Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hitchcock Month - The Trouble with Harry

The Trouble with Harry (1955)
Starring John Forsythe, Edmund Gwenn, Shirley MacLaine, Mildred Natwick, and Jerry Mathers
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix*** 

The Trouble with Harry is certainly a different film than we're used to seeing from Hitchcock.  It's reminiscent of some Disney live action films of the era like The Shaggy Dog or The Absent-Minded Professor in the sense that it's a very pure and simple ensemble piece, filled with humor that is fitting for all ages.  Yes, the whole film revolves around the death of a man named Harry and the trouble that his demise brings about, but the film isn't the least bit of a thriller.  I think Hitch was going for a comedy, but it never quite reaches the humorous levels that it wants to hit.

Taking place over the course of 24 hours, The Trouble with Harry deals with four quirky characters living in a small town in Vermont and their relationship to a dead man that is found in the forest by their homes.  Boat captain Albert (Edmund Gwenn) discovers Harry's body while hunting for rabbits.  He fears that a stray bullet of his killed the man, so he decides to bury and hide the body.  However, in the midst of hiding the body, Albert is interrupted by some kooky residents of the town, including Shirley MacLaine and Jerry Mathers (the Beaver from Leave It to Beaver!) as a mother and son, and John Forsythe as an artist who decides to help him bury the evidence.  Come to discover, Harry may not have been the nicest guy and it turns out that several of the townsfolk believe they may have killed the man due to some previous encounters with him earlier in the day.

There's no suspense here...not an ounce.  Hitch was certainly going for humor and while he succeeds at eliciting some mild chuckles, it doesn't work quite as well as I would have liked....especially considering the rather pleasant performances.  Shirley MacLaine makes her film debut in this and it's easy to see why she became a movie star.  Besides being cute as a button, she manages to have both an "every-woman" sensibility, while also channeling the quirky next-door neighbor that you've come to know and love.  John Forsythe is rather suave and charming, and it's evident why MacLaine's widowed mother falls for the guy.  The entire ensemble is winning...I just wish they were given more to work with.

The Trouble with Harry is a fine film, but there's not a thing that stands out that would make me really want to watch this again.  It's a nice diversion from typical Hitchcock (and it's probably his best comedy when comparing it to Mr. and Mrs. Smith and the soon-to-be reviewed Family Plot), but Hitch really should probably stick to the thrillers and mysteries for which he is well known.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+


  1. See, I view it not as a comedy but as a pleasant viewing experience. It's the same, tone-wise, as Harvey. Not the same quality, obviously but yeah.
    It makes me happy whenever i see it. It isn't deep or thought provoking. Meh.

  2. I agree that it was certainly a pleasant viewing experience, and, like I said in the write-up, because of that pleasantness, I kind of liken it to live-action Disney films of the era.

    I didn't dislike, but it didn't quite win me over as much as you.

    Now, Torn Curtain on the other hand...I guess I won't spoil my thoughts on that yet...