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Harrison's Reports (1955) - The Trouble with Harry




"The Trouble With Harry" with Shirley MacLaine, John Forsyth and Edmund Gwenn

(Paramount, November; time, 99 min.)

As described by Alfred Hitchcock, who produced and directed it, this picture is "a comedy about a corpse." It is a whacky, off-beat type of film, well directed and acted and quite amusing throughout, but as an entertainment it may be received with mixed audience reaction because many movie-goers may feel sensitive about a story that draws its principal laughs from the fact that the corpse is interred and disinterred several times by a group of gentle and innocent people, a few of whom have motivations for murdering the man, while two of them think that they actually did murder him. Much of the comedy is provoked by the imagined dilemmas of those who become involved with the corpse and by their efforts to help keep each other out of trouble with the law. The cast is weak from the viewpoint of marquee value, but all contribute amusing characterizations. Worthy of special mention is Shirley MacLaine, a newcomer, who has the feminine lead. Recruited from the stage, she is a pretty girl with a decidedly different personality. The picture, which is in Technicolor and VistaVision, was shot against actual Vermont backgrounds and offers eye-filling scenes of foliage that is ablaze with glorious autumnal coloring. Because of its subject matter, the picture seems best suited for class audiences that enjoy unusual screen fare. Its reception by small-town audiences is questionable.

The story opens with 4-year-old Jerry Mathers finding a dead man in the woods. He runs home and informs Shirley MacLaine, his mother, who discovers, happily, that the dead man, named Harry, is her estranged second husband. Meanwhile the body is discovered also by Edmund Gwenn, a retired sea captain, who believes that he had accidentally shot Harry while hunting. Mildred Natwick, Gwenn's spinster neighbor, finds him with the body and helps him to hide it. A romance blossoms between the two and she then confesses that she had killed Harry while defending her honor. When John Forsyth, a local artist, discovers the body, Gwenn comes out of a hiding place and tells him everything. Forsyth is sympathetic and helps Gwenn to bury the body before it is found by the police. In the course of events, Forsyth meets and falls in love with Shirley, who informs him that, earlier in the day, she had resisted Harry's efforts to resume their marriage and feared that she might be suspected of killing him. At the same time Forsyth realizes that his love for Shirley might be mistaken as reason for him to get rid of an existing husband. They discuss the matter with Gwenn and Miss Natwick and in their efforts to help each other subject the body to a series of burials and unburials. In the bizarre happenings that follow, they finally take the body back to Shirley's home to clean it up and then put it back in the woods. This move is complicated by the arrival of a deputy sheriff who had found reason to suspect the existence of a missing corpse, but it all turns out well when they manage to get rid of the deputy and when a local doctor finds that Harry had died of natural causes.

It was produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, from a screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by Jack Trevor Story.