Jerry Mathers

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

Usually, when a dead body turns up in the woods, people aren’t lining up to admit being responsible for that person’s demise.   But when Harry Worp is found dead in the woods, three people believe they are each responsible for killing him.  First there’s Harry’s wife, Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine).  She thinks she killed him by hitting him over the head with a bottle.  Then there’s Captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), who believes he accidentally shot Harry while hunting rabbits.  And last, but certainly not least, there’s Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick), who hit Harry on the head with the heel of her hiking boot when he tried to assault her.  But either way, none of them are exactly sad to see Harry go.

When local artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) comes along to sketch the scenery, he stumbles upon Harry’s body and also finds Albert nearby.  Albert explains what happened and Sam agrees to help him bury Harry.  Before Sam knows it, he’s helped bury and exhume Harry multiple times and is wrapped up in trying to figure out exactly how Harry died.

The Trouble with Harry manages to be both an unusual Alfred Hitchcock film and still distinctly his style.  If you go into The Trouble with Harry assuming that, because it’s Hitchcock, it will be a thriller like Vertigo or North by Northwest, you will be sorely disappointed.  Instead, it’s actually a dark comedy.  I wouldn’t call it one of Hitchcock’s best films, but I am fond of it since I have a somewhat dark sense of humor so I thought it was hilarious.  The humor is very much Hitchcock’s style; much more so than Mr. and Mrs. Smith was.  The cinematography is stunning; there are so many shots worthy of being on a postcard.  And I love the stark contrast between the picturesque scenery and the morbid comedy. The Trouble with Harry is also noteworthy for being the film debuts of Shirley MacLaine and Jerry Mathers.  It was also the first Hitchcock film to be scored by composer Bernard Hermann.

This was one of Hitchcock’s personal favorites of the movies he made and I can see why. However, I can also easily see why it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  Dark comedy is one of those things that you either like or you don’t and I’ll admit the movie gets off to a little bit of a slow start.  The Trouble with Harry wasn’t a big box office success when it was first released, but I have a feeling it might have found more of an audience if it had been made in the 70’s or 80’s instead.

This year’s For the Love of Film blogathon is raising money to make the three recently rediscovered reels of 1923’s The White Shadow available to stream on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s website for three months. Hitchcock served as an assistant director for The White Shadow, one of his first major jobs. If you would like to donate, simply click the button!  For more from the For the Love of Film Blogathon, you can find other contributions at Ferdy on Films, The Self-Styled Siren, and This Island Rod.