The Trouble with Harry is that he’s dead, and the trouble with everyone else is that they don’t know what do with his body. The trouble with The Trouble with Harry is that it is just a rather understated comedy; no classic Hitchcock suspense here. I’d be fine with Hitchcock trying to mix it up if the comedy had been a bit more prevalent. I though it was amusing, but all in all just sort of bland.
Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) is out hunting one day, and notices a dead body. Naturally, he assumes he shot it by accident, and is now wondering what to do with it. He doesn’t really show any remorse about shooting this guy, and to be fair it was an accident. He mainly wonders how is going to avoid any police questioning. Various people stumble across the body and he is hiding behind a tree, and I have to admit I got several chuckles out of this.
It is revealed that he might not have committed the crime at all. When Wiles thought he was shooting Harry (as the corpse is later identified) he really was shooting a rabbit as he intended. Another woman, Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick), confesses to the crime, saying that it was self-defense. But then Harry’s wife, Jennifer Rodgers (Shirley MacLaine) also may have killed him. She hit him over the head before he attacked Miss Gravely; it’s impossible to really tell which blow was the cause of his death. With two possible murderers, it’s even more important to hide the body.
The thing is, all of the main characters can’t decide on whether they want Harry to stay buried or not. They bury him and unbury him about three times I think for various reasons. So basically they would all be having a conversation about him being dead and then it was like “let’s go dig Harry up again!” if he was buried or “let’s go bury Harry again!” if he was not buried. I can’t really remember any of the reasons they gave except the final one: Sam (John Forsythe) and Jennifer decide they want to get married and they don’t feel like waiting seven years until they can declare Harry dead without his body. His proposal was a pretty quick one even by film standards; I’m pretty sure this took place over the course of just one day (maybe two) and he had not met her previous to all of this digging. It just seemed a pretty ridiculous risk to take when they both had strong motives.
The Trouble with Harry comes down to the problem of having to dispose of a body rather than the problem of committing a murder. It is pretty interesting, but the only thing they do is bury and unbury him. I feel like Hitchcock could have been more creative with the body disposal method. Also I think it was supposed to be a comedy, but there wasn’t enough humor for me to think of it as a pure comedy. It either needed more comedy or something else, like more of an urgency to hide Harry. There was a sheriff starting to catch onto their schemes, but nobody seemed to concerned about it. I think it could have been a pure comedy, but it would have had to have more humor, or at least more obvious humor for me anyway. According to imdb, Hitchcock wanted to see if Americans could handle a more subtle type of humor. I think we can if you give us something else too, but there wasn’t much else here. It actually felt a lot more like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents than a Hitchcock film, only longer and better looking.
The film looked fantastic. I’m not sure if I thought that because I was watching it on a better TV than I usually do, but I was really struck by how crisp the visuals were as soon as the film started. It was shot on location in Vermont for the most part I believe and since it’s in the fall, the trees have all turned and it’s really very beautiful. Another aspect was the score; Bernard Herrmann strikes again. It was very obvious in The Trouble with Harry because a lot of scenes didn’t have dialogue so the score was very exposed. People would just stumbling across Harry’s body without saying anything, and Herrmann’s music would be playing. He used bassoons a lot on this one, which are usually pretty humorous to me anyway.
In terms of acting, the cast did a fine job. There wasn’t really a stand out performance, it was more ensemble type. They all kind of seemed like they didn’t care much about what was going on, but I think that’s what was intended strangely enough. I thought it was funny that I had previously seen all of the four main actors in other things, except Shirley MacLaine who is the most famous name. I believe this was her debut role, so people watching this in 1955 might have thought the same thing.
When it comes down to it, The Trouble with Harry is not really a bad film, it just has something missing. It’s entertaining to watch for the great scenery, the music, and the humor that it does have, but it’s not suspenseful at all and doesn’t have much driving the story. I would love to have proved to Hitchcock that us Americans can handle a more subdued film like this, and I guess I can. I can handle it, but I can’t really love it.
Long story short: 3/4 stars