The director and making of an English comedy in America
This 32-minute short is a very good documentary on the making of Alfred Hitchcock's comedy mystery, "The Trouble with Harry." It includes interviews with several people and clips from the movie. The information in the interviews is very interesting, and sometimes revealing about Hitchcock, the cast and the shooting. Among those appearing are Pat Hitchcock O'Connell, daughter of Alfred and Alma Hitchcock; Herbert Coleman who was associate producer on this film; John Michael Hayes who wrote the screenplay; and actor John Forsythe who played Sam Marlowe in the film.
Hayes says that Hitchcock thought they could shoot the film, which takes place in England, in New England. So, they went to Vermont. They found the perfect place – a hamlet with just three houses, so they built the store and outdoor stand. They rented a school gymnasium at Stowe, about 30 miles away, and converted it for film processing and editing. They had to wait five days for overcast weather to clear. Then they shot scenes of the colorful countryside. But, soon after that they had a heavy storm and the next day all the leaves were off the trees. So, they picked up and packed leaves in several large crates the size of coffins and shipped them to Los Angeles.
They wound up shooting about half the movie in Vermont and half at the Paramount studios in California. All of the scenes with the dead body and burial near the large tree were from the Paramount studio. They took all those leaves and pinned and pasted them on the studio trees and then spray painted them. They would have preferred to be able to do all the shooting in Vermont for the natural conditions. The cast and crew stayed at the Lodge at Smuggler's Notch, about 40 miles east of Burlington.
Hitchcock got Bernard Herrmann to do the musical score for the movie, and it was superb. Herrmann could understand what Hitch wanted and needed for his films, and Hitch used him for several films after that.
Coleman told how they happened to find Shirley MacLaine in a Broadway play when she was understudy for a role and happened to be playing it the night he saw her. Forsythe said he asked Hitchcock how he found him. Hitch told him that he saw him in the play he was doing. Forsythe asked him, "Well, what did you think?" He said Hitchcock answered, "Well, I put you in my movie, didn't I?"
Hayes said Hitchcock's wife, Alma, "was pure sunshine. She was brilliant to begin with. She advised him on scripts. She advised him what to read. She looked at his first cuts of the films and made suggestions. She kept his balance and the balance of everyone with good humor, thoughtfulness and sheer niceness."
Pat O'Connell said that one reason Hitch wanted to shoot in Vermont was to bring some lightness to the film by way of color. Because it was a pretty grim story with dark humor, they wanted people to take it lightly and inoffensively. She said, "the humor of it was so great that you really couldn't take it seriously."
Because death isn't something funny to Americans, the film didn't do very well in its initial U.S. release. But in Europe – England, France and elsewhere, death can be a topic with much humor. So, on its release in Europe it was a big hit. Then, when it returned to the States for a follow-up release, it did quite well also.
Hayes said, "Hitchcock was an enigma personally as well as professionally." Forsythe said, 'I think (the film) was an effort for him to break away from the whole of what people expected Hitchcock to be. For him to get involved with a comedy of this kind – the kooky kind of English comedy, was something rare." He said Hitchcock "was a glorious guy, and I enjoyed him immensely.
Hayes said that when the movie, "Peyton Place," was shot two years later, Vermont wouldn't let Hollywood make the movie there. So, much of it was made in Maine. But, 20th Century Fox used some of the outtake scenes of Vermont that Hitchcock had shot there for this movie. Hayes said it was ironic because years later Vermont publicity called attention to the great scenery in Peyton Place being in Vermont.
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