The Trouble with Harry

Infobox Film
name = The Trouble with Harry

caption = Original VistaVision movie poster
director = Alfred Hitchcock
producer = Uncredited:
Alfred Hitchcock
writer = Novel:
Jack Trevor Story
John Michael Hayes
starring = Edmund Gwenn
John Forsythe
Shirley MacLaine
Mildred Natwick
Mildred Dunnock
Jerry Mathers
Royal Dano
music = Bernard Herrmann
cinematography = Robert Burks
editing = Alma Hitchcock
distributor = Paramount Pictures
released = flagicon|USA October 3, 1955
runtime = 99 min
country = USA
language = English
budget = US$ 1,200,000
gross =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
amg_id = 1:51108
imdb_id = 0048750

"The Trouble with Harry" is an American black comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the novel by Jack Trevor Story. It was released in the United States on October 3 1955 then rereleased once the rights were acquired by Universal Pictures in 1984. The film starred John Forsythe and Edmund Gwenn; Shirley MacLaine and Jerry Mathers co-starred, both in their first film roles.


The film follows the quirky but down-to-earth residents of a small village in Vermont in the autumn, as they deal with the freshly dead body of a man, which has inconveniently appeared on the hillside above the town. The problem of what to do with the body, and more importantly how and why he was killed, is the eponymous "Trouble with Harry".

Three of the main characters in the film imagine that they are the one who actually killed this person. Captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) is sure that he must have killed the man with a stray shot from his rifle when rabbit hunting. Miss Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick) feels that the man died after a blow from her hiking boot, and so on. Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), an attractive and free-spirited artist, is quite open-minded about the whole event, and is prepared to help his good-natured friends and neighbors in any way he can.

It turns out that the dead man is in fact Harry, the estranged husband of an attractive and feisty young woman called Jennifer Rogers, (Shirley MacLaine), who lives in the village along with her small son Arnie (Jerry Mathers). Jennifer Rogers thinks that her husband may possibly have died after she hit him with a bottle. In any case, no-one is actually upset about what has happened.

However, none of the principal characters want this death to come to the attention of the "authorities" in the form of cold, humorless, Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs (Royal Dano). The main characters conceal the body by burying it, and then have to dig it up again. This happens several times. The body is also concealed at one point by hiding it in a bathtub.

In the end we discover that Harry actually died of natural causes, and no foul play was involved. In the meantime, Sam and Jennifer have fallen in love, as have the Captain and Miss Gravely. Sam has been able to sell his paintings to a passing millionaire. The artist refuses to accept money, and instead requests a few simple gifts for his friends and himself.

Overall, the film is a light-hearted meditation on death as an intrinsic part of the natural cycle of things, within the harmonious landscape of autumn, a time of year when nature is dying, only to be reborn in spring. The Vermont town seems to be a little Utopia or one kind of paradise, where sex and death are not shocking and dramatic, but simply the natural order of things.


Although one of Hitchcock's few true comedies (though most of his films had some element of tongue-in-cheek or macabre humor), the film was a box office disappointment.

The film also contained what was, at the time, frank dialogue. This is seen when John Forsythe's character unabashedly tells Shirley MacLaine's character that he would like to paint a nude portrait of her. Comparatively tame by today's standards, the statement by Forsythe's character was quite racy for its time.

The film was unavailable for nearly thirty years after its initial release, after Hitchcock bought back the rights to the film. It was finally reissued in 1984, and has since been re-released on VHS and DVD.

"The Trouble with Harry" is also notable as a landmark in Hitchcock's canon as it marked the beginning of several highly regarded collaborations with composer Bernard Herrmann, who went on to score some of Hitchcock's best known films including "Vertigo", "North by Northwest" and "Psycho". A song sung by John Forsythe's character, "Flaggin' the Train to Tuscaloosa" was written by Raymond Scott.


*Several scenes in the film had to be shot in a rented high school gym because of rain. In the gym, a 500 lb (227 kg) Technicolor camera fell from a great height and barely missed hitting Hitchcock.
*While this movie was a financial failure in the U.S., it played for a year in England and Rome, and a year and a half in France.
* Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In "The Trouble with Harry" he can be seen (25 minutes into the film) as he walks past a parked limousine while an old man looks at paintings for sale at the roadside stand.
*A 'cash-in' single titled "The Trouble with Harry" by "'Alfi & Harry'" was released in March 1956. It charted in the UK at its peak position of number 15. The title aside, the record had no connection with the film.

External links

*imdb title|id=0048750|title=The Trouble with Harry
* [ Profile of Hitchcock] at Senses of Cinema website, giving particular attention to "The Trouble With Harry"
* [ 'The Trouble with Harry' Screenshot Gallery]
* [ "The Trouble with Harry" Eyegate Gallery]

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