Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Trouble With Harry


Hitchcock said on several occasions that this was his favorite of his films. I think he mentioned others at other times, but this one is clearly from the heart. A very black, very strange heart, but still. Audiences in 1955 weren’t ready for this sort of black humor, and the film was a financial bust. I just dearly love it, and have since the first time I saw it. In a forest near a tiny village in Vermont a dead body is found. And found again. And found yet again. The first finder, a little boy (Jerry Mathers, pre-Beaver), goes off to fetch his mother (Shirley MacLaine in her first role, if you don’t count her previous life as Sarah Bernhardt). The second finder, the great Edmund Gwynne in his next-to-last role, thinks he killed the man while shooting at rabbits. Another finder, an artist (John Forsythe) sketches it. Still another, an absent-minded doctor who walks through the woods with his nose in a book, trips over the body and never even knows he’s dead. The body is Harry, Shirley’s husband, and she and Edmund and Midred Natwick all believe at one point or another that they were the killer. Which leads to Harry being buried, and then dug up, buried and dug up … three times, in total. Harry eventually ends up concealed in Shirley’s house, hidden from the suspicious sheriff’s deputy (Royal Dano), probably in that closet that John Forsythe is leaning against because of its propensity to open all by itself … The movie is filled with delicious dialogue and quirky, well-written characters. I think only Hitch could have made this film, one of his few pure comedies, though of course most of his films are full of dry humor.