|THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955)|
|"He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only he was vertical."|
|Time: 99 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Mystery/Black Comedy
Hitchcock didn't make many comedies and that's a real shame. He displays an honest to goodness black comic touch in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY that's hard to deny. Who knew one could derive such pleasure from watching a group of people bury and dig up a dead man over and over again. The plot of this film isn't very complicated, but it's more than enough to keep you glued to your seat desperate to see what's going to happen next and laughing at what does. The dialogue is honest, crisp and clever and the characters are unique and interesting, as are their motives for wanting to keep Harry the chap of the title dead and buried. Lest you think Hitchcock has gone soft, you needn't worry. There's plenty of lies, murder and mayhem to convince you of who is behind the camera.
The story takes place in a tiny Vermont town on a crisp fall day. An old tugboat captain is wandering the woods trying to shoot rabbits, while a young boy plays nearby, touting his own toy gun. They both stumble upon a well-dressed gentleman lying in a clearing very obviously dead. The boy, played by Jerry Mathers, runs away to fetch his mother. Captain Albert Wiles (Gwenn) believes that one of his stray shots accidently killed the man he discovers is named Harry. Since it was an accident, the Captain decides to just bury the body in the woods, so no one will be the wiser. Of course, before he can accomplish the wretched deed, it seems everyone and their brother stumbles upon the body.
One of his neighbors, Miss Gravely (Natwick) catches him dragging the body into the woods and without blinking asks him over for tea and muffins when he's done. The boy brings his mother Jennifer (MacLaine), who seems to know the deceased and is only to happy to see him in his present condition. A tramp walks by and steals Harry's expensive shoes. The local artist, Sam Marlowe (Forsythe), is intrigued by Harry's face and stops to draw him in his final repose. The Captain knows Marlowe and admits his misdeed. Marlowe agrees to help him bury Harry since the only person who seemed to know him, Jennifer, was only to happy to find him dead. Once they get Harry into the ground, they each visit their respective lady friends the Captain for a social visit, Marlowe to make sure Jennifer will not be alerting the police of Harry's death.
Both men get more than they bargain for by these little visits. There may be murder in the air, but cupid's hanging around as well. It turns out that Jennifer was nominally married to Harry, but never really lived as his wife, so she's glad to finally get her freedom. It's also uncovered that the cause of Harry's early demise was not what was first surmised. Due to various reasons, Harry is dug up and buried more times than one cares to think about. In the end, our little group doesn't quite know what to do about Harry, but they sure don't want to wind up taking the rap for his death. As the police close in they do the only thing that makes sense, clean him up and leave him to be found the following day, like this day and all it's ruminations and exertion never happened. Except for the falling in love.
THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY employs the talents of a whole new cast of actors. This was MacLaine's first role and she makes the most of her screen time. She's charming, open, sexy and elusive all at the same time. Forsythe is the perfect leading man confident and intelligent with a wry sense of humor. They make a cute and believable couple. It's weird to see the Beaver standing over a dead man, but that's also what makes the film so darkly comic. Of course, Mathers was several years from getting his own TV show, but it's clear even with this small part that he was going somewhere. Edmund Gwenn had worked with Hitchcock once before on FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, but this is a much bigger role and he plays it with sincerity and sweetness. He swears he doesn't have a conscience, but it's clear he wants to do what's best for everyone concerned.
Though much of the film was shot on a sound stage, enough of it was filmed on location in Vermont to give it a wonderful, small town fall feel. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY establishes life in New England as vividly as TO CATCH A THIEF brings Monte Carlo alive. It made me yearn for home. What really helps push this solid film over the edge into a classic is the music. The acting and the screenplay are good, but the score by Bernard Herrmann, in his first collaboration with Hitch, makes this the film that it is. The score is both lightly comic and darkly creepy. More than anything it establishes the tone of this strangely funny movie and keeps you in the proper frame of mind from beginning to end. I know Hitchcock is most well known for making your skin crawl with horror, but sometimes it's nice to be able to laugh in the face of death. They don't call him a master for nothing and this is one not to be missed.