are very easy to like and seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, while Jerry Mathers is similarly likable(and cute). I found Edmund Gwenn to be the one who dominated though and in a good way, he has brilliant comic timing and is very commanding and cool, it really helps that he has the best lines along with Natwick(their chemistry was adorable).

Overall, really good, even great, film that shouldn't be dismissed so quickly. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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Surely an inspiration for Twin Peaks...

Author: Red-Barracuda from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
15 April 2013

What is most notable about The Trouble with Harry is that it is a very early example of an American black comedy. At the time, black humour was mainly the reserve of the British, most notably films from Ealing studio, such as Kind Hearts and Coronets. Laughing at murder was not something American audiences really understood or appreciated at this time, so it would be fair to say that this movie only ever got the go-ahead due to the considerable clout its director Alfred Hitchcock had at the time. As it was, it is one of the few out-and-out comedies that he ever made. He almost always included humorous moments and comic characters in his more typical thrillers but with this one, they took centre stage and the thriller part of the plot was marginalised to the point of irrelevance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was not a big hit in the United States but it did do well in Europe and it did subsequently turn a profit.

It is an unusual film. The humour is really very silly. The characters never behave believably at any point. It's about the discovery of a dead body in the countryside; several characters think that they must have been responsible his death. In some ways it felt like a proto version of the TV series Twin Peaks. Not only is the story propelled by the discovery of a dead body but both share the quirky small-town characters and absurd humour. They also share a remote idyllic setting for their murder mystery, in this case New England. The leafy golden woodlands certainly make for a pleasant landscape. John Forsythe plays the central character, a bohemian artist. Better was Shirley McLaine in her first starring role, as the wife of the dead Harry. She gives an effortlessly sweet and likable performance. Hitchcock soundtrack regular Bernard Herrmann chips in with a playful reworking of a typical Hitchcock thriller score; the music really fits the picture.

The Trouble with Harry isn't really laugh-out-loud funny to be perfectly honest. But it is one of the strangest films that Hitchcock ever made. It shows again that he was always willing to experiment with off-beat ideas. It must have been quite a puzzling film at the time of its release.

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Death is so commonplace that nobody really cares!!

Author: beatlesdudeireland from Ireland
12 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Trouble with Harry is a charming little motion picture, with great actors, a witty script and as always with Hitchcock stellar motifs and camera angles . In this movie, Hitchcock ventures into uncharted waters as he blends his macabre themes with elements of mawkish comedy.

Well what is the Trouble with Harry? Well, Harry is dead, and the fact of the matter is nobody in the small hamlet could care less. In fact, the endearing townsfolk, including a local painter, a hunter, Harry's wife and an elderly lady, dismiss Harry contemptuously and act aloofly in their initial encounter with his corpse, somewhat adopting the aphorisms: Life goes on and ignorance is bliss . Instead, in what is a fine day in their small village, they bond. The wife and the painter, bond romantically, as do the elderly lady and the hunter.

For the most part, the characters speculate which one of them killed Harry, until the closing scene reveals that Harry died of natural causes.They attempt to hide the body from the local deputy who is all too eager to abide by the convention of law. With moments of comedy, including the characters constantly exhuming the corpse, this film fails on very few fronts . However, maybe it could have been a bit longer and perhaps we could have more characters, but overall the film was a rousing success.

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Comedy- Alfred Hitchcock style

Author: Petri Pelkonen ( from Finland
18 June 2012

A body is found from a small village in Vermont.The corpse is called Harry Worp, and more than one people think they have killed the poor man.So they decide to bury him.But Harry has trouble staying buried.The Trouble with Harry (1955) is a black comedy by Alfred Hitchcock.It's based on a 1950 novel by Jack Trevor Story.The actors are just right for their parts.Edmund Gwenn is brilliant as Capt. Albert Wiles.John Forsythe is terrific as Sam Marlowe.Mildred Natwick is superb as Miss Ivy Gravely.Royal Dano is great as Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs.Shirley MacLaine gives her movie debut as Jennifer Rogers.And she is amazing.Jerry Mathers is just adorable as her son Arnie.Philip Truex is the dead body, Harry.The director does his usual cameo this time as Man Walking Past Sam's Outdoor Exhibition.The score, done by Bernard Herrman, really serves the story.This doesn't quite reach the level of the brightest classics by Alfred Hitchcock, but the mark of the master can be seen there.Hitch was very brave to make a comedy about a corpse.Some uptight people were asking from themselves: "Am I supposed to laugh at this?" Well I think you can make humor pretty much of anything, if you do it with class.And that's exactly what Hitch did.It's quite funny to watch all the trouble with Harry.

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I did not know Hitchcock could be so comical

Author: ( from United States
6 June 2012

Bury and excume. Bury and exhume. This also could be a summary of this 1954 Hitchcock film which was an intertwining of comedy and mystery. Who would have ever thought that the master of suspense, who had previously produced such thrillers as "Spellbound" and later produced such suspenseful movies as "Vertigo" and "Psycho" could have ever produced something as comical as this mystery? It was amusing to see Harry's body buried, then, again, exumed, simply because each one of three main people there in this Vermont village sincerely thought he or she had killed Harry; two of these people felt they had justifiable reason for terminating Harry's life. While it was laughable in many places, the suspense factor remained permanently. The setting was an anomaly: it was not the large New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco, but simply a very small, pleasant, New England village. And yes, Hitchcock did prove he could be a man with a sense of humor without omitting any mystery whatsoever.

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A Playful Hitch....

Author: Tim Kidner ( from Salisbury, United Kingdom
1 April 2012

Hitch's use of the beautiful, autumnal New England settings are a smokescreen. In England, we'd have a chocolate-box picture postcard scene of thatched cottages with roses around the door instead.

It's this contrast with a murder and on the face of it, rather sweet and simple folks in the village. But, take away that sweet wrapper and something rather more unpleasant and sinister is revealed. As the layers are further removed more revelations see the light of day. It's also the opposite to the normal murder, instead here we have a body that everybody wants to own up for.

But this is censor-controlled America in the mid '50s and whilst brutal murders with buckets of blood and stories of great depravity are the norm these days, the stories here are much more simple and ordinary. Hitch would never do a farcical comedy, he is far too measured for such frivolities but there is no doubt that he had a playful and dark humour that he had to rein in in order to command respect as a director. Here, he is making his own picture, probably away from prying executive producers that would want to fashion it into something saleable.

As it was, 'The Trouble with Harry' wasn't and was a flop. He was then, of course about to indulge us with his spree of classics, as if a lesson learned. Self indulgence seldom works, whatever the director, however famous the name.

But, it gave us Shirley MacLaine, who is a breath of Vermont air, in her debut feature. The dialogue is often non-sensical and one either sits there in disbelief or accepts it as being just part of the strange humour. The blossoming of two romances could be seen as something good growing from a something bad.

It is understandable that Trouble With... divides opinion. Those that expect Hitchcock, the master suspenser and find instead something quite the opposite and those that take a film at face value and watch it for what it is and how it is presented. Those in the latter category are far more likely to enjoy it.

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The trouble is not with Harry, but with the film's lack of popularity ...

Author: ElMaruecan82 from France
23 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Making Top Tens of favorite directors' films is sometimes pointless considering that most directors made no more than ten good films in their whole career. Some of them escape though from this rule, John Ford, Woody Allen, Akira Kurosawa and of course, Alfred Hitchcock. So, if I say that "The Trouble With Harry" happens to be in my Top 10 Hitchcock's films, this statement has some validity.

"The Trouble With Harry" is a landmark in Hitchock's filmography as it marks the first collaboration with Bernard Herrman, and since it was followed by many classic scores that would enrich our musical memories, the Hitch must have been satisfied with Herrmann's score and if only for that achievement, "Harry" deserves more credit. And after having watched the film two times in a row (which makes three at the end) I can't get this playful music out of my mind, it had an irresistible charm and a quality that perfectly conveys the mix of mystery and comedy, starting with a little boy who finds a man's body in a forest after hearing three gunshots. The feet are shot in depth to make them as big as the kid, and will be the defining image of Harry's body, of the film naturally. But it's only when the man with the rifle, Edmund Gwynne as the good-hearted veteran Captain Wile, thinks he killed the man that the titular trouble can finally begin.

Despite the relatively good mood of the film, it's still revolutionary in the way it tackles death without the reverence and solemnity American cinema felt owing it. It's funny and quite disturbing in the same way, how people seem rather careless about this body lying in the forest. It does however sets the cynical tone of the film where a group of four peculiar individuals will coordinate their efforts to hide a death, as each one feel either responsible or an interest to do it. Guilt and interest are not the highlights of human personality, and here they are displayed through characters that are made absolutely likable thanks to a strike of genius in terms of casting, although John Forsythe as Sam Marlowe, the leading dominant male figure has somewhat that rose above the gentleness of the other characters. I wouldn't have minded seeing him playing a Hitchcockian villain. And totally off-topic, I wonder if I'm the only one who found a strange resemblance to Humphrey Bogart in that film. Never mind, let's get back to the casting.

The film is carried by two key performances, Edmund Gunne is the perfect straight man of this whole comedy, and with the right amount of fear and goofiness that makes his character irresistible. The scene where he passes by the policeman Calvin Wiggs, hiding his shotgun and pretending to have a limp is perfect, with the right comical tune from Bernard Herrman. The second performance is Shirley MacLaine as the ill-fated widow of Harry Worp, but strangely pleased that the man is dead. Mac Laine in her first role has a breath-taking beauty and embodies an extraordinary mix of sweetness, innocence and predisposition to naughtiness. So when Marlowe starts his discussion by praising her beauty and asking her if he can paint her body (naked, of course), his boldness is shocking and we wonder how Hitchock got away with such a frank language in the middle of the 50's, then we see Shirley MacLaine's face and something magical happens: we forget about it.

The other characters play their part perfectly and succeed to make us root for them and wish they can succeed, Mrs. Gravely is perfect as the typical old maid and even Calvin Wiggs, played by Royal Dano has a unique charisma as the only incarnation of Justice in the film. So, if anyone complains about anything lacking , it certainly is not the casting, nor the editing, certainly not the script, and not the scoring. Besides, the cinematography of the film, shot in Vermont during a beautiful fall, is magnificent and changes us for the usual manors or urban settings. Not only is "The Trouble with Harry" in colors, but the mix of yellow, orange and green illustrate the endearing aspect of the characters as simple and down-to-earth inhabitants of a peaceful little town. "The Trouble with Harry" plunges in an atmosphere so relaxing that the presence of a villain would have ruined it, and it's ironic that the only real antagonist of the story is the very person who's dead. Poor Harry … only Hitchcock could have made us angry toward a dead man.

Unfortunately, for all this lack of killing-suspense-villain, the film wasn't well received in the United States where people seated in movie theaters expecting the typical Hitchcockian experience. I can understand that "The Trouble with Harry" whose fate was to be 'sandwiched' between two thrilling classics from the Master: "Rear Window" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" would suffer from an undeniable comparison. But that's where you recognize the mark of the great directors, in their ability to transcend their usual image and to detach themselves from their very archetypes; Hitchcock can innovate in style and make a relaxing film about a dead man. The treatment of death was better received by a more intellectual European audience, especially in Britain and France, where the title was interestingly translated to "But Who's Killed Harry?".

This title highlights the mysterious aspect of the film as we don't really know who or what is responsible of Harry's death, and it makes the whole situation where innocent people tries to cover their guilt even more ironic, and in a very delightful way. Maybe it's not the best of Hitchcock but again, it's still better than the best of many directors, and when it comes to black comedy, I have no hesitation to say that the script is a real masterpiece, from the first lines to the ending credits.

This review is over.

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