The Trouble with Harry (1955) Poster

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Cinema's Best Shaggy Dog Story
Holdjerhorses5 September 2005
With all humor, you either get the "joke" or you don't. If you don't, no amount of explaining can change your mind. If you do, the details are endlessly enjoyable.

Part of the joke that's "The Trouble With Harry" is that "nothing happens." Hitchcock's "anti-Hitchcock" film defies expectations for action, shock, mayhem, suspense, spectacular climaxes on national monuments, etc. Instead, it's a New England cross-stitch of lovingly detailed writing, acting, photography, directing and editing.

Saul Steinberg's title illustration tells you exactly what you're in for. One long pan of a child's drawing of birds and trees . . . ending with a corpse stretched out on the ground as "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock" briefly appears.

So meticulously is "The Trouble With Harry" conceived, the only two images in the title art that are NOT trees, plants or birds are a house with a rocking chair on its porch and that corpse. The film literally plays in reverse of the title sequence -- from little Arnie's (Jerry Mathers, pre-Beaver. The boy who drew the titles?) discovery of the corpse, back to the home with the rocking chair, as Hitchcock's final "joke" puts the audience safely to bed. A double bed, in this case.

What's the film about? Oh, Great Big Themes like Life and Death, Youth and Age, Love and Hate, Guilt and Innocence, Truth and Lies, Art and Pragmatism -- packaged with deceptive simplicity.

The "hero," Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), is an artist. The man the "child" who drew the titles (Arnie, or someone like him) might have become. His name is an amalgamation of two of hard-boiled fiction's greatest detectives: Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Indeed, Sam Marlowe functions here as a "sort of" detective. But enough of pointing out the detailed construction of this script and film: repeated viewings yield far greater pleasures.

"Introducing Shirley MacLaine" in her first screen role threw that enduring actress into an astounding mix of old pros: Edmund Gwenn, Mildred Dunnock, Mildred Natwick and Forsythe. That MacLaine held the screen then, and still does 50 years later (name another major actor who can say that), validates Hitchcock's astute casting.

In fact, TTWH is a tribute to cinematic "acting" as much as anything else. These are among the finest performances ever captured of these terrific actors. Since there are none of the expected "spectacular" Hitchcock sequences, nor his nail-biting tension, all that's left is for the actors to fully inhabit their characters.

That they do with brilliance, efficiency and breathtaking comic timing. No pratfalls here. Just nuances.

Edmund Gwenn and Mildred Natwick are the real stars. Had Hitchcock said so, the film would never have been produced. Their scenes (they receive as much if not more screen time together than Forsythe and MacLaine) are possibly the most delightful (and yes, romantically and sexually tense) ever filmed of courtship in middle-and-old age. Perfectly realized in every intonation and gesture. Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.

Theirs is paralleled by the courtship of the younger "stars," Forsythe and MacLaine. "Love" at both ends of life, young and old, and love's wonderful humor and mysterious redemption, even in the face of death -- that inconvenient corpse on the hill.

Perhaps the most surprising and powerful undertow in "The Trouble With Harry" (one hesitates to name it because it's handled so delicately) is Sex.

It is only barely present in the lines given the characters, but the subtext is always there. Occasionally, it boils over into an infinitely subtle burlesque, as in the exchange between Gwenn and Forsythe about crossing Miss Gravely's (get that name?) "threshold" for the first time.

The look in Gwenn's eyes and the repressed joy and romantic hope in his face -- even at his stage of life -- is bliss.

The coffee cup and saucer "for a man's fingers;" the ribbon for Miss Gravely's newly-cut hair (Wiggy cuts it in the general store -- Mildred Dunnock in another unbelievably subtle performance -- muttering, "Well, I guess it will grow back."); Arnie's dead rabbit and live frog; the constantly shifting implications of guilt in the death of "Harry" up there on the hill; the characters' struggles to regain innocence by "doing the right thing"; the closet door that swings open for no apparent reason (never explained); the characters' revelations of the truths about themselves; their wishes granted through Sam's "negotiations" with the millionaire art collector from the "city" -- ALL portrayed within the conservative but ultimately flexible confines of their New England repression and stoicism (yes, the film is also a satiric comment on '50s morality) -- these details and more finally yield a rich tapestry of our common humanity, observed at a particular time and place, through specific people caught in an absurd yet utterly plausible circumstance.

Nothing happens? Only somebody who doesn't know how to look and listen -- REALLY observe, like an artist / creator -- could reach that conclusion about "The Trouble With Harry." Only a genius, like Hitchcock, would have the audacity to pull the rug out from under his audience's expectations at the height of his career by offering a profoundly subtle morality play in the guise of a slightly macabre Hallmark Card.

When the final "revelation" arrives, in the last line that takes us home to the marital bed where love culminates and all human life begins -- yours and mine -- and draws from us a happy smile of recognition, so Hitchcock's greatest secret is revealed, more blatantly in this than any of his films.

"Life and death -- and all of it in between -- are a joke! Don't you get it?" It's there in all his pictures. Nowhere more lovingly and less showily presented than in "The Trouble With Harry." Thank you, Hitch.
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Outlandish black comedy from Hitch, a failure when released as it was probably a little ahead of its time.
Jonathon Dabell10 April 2005
The Trouble With Harry is a comedy film about a dead body. Alfred Hitchcock makes the macabre concept deliciously funny and entertaining in his unique style. Helping Hitchcock to turn this unlikeliest of premises into an enjoyable film are Bernard Herrmann (providing fabulous music scoring), and a cast of winning actors who judge to perfection how far to push their tongues into their cheeks.

A dead body turns up on a patch of grass near the top of a wooded New England hill. Various people have reason to believe that they're responsible for the man's death. Septugenarian ex-sea captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) is worried that he might have accidentally shot the man while hunting for rabbits. Old spinster Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick) fears that when she whacked the man over the head with her shoe, she may have done more damage than she intended. And single mother Jennifer (Shirley MacLaine) has even greater cause to feel responsible, for she is the dead man's wife. During an argument, she smashed a bottle over his head and is now almost sure that he died as a result. Local artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) decides to help his neighbours to cover up the crime, but after burying and digging up the corpse several times, the truth behind "Harry's" death is finally revealed.

No Hitchcock film divides viewers more than this one. Some consider the film a masterpiece of understated black comedy; others deem it a plot less, pointless time-waster. The film was a fairly massive box office flop at the time (audiences obviously felt from the movie poster that they were going to see a murder mystery, and were disappointed to actually find themselves experiencing a bizarre, off-kilter black comedy). In retrospect, I'd say The Trouble With Harry is a great film that was probably a good two decades ahead of its time. The performances are wonderfully outrageous, especially the elders (Gwenn and Natwick) who give perceptive comic turns that actors nowadays just don't seem to have the range to do. Forsythe and MacLaine are delightful too (the latter in her movie debut), and Royal Dano rounds off the cast as a gullible cop who nearly finds out that the other four have been up to no good. There's no doubt that The Trouble With Harry is an acquired taste; but if this taste is to your liking then you're in for a delectable treat!
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Entertaining Change-Of-Pace From Hitchcock
Snow Leopard17 July 2001
This is a real change-of-pace from Hitchcock, and some of his most devoted fans do not really enjoy "The Trouble With Harry", but it is quite entertaining if you appreciate Hitchcock's subtle British sense of humor. There are funnier black comedies, but this one holds up pretty well, and has a number of things going for it.

'Harry' appears only as a dead body, discovered at the beginning of the film in a clearing outside a picturesque New England town. More than one of the residents feels responsible for Harry's death - so, just by being there, Harry sets off a lengthy chain of events in the lives of several persons in the town. There are no tremendous laughs, but a lot of good low-key wit, much of it having to do what the situation brings out about the various characters' perspectives on themselves and others. The cast is pretty good, and the scenery is beautiful, some of the best in any Hitchcock film.

There is not the action or suspense in this one that most fans associate with Hitchcock. But if you appreciate Hitchcock's sense of humor - for example, the kinds of subtly ghoulish remarks that he used to make on his television shows - give it a try.
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Yes, a Hitchcock COMEDY. And it's very clever and a lot of fun!
Infofreak5 September 2003
One thing I really admire about Hitchcock was that he was willing to experiment, and wasn't content to make the same movie over and over. This meant that he sometimes made movies that puzzled his audiences, and several of them were out and out flops. But the passage of time has been kind to many of these movies which can be enjoyed for what they are, not what the audience WANTED them to be. 'The Trouble With Harry' is a great example. Many of Hitchcock's movies have humour in them, but an actual comedy was a bit left field for him. And not just any kind of comedy, a very black one. Humour is very subjective, but I found this movie to very clever and a lot of fun. It gets off to a bit of a shaky start with John Forsythe's character coming out with some unfunny lines and bits of business, but once the story kicks in and the characters played by Edmund Gwenn and Mildred Natwick are introduced, the movie becomes very amusing. Forsythe is technically the star of the movie, and Shirley MacLaine (in her movie debut) the leading lady, but Natwick, and especially Gwenn, steal the picture, and to me have the best lines. Edmund Gwenn was also in the underrated 1950s monster movie 'Them!', and I'm really fond of him. I also get a kick out of Royal Dano who plays the sheriff. Dano was a very interesting character actor who was in everything from 'Moby Dick' to 'Drum' to 'Killer Klowns From Outer Space'. To be totally honest 'The Trouble With Harry' wouldn't make it into my Top Ten Hitchcock movies, but that is only because he made so many great ones, and it's tough to choose, not because this is poor movie. If you want an edge of your seat thriller then maybe this isn't for you, but if you thought Hitch's droll introductions on his TV show were entertaining, then you should check this one out, as it's cut from the same cloth.
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Oh the irony!
eeesh984 October 2004
I've been a big fan of Hitchcock as long as I can remember, but I only had the opportunity to see The Trouble with Harry recently. I never knew the film was a comedy before I began watching, so you can imagine my surprise when one innocent character after the next stumbled upon a brutally murdered corpse and react in the very least expected ways possible. It was almost as surpring, however, when I read the comments on IMDb and realized that a large portion of Hitchcock's audience simply didn't "get it". Of course the character's are not reacting the way real people would in these circumstances! How many of Hitch's characters actually would? The Trouble with Harry is Hitchcock's own jab at himself, at the entire suspense film genre, and a wonderfully inspired satire on the implications of desensitization. The film is not that simple though, for even in addressing these objectives Hitch tantalizingly avoids any answers or definitive statements. Its a difficult film to describe, but definitely worth seeing as it confirms Hitchcock's dual mastery of comedy and suspense. Watch it for the social commentary, the sleepy New England setting, but above all else, for the blissful irony that fills its every crevace. It is the kind of irony that makes shows like Family Guy so popular today. A wonderfully surpring film in every way!
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An absolute gem, one of the few 10's I've ever given!!!
honesty20 December 1998
This movie is fantastic. I don't think anyone except Hitchcock could have made such humour out of a dead body. Shirley MacLaine (in her first role) is delightful and Edmond Gwenn perfect. You'll see a young Jerry Mathers pre-dating Leave it to Beaver by a few years. Don't miss this little gem, it's as funny today as it was in 1955 and I suspect for a long time to come.
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Better than I expected
Beefy-21 April 2000
When I read the box at the video store, I thought it sounded a little silly, but since it was directed buy Hitchcock, I decided to give it a try. I was glad I did!

This film does a good job at showing what life is like (in a twisted way) in a small American town. Of course the whole thing is a black comedy about a corpse, but it's great fun, and suspenseful too, especially when Calvin is in the room, questioning everybody. I didn't understand why the door kept opening, but maybe it was just a joke - normally the door would signal a killer entering or something like that - but the door is never any cause for alarm.

All the actors are good, especially Gwenn, and Mrs. Gravely was so endearing. Don't ignore this lesser known Hitchcock movie. It's a treat to watch and is genuinely funny.
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Not Too Wild About Harry.
Robert J. Maxwell5 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Hitchcock was in his own curious way a genius. No one has made better films -- of their type -- than he has. He had a singular sense of humor too. His thrillers were often as funny as they were entertaining. I'm thinking of the remake of "The Man Who Knew Too Much", Jimmy Stewart's struggling with the staff of Ambrose Chapel's taxidermy shop, before finally squirming out the door and slamming it behind him, and the director's quick cut to the head of a stuffed lion wearing an expression of amazement.

He even managed to insert the odd good laugh into some of his otherwise unqualified dramas. In "Shadow of a Doubt," in Hitchcock's cameo, we don't see his face, just a shot over his shoulder at his bridge partner. We can see Hitchcock's cards. It's a Grand Slam in spades. The partner stares at him and remarks, "You don't look so good yourself." But he had nothing but trouble building an entire film around comedy. He'd tried it in 1941 with "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and despite the piping score it didn't work. It doesn't work well here either. In some ways, the best thing about it is the location photography: New England in the Fall, with all that florid foliage.

John Forsythe as the artist is reassuring but bland. Shirley MacLaine is an awfully cute red-headed widow with hints of horniness but this was her debut film and often she seems self conscious. When she's supposed to be relaxed and thoughtful she assumes a slightly unnatural position with her shoulders hunched and her face down. Edmund Gwenn and Mildred Natwick both get their jobs done but aren't as endearing as the director seems to believe.

Mostly, though, the problem is that there is nothing intrinsically amusing about a dead body that no one seems to know what to do with. I lost count of the number of times Harry was buried and dug up again. It reminded me of one of those Laurel and Hardy two reelers in which the duo spend all their time trying to get something done -- a house built, a piano lugged up a long staircase, a boat painted -- and the audience waits and waits for the job to be done, and it never is.

I can imagine, though, that some people might find this ludic understatement very funny. I can imagine myself enjoying it more but I'd have to be in the right mood -- stoned.
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Delightfully twisted
bat-523 September 1999
Everyone who had something to do with Harry just can't figure out if he should stay buried or dig him up. From there, Hitchcock's black comedy brings about tension and giggles. Seems that everyone had a reason for wanting Harry out of the picture, only trouble is, Harry is more trouble dead than alive. A light film for Hitchcock, but it does contain the transference of guilt theme, and the guilt bounces all over our main players. A small gem of a film that often gets overlooked, watch this one and you'll be charmed by the trouble that Harry causes.
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Twin Peaks 1950s style
23skidoo-414 November 2003
The Trouble with Harry could well be one of the funniest films I have ever seen. It's a case of Alfred Hitchcock successfully parodying himself, while in the meantime offering some memorable cinematic moments.

Perhaps the most memorable is the screen debut of Shirley MacLaine, who is extremely cute and animated and fun to watch. It's easy to see why Hollywood fell in love with the elfin elder sister of Warren Beatty. Her performance betrays her inexperience in front of the camera, but you'll be too busy watching her facial expressions to care.

The rest of the cast is also excellent, with the actor who plays the captain deserving special recognition for his calm and cool demeanor throughout.

As far as the script goes, I think David Lynch must have had Trouble with Harry in mind as one of the inspirations for Twin Peaks. The dialogue is hilarious, with non-sequitors coming out of nowhere, as well as one-liners that will have you backing up the DVD/video saying "did I really hear that?" For one thing, the film is surprisingly risque for 1955 -- there's a boob joke involving a statue that could easily fit into an Austin Powers movie, and a pre-Beaver Jerry Mathers gets some of the film's biggest laughs with some perfect comic timing.

It's a mystery to me why this film bombed in its initial release. True, it's leisurely paced in comparison to other Hitchcock films, and there are no scary moments to be found. Instead, this is a film that is fun to watch, and provides laughs at the most unexpected places. Highly recommended.
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A nice attempt at something different, but still an overall failure
MartinHafer3 May 2008
Before I begin in earnest on this review, I must point out that in the future, I'm expecting this review to have received many "not helpful" posts. That's because with many famous directors (such as Godard, Bergman and Hitchcock), there is such a perceived aura of greatness associated with their films that they have many rabid followers who will not allow any criticism of any of their films. While I can in some ways respect their loyalty, these fans seem like cult members the way they attack honest attempts to critique the films. In other words, if you disagree with them, it seems to be a personal attack!! Well, here goes--and in a couple years I'll need to check back with this review and see how poorly it faired.

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY is probably the strangest and most daring film Hitchcock ever made. While he did occasionally inject some comedic moments into some of his films (such as his deliberately including phallic imagery into NORTH BY NORTHWEST, the odd romantic comedy of MR. AND MRS. SMITH and the kooky moments in his last film, FAMILY PLOT), none of his films were as comically dark and absurd as THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. Additionally, there were no big-name stars associated with it--something only repeated a few times in his films (such as in FRENZY).

The only problem with this experiment is that the overall effort, at least seen more than fifty years later, isn't all that funny nor involving. Sure, I laughed here and then, but rarely were the laughs all that strong and the film seemed rather forced.

In some ways, the film reminded me a lot of a French film, BUFFET FROID, as both were absurdist films. In other words, when events occurred, people responded in completely unpredictable and confusing ways. When people discovered Harry's body, no one seemed the least bit concerned to find a dead man! In BUFFET FROID, after a man's wife is murdered, the murderer meets the husband and confesses--and they both go out on a road trip together! Some think such scenes are brilliant--I just got tired of it after a while because the shock value subsides very quickly and there isn't a whole lot of depth to it.

Now all this isn't to say this is a bad film--after all, I scored it a 6. It's just that it is far from a great film and isn't much better than a time-passer. Cute at times and very strange, the film never rises near the level of greatness. Of interest to the curious and Hitchcock fans--all others may find this one a bit tedious and unfunny.
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What Is The Trouble? 'Possible' Spoilers
ngs71212 November 2008
This movie is in my top five favorite Hitchcock films. Maybe I committed 'blasphemy' for putting it ahead of films like North by Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, and Notorious, but I think it was worth it. Sadly, this is a film that's overlooked when you think of his other films, like the ones I mentioned above. For fans of the film, we can only wonder why it's swept under the rug. Sure it's no 'Vertigo', but the thing is it's not meant to be.

The Trouble with Harry has the unique distinction of being only one of two comedies that Hitch made, in the U.S. anyway. The other being Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Of course Hitch is famous for little touches of black humor, but on this film he went all out. A plain, simple, black comedy that probably ends up flying under the radar of people used to watching Marx Bros. films, who I also like.

While not exactly, laugh-out-loud comedy I enjoy watching it. I think it's a relaxing film, especially when you see the great photography that captures the beauty of autumn in New England. Then again, I don't think you can ever get a bad shot of that. It's an amusing tale with good acting from John Forsythe, Shirley MacLaine, Edmund Gwenn, and Mildred Natwick occupying the main and almost only roles in the film. It also marks the first collaboration between Hitchcock and Herrmann who brings a light, airy, and playful score that helps make the concern of the story less of 'how' Harry died, but what exactly to do with him.

Basically, if you like Hitchcock, black comedy and don't mind an uncomplicated story, then I highly recommend it.
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just about the drollest, and sometimes just quietly crazy, black comedy about murder ever
MisterWhiplash31 July 2008
The Trouble with Harry is set in a serene, Technicolor-awe-inspiring backdrop of autumn in New England, reminiscent of the 'cheery' Americana of Shadow of a Doubt. There's also a cast of characters who are more wrapped up in their romantic entanglements than in the body of Harry, who should be the focal point of the story. Matter of fact, one of the greatest delights of The Trouble with Harry is that the so-called MacGuffin this time *is* the dead body, and not some random object. Harry could just as well be anything, but the only thing that is of concern is, of course, that he's dead.

What I loved seeing, as almost Hitchcock being a surrealist (he was a big fan of Bunuel after all) as much as being a director of dark/light comedy, was the non-chalance treated with the body from those around it throughout. The opening scenes had me floored, grinning cheek to cheek and sometimes just chuckling or laughing hysterically, at some line or moment in behavior from Edmund Gwynn and Mildred Natwicks' reactions (or lack thereof) to the dearly departed Harry on the ground. They go on and on talking about meeting later in the day, almost flirting by Gwynn's advances, and there's a DEAD BODY ON THE GROUND! On top of this there's the reactions from a little kid who loves playing with a dead rabbit, Shirley MacClaine as his mother and ex-lover of Harry, and the artist Marlowe played by John Forsythe, who seems to take a detached position almost in spite of making a detailed sketch of the dead Harry's face.

So all of this, done in a manner that should suggest reality but doesn't in the slightest, builds up to something that is like the other side of the morbid coin that one saw in Strangers on a Train. Murder is treated a few Hitchcock works almost philosophically, but with with an air of 'oh, it's just a little death, no harm really', and in the Trouble with Harry it's done to the max. A good portion of the movie has nothing to do with Harry, even if he's on the characters' minds; a lot of courtship goes on between the elder Capt. Wiles and Miss Ivy Gravely and (very rushed, which is the point) between Marlowe and Jennifer Rogers. Forsythe might not be the best cast in the part, but everyone else is, and they all bring something to putting whatever potential is in the script to the fullest. Sometimes it doesn't look like it should be funny, but then something else comes along- another strange line of dialog, another aside about Harry's body being moved here or there- that turns things on its head.

It's basically Hitchcock having fun with something that, for him, is probably more lighthearted then it might be for most. It's not a totally pitch black comedy, but then again Hithcock is deceptive, devilishly so, in in making things as simple as they seem. As with Bunuel everything seems like it should be straightforward, which adds to the absurdity, until one realizes that it means to be absurd like some yarn that you hear from a fellow you don't totally trust but listen intently anyway. It's not quite one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, but it surely is one of the best among those "experiments" that the director made from time to time, testing himself and the audience and putting energies into something that could turn his reputation on a turn.
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Please enlighten me, I thought this movie was quite bad.
RareWindow15 November 2004
This film is meant to be funny but is quite unfunny. I say this not because the center of the humor is a corpse. Don't get me wrong: corpses can be hilarious. This one isn't, though. I think that if this movie weren't a Hitchcock film, people wouldn't feel obligated to like it and thus wouldn't like it. The characters are extremely annoying (that little boy is not funny at all and he talks way too fast), the story moves soooo slowly, and the characters' motivations are constantly shifting (first the artist is all about himself and then he is Mr Magnanimous). The "reasons" the characters have for burying and exhuming Harry are not convincing--they seemed forced (like the writer needed 5 or 6 different reasons for burying a body but could find only a couple and just scraped together a few others to toe the line of the "comic" premise). This fact is betrayed at the end when the characters are trying to explain the situation and they cannot remember all the reasons for the various burials--the reasons are not reiterated here because they were not compelling reasons. Also, the characters can hear the cars in the town from where they are burying Harry, so the spot must be very close, and yet no one ever sees them going up and down the hill with shovels. Also, the spot is traversed by 40 zillion people in the wildly implausible opening scene, and then remains relatively deserted for the rest of the film. How lucky. With some exceptions, only the folks who are going up there to deal with Harry go there. I guess the two main problems for me, then, were these: the story is annoyingly implausible in many ways and the jokes are simply not funny. Most of Hitchcock's films contain a lot of humor, and almost always humor that is much, much better than the humor in The Trouble With Harry. That whispering of "double bed" joke that caps the film says it all, I think--this film is lame.

Help me out! Am I wrong about this movie? Will someone please point out what redeeming qualities, if any, this movie possesses?
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Beautiful and wry, but slow as maple syrup
secondtake29 March 2010
The Trouble with Harry (1955)

When I first saw this years ago it was on a little television screen and the whole experience left me baffled. I saw it this time on a large, good quality projection and I had the same experience. What a frivolous, boring movie!

It has charms, for sure, including the whole exaggerated Vermont setting in all its idyllic small town beauty. (The movie premiered in Barre, Vermont.) And it is, truly, lightly humorous throughout, so yes, call it a comedy. But so little happens it gets maddening. It feels mostly like a Hitchcock Presents television production stretched into a full length movie. It's not a coincidence that the premier of that t.v. series was October, 1955, just as filming was under way for The Trouble with Harry. Initial shooting took a month that fall, with some later fill-in shooting at the end of the year.

Here Hitchcock uses (with great fanfare) the new Vistavision very widescreen format, and full Technicolor. You might think the movie was just a way to dip into the mid 1950s revelation in big, colorful cinema. And along those lines, cinematographer Robert Burks makes the most of autumn in Vermont with some beautiful location shooting. And the ticklish music by Bernard Herrmann is, as usual, perfect. Burks was already a longtime favorite of Hitchcock, but this was the first of many collaborations with Herrmann.

But the plot, and the acting (including a couple of respectable names like Shirley MacLaine, though Hitchcock hasn't always wanted the very best from his women leads) are flat and slow. Suspense? Not a bit. That's not the point. The movie flopped here in the U.S. but was a success in the U.K. so maybe, just maybe, we Yanks just don't get the humor.
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A Too Light Dark Comedy
Jay Raskin31 January 2010
There is often a motif of a younger couple contrasted with an older couple in Hitchcock's films. Think of the "Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956) or Saboteur (1942) for example. Here the courtship of a young couple, Robert Forsyth and Shirley Maclaine, is contrasted with the courtship of Edmunn Gwenn and Mildred Natwick. The passion of young love versus the humdrum and security of old love is an interesting motif that should be studied more in Hitchcock's film.

The comedy between Forsyth and Maclaine works somewhat, although it never really lights up the screen. On the other hand Gwenn and Natwick are terribly miscast. Gwenn was 77 years old and Natwick was 50 when this film was made. Even as an old maid, it is hard to believe that Natwick would have a romantic interest in Gwenn. Both of the actors seem annoyed that they have to act towards each other in a romantic capacity. As a result they are stiff instead of funny. If Hitchcock had cast an actor around Natwick's age, instead of her father's age, the movie might have worked.

The movie reminded me of Frank Capra's "Arsenic and Old Lace," another quirky dark comedy that misfired. In both cases the directors thought that they were being very wicked. Instead the black humor is just gray and the directors show themselves as more puritanical than their audience.

The cinematography is pretty, the music is cute, and the acting is fine. However the story is just dull and the audience doesn't really care what happens to "Harry" or anybody else in the movie. Once or twice every decade Hitchcock made a mediocre movie. For the 1950's, this is it.
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One of Hitchcock's talkiest murder mysteries.
Michael DeZubiria7 March 2007
Hitchcock tries out his hand at comedy, one of his least traveled paths. The Trouble With Harry will at first glance appear to be Hitchcock kind of taking a break from "serious" films, the thrillers and suspense films that he is best known for, and relaxing a bit with a light comedy, but there is much more going on in this film than that. First of all, only Hitchcock would come out with something that could be termed a "light comedy" when the central figure in the film from beginning to end is a dead body, but a lot of Hitchcock's standard themes are very prevalent in the film, even though it differs so much from his traditional style.

First and foremost, of course, is Hitch's real life, almost crippling fear of the police, whom he portrays so often in films as bumbling, incompetent blockheads. The film is almost entirely dialogue driven, the crisp exchanges are almost nonstop from beginning to end and never get boring. Shirley MacLaine makes a brilliant film debut as Harry's new widow, displaying the perfect amount of charm and sweetness that allows us to immediately forgive her gladness at her husband's sudden death, no matter how mysterious or how many times the supposed responsibility for his death changes hands.

As the blame is circulated among the diverse and likable group of main characters, the procession of guilt and responsibility leads to Harry being dug up and re-buried several times, until Jennifer (MacLaine) is asked what she thinks they should do, to which she replies, "I don't care what you do with his so long as you don't bring him back to life." There is a recurring set device of a closet that just won't stay closed which seems to have caused some confusion as to its meaning, and I have a feeling that, since there is never anything actually hidden in it, it is a metaphorical thing that points to one of the underlying themes of the film, that of guilt. Skeletons in the closet, that kind of thing. Purely speculation, of course, but it makes sense to me.

John Forsythe gives a brilliant, perfectly cool and laid back performance as the hugely likable Sam Marlowe, and his exchanges with Arnie, played by Jerry Mathers in his pre-Beaver days, are some of the best moments in the film, and this is also the first of a great many tremendously successful collaborations between Hitchcock and composer Bernard Herrman. Also keep your eye out for Hitch's cameo, which goes by much quicker than usual, you can miss it in a split second.
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Black comedy with funny moments , nice acting , gorgeous outdoors and fun dialogue
ma-cortes19 January 2014
Amusing and lighthearted suspense story about the apparition a corpse on the countryside and there being many suspicious , causing all sorts of troubles for peaceful neighbors in a rural community . Problems take place in a quiet New England little town when a man's bothersome body is found in the forests . The trouble is that almost everyone in town thinks that they had something to do with his death . As Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) , Mrs. Rogers (film debut of Shirley MacLaine , and she is marvelous as usual) , Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn's fourth and last film with Alfred Hitch) and Miss Gravel (Mildred Natwick , John Ford's usual actress) , all of them are suspicious people and carry out several tricks and antics to disappear the evidences , in fact , Harry gets dug up three times throughout the film . Meanwhile , Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs (Royal Dano), the closest thing to law enforcement in their town attempts to finds out about Harry (Alfred Hitchcock insisted on using a real actor for the body of Harry).

Enjoyable mystery movie involves a motley group of characters who hold numerous tricks in order to disappear a corpse as well as find alibis . Entertaining suspense movie packs humor , intrigue and ordinary Hitch touches . This agreeable and often hilarious picture has some 'Black comedy nature' and results to be an unexpected change of pace from master of suspense . Alfred Hitchcock's films have become famous for a number of elements and iconography : vertiginous height , innocent men wrongfully accused, blonde bombshells dressed in white, voyeurism, long non-dialogue sequences, etc. However in this film there aren't these particularities but contains a fun intrigue and amusing situations . Hitch was famous for making his actors follow the script to the word, and in this movie the characters use their dialogue taken from an interesting as well as fun screenplay by Jon Michael Hayes based on the novel by Jack Trevor Story . Alfred Hitchcock's movies were known for featuring famous landmarks such as Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest and the Statue of Liberty in Sabotage ; however here only appears a quiet small town and some colorful outdoors . Hitch apparently decided to leave this movie location unspecific and without recognizable landmarks and filmed in Vermont , though it was hampered by heavy rainfall , as many exterior scenes were actually filmed on sets constructed in a local high school gymnasium . Alfred Hitchcock once said of this film and of ¨Family plot¨ : ¨they are treated with a bit of levity and sophistication , I wanted the feeling of the famous director Ernst Lubitsch making mystery thrillers ." The film was unavailable for decades because its rights -together with four other pictures of the same period- were bought back by Alfred Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter. They've been known for years as the infamous "5 lost Hitchcocks" among film buffs, and were re-released in theaters around 1984 after a 30-year absence. The others are ¨The Man Who Knew Too Much¨ (1956), ¨The rear window¨ (1954), ¨The rope¨ (1948) and ¨Vertigo¨(1958). When Music Composer Lyn Murray was working on the music score for ¨Catch a thief' (1955), Alfred Hitchcock was already looking for a composer for this film, which was to be his next. So Murray suggested Bernard Herrmann. Bernard arranged his whimsical themes from this film into a concert suite he called "A Portrait of Hitch". This was the beginning of the long professional relationship between Hitchcock and Herrmann. Colorful and glimmer cinematography in Vistavision by Robert Burks , Alfred's ordinary cameraman , showing nice autumn outdoors .

The motion picture was well directed by Alfred Hitchcock . Originally designed by Hitchcock as an experiment in seeing how audiences would react to a non-star-driven film and was one of Alfred's favorites of all his films . Although this was a failure in the US, it played for a year in England and Italy, and for a year and a half in France. Rating : Better than average . Well worth watching .
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Enoyable comedy, though not hilarious
gcd7024 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Though many of Hitchcock's films have much marvelous humour in them, this would probably be his only out and out comedy.

"The Trouble With Harry" is about a man who makes rather a nuisance of himself for a day in a small country town. The players (including débutant Shirley Maclaine) bring off the humour very well, especially considering the subject, which of course only Hitchcock could find so amusing.

There is a lot of black comedy here, but the film is not dark, rather very light hearted. This would probably explain why the movie is not as effective today. The central theme is no longer taboo, and so the audience is not uncomfortable with this sort of comedy any more. Enjoyable, but not hilarious.

Wednesday, July 21, 1993 - T.V.
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A little dissappointing
Marie-623 September 2001
When I saw "The Trouble with Harry", starring Shirley MacLaine and a part of The Alfred Hitchcock Collection, I thought "You can't get much better than that." I rented it. It was a flop. It was MacLaine's first movie and it shows. It has a hint of mystery to it but I wouldn't call it Hitchcock worthy. "The Trouble with Harry" is more of a romantic movie. Shirley may be one of my favorite actresses, falling in right behind Audrey Hepburn and one ahead of Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand but she wasn't that glamorous or amazing in this movie, although that blue dress of hers does show off her eyes. Over all, the plot is a little complicated and unless your out for a silly movie that could've and should've been either a dead on romance or a dead on murder mystery (not a little of both), I don't highly recommend this movie. I gave it a 4. 1=Sam's handsomeness 1/2=Ivy's silliness 1/2=Captain's good nature 2= Shirley MacLaine's climb to stardom from this movie
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Still a crashing bore after all these years
bob_meg25 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have to chuckle when I read some of the over-the-top raves this film has gotten from supposedly American viewers.

The Trouble With Harry will only work for you if you're a fan of:

A) British drawing room humor B) French slapstick/farce C) Hitchcock's --- and a rabid one --- who vehemently believes he never failed at anything

This is one of the rare instances when the studio idiots were actually right when they told Hitchcock not to embark on this project. It's a British movie made from a British novel with a distinctly European sensibility that posits that the back and forth burying and unearthing of a corpse for nearly 100 minutes is just the most hilarious thing ever. Because he's dead, you know? And since death is such a grim concept that everyone --- everyone, right? --- feels uncomfortable with, you just *HAVE* to laugh at it --- cause it's so freaking hysterical. Did you get that? Did you?

OK, I know I'm being obnoxious here, but that's about how subtle this film is, and unfortunately unless you have the sensibilities described above (most of which I believe are akin to coming from a specific geographical area), you're in for a very tedious viewing session.

I could say the same thing about Richard Linklater's "Slacker," which is one of my favorite films of all time, and which I consider to be quite brilliant. Notice that both films have virtually no plot and rely on very specific culturally-inundated humor --- but Linklater's humor is self-referential and Hitchcock's is not.

And that --- I think --- is why most people don't get Harry. To most Americans who equate humor with Woody Allen and Seinfeld (not Jerry Lewis and Benny Hill), the Trouble With Harry is he's...boring.
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No trouble at All
jaywolfenstien28 July 2005
So it begins, the famous collaboration between suspense maestro Hitchcock and composer legend Herrmann to bring the world . . . a comedy? I went into the film not really knowing what to expect, though with Hitchcock's name I assumed thriller. Within minutes, though, Hitch and Benny helped me shift gears and accept Trouble with Harry for what it is: a tongue-in-cheek ride with a side of murder and a wicked sense of humor and dead on timing.

Within the opening five minutes, my jaw dropped at the sheer ludicrousy of the movie's premise – the offbeat reactions of all the characters to the troubled Harry – and how I laughed at the audacity the film had to throw so many off the wall characters into a situation that grew more and more outrageous with every passing frame and keep running with a straight face.

We get a retired ship captain, an old woman looking for love, a troubled widow, an artist with a taste for the weird, a dead guy, and it only gets more and more strange, folks. The plot? It goes in circles over and over and over again, and not much really happens as this group tries to figure out Harry and what to do with him. Needless to say, The Trouble with Harry walks dangerously close to disaster, but Hitchcock does something remarkable: he lets his style seduce the audience into suspending their disbelief, sitting back, and trusting the master of black comedy.

That is what I love about Hitchcock and about Trouble with Harry – he is so confident in his films and his audience that he knowingly presents the absurd where other filmmakers wouldn't dare go in fear of losing the audience. He knows precisely which ties to reality he can afford to cut free, and he so gracefully and fearlessly lets go of "realism" in favor of his own flavor of the surreal. The Trouble with Harry presents some of the goofiest characters to ever appear on screen with some of the strangest logic-defying ideas, and I love them for it.

How does it work? The film simply resonates with the charms Hitchcock fans have grown to adore – how the grassy hill looked like a set, the witty dialogue between the characters (the captain and Sam cracked me up every time), the mastery of frame composition (loved the first few shots of Harry), and Bernard Herrmann's delightful score that perfectly reflects the tone and feel of the film. Murder never felt so whacky and wonderful. It's that same world of Hitchcock that made us, the audience, forget about logic and realism when we viewed North by Northwest, Psycho, and Rear Window.

Realism is boring. As Sir Alfred, himself, stated, "Most films are slices of life. Mine are slices of cake." And indeed, his world is so much more fun. Screw reality.

This movie is a gem that's easily overlooked since it is a comedy by the "master of suspense." Fans already know he had also mastered the art of black comedy, and the only phrase I need in describing the film to fellow Hitch fans is "pure cinema." The Trouble with Harry is Hitchcock at his best, and it's no trouble at all to sit through.
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Habeas Corpus, But Missing Purpose
Bill Slocum30 January 2005
This is what might have happened if Samuel Beckett wrote an episode of "Green Acres."

Amid the autumnal splendor of Vermont, a group of people individually come across a man's body lying in a field, two-toned shoes pointing to the sky. Each has reason to think they might have some responsibility for his apparent murder. They don't feel any sense of tragedy, or pang of conscience, mind. They just don't want to be bothered particularly with the apparent fatal consequences of what they might have done. "Easy come, easy go," they say amid the majestic maples and rustic lanes. Thus existentialism meets Currier & Ives.

John Forsythe plays an abstract artist with an abstract sense of humor. He blithely falls in love with the dead man's wife, (Shirley MacLaine in her screen debut, looking like a cross between Renee Zellweger and Molly Ringwald), who couldn't be happier about the man being dead (she worked herself up to "a certain enthusiasm" on their wedding night, and he failed to deliver.) The two people fall in love with all the passion of a corporate merger. Instead of "I do," it's more like "Whatever" with these kids. MacLaine and Forsythe look remarkably young and raw, and they are saddled with unlikable characters. He's too whimsical and breezy, she scrunches her face too much and doesn't offer anything to like except when she's with her son (Jerry Mathers not as The Beaver). The rest of the time she comes off like some high schooler sunning herself by the pool while Daddy floats lifeless a few feet away. It's hard getting over how coldly she treats the death of her sad husband.

Edmund Gwynn, a screen veteran with a nice turn in Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent," seems to be smuggling steel-belted radials in his pants and exudes all the merry presence of a deviant Santa Claus as he asks Forsythe's Sam Marlowe to help him bury the body. His many conversations with himself are the most obvious of many things in this movie that scream scripted convenience. Mildred Natwick, with the beautiful eyes and big nose, is the only charmer in this bunch, but she is saddled with the dumbest motive for helping give Harry an unceremonious heave-ho.

"The Trouble With Harry" is presented as a charmer, but it's not very charming. It's not a good caper flick, and the jokes are often bland. Sometimes it works, like when Gwenn's Capt. Wiles is invited to have tea and "highbush blueberry muffins" with Natwick's Miss Gravely and finds out her father passed away.

"I trust he died peacefully. Slipped away in the night?"

"He was caught in a threshing machine."

If you're going to make a brutal comedy, it needs to be funny like that a good deal more often. Instead, there's some protracted business about digging up and reburying poor Harry, some teasing of a suspicious deputy sheriff, and no hint any of this really means a thing to anyone. Hitchcock was having fun, but he forgot to bring his audience along for the ride.

Even the great things about the movie, the music and cinematography (this is perhaps Hitchcock's most beautiful film along with "Vertigo" and "To Catch A Thief") kind of seem out-of-place, too charming and smooth background for the nasty people inhabiting this picture. "The Trouble With Harry" may be Hitchcock's merry nod at the inevitability of death, but it works best at showing how even the Master himself could be mortal.
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An Inconvenient Dead Body
bkoganbing1 February 2007
Poor Harry, dropping dead in the Vermont woods one autumn day and four people manage to convince themselves they killed him. Including his conspicuously unlamenting widow, Shirley MacLaine.

Alfred Hitchcock sure loved some humor in his films, his characters when they're being pursued throw off some really clever lines. But outright comedy just wasn't Hitchcock's bag. Hitchcock did better with Mr. And Mrs. Smith, a screwball comedy with Carole Lombard that he did as a favor to Lombard with a promise she might be one of his cool blond heroines in the future. Of course that never happened as we sadly know.

Shirley MacLaine was introduced in this film, her debut big screen appearance. She does all right here, but she really hits the big time when she does Some Came Running and blew that attractive cast off the screen when she was on.

John Forsythe, Edmund Gwenn, and Mildred Natwick also think they might have killed old Harry for one reason or other. They keep digging him up and reburying him with rigor mortis coming and going.

The trouble with The Trouble With Harry is that Alfred Hitchcock took one gag and stretched it way too thin for a feature film.

I could see it however in a Laurel and Hardy short though.
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Death treated as a triviality.
PWNYCNY1 August 2014
The trouble with Harry is an offbeat comedic movie that starts off slowly but ends strongly. This is not Hitchcock's usual style, but is effective. Once again, the audience is taken on an emotional roller as characters interact over a "problem" that is contrived and even morbid yet drives the story. Uncertainty abounds as the characters disclose their own violent acts, thus revealing the superficiality of their otherwise pristine and seemingly innocent small-town personas. Lurking inside the human being is the propensity to commit violence. Death is reduced to the level of a triviality and is treated as an inconvenience. The sheer callousness of the characters has a lot to do with making the story so fascinating and strong. No matter how likable they are, the characters in this story are not good guys. This movie reveals so much about people and about a society that can treat death with such indifference.
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