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The Times (07/May/1956) - Mr. Alfred Hitchcock as the life and soul of the wake: The Trouble with Harry

(c) The Times (07/May/1956)



Coming out into the sunlight beyond, after a career dedicated to the macabre, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock evidently finds that murder is, if not actually funny, at any rate not a matter for superstitious reverence. He now reveals himself as the life and soul of the wake.

The Trouble with Harry, at the Plaza Cinema, is all about the burying and digging up, several times repeated in less than a day, of a husband we know to have been bad simply because his irresistibly charming widow (Miss Shirley MacLaine) could not abide him. Our sympathies thus engaged on the proper side, we are much more concemed about the plight of the living with a body on their hands than about the trouble with Harry himself. The scene is a hamlet in New England where Miss Marple would probably feel quite at home. But Miss Marple is there none, and the sole detective pressure on the impulsive amateur grave-diggers is that of a hatchet-faced young deputy sheriff, who is pretty sure something is going on, but realizes he is not nearly sharp enough to learn what.

Some may wish that Mr. Hitchcock had been able to spare from his farcical comedy the small boy who discovers the corpse — certainly on the second occasion — and also the sight of Harry's bare feet sticking out of the bath while the four merry conspirators busily wash, iron, and press his clothes that he may be presentable when at last found officially. Yet though convention is all against it, and sometimes propriety, too, the sheer absurdity of the proceedings carries the day. When he goes home the armchair detective will probably recall various loose ends in the story and actual inconsistencies, but Miss MacLaine is so roguish, Mr. John Forsythe, as a painter of singular equanimity, so wooing, and Mr. Edmund Gwenn and Miss Mildred Natwick so equal to the demands made on them as the other, more broadly comical, lovers, that so long as he is in the cinema he will merely take the fun as it comes.

In the same programme is The Scarlet Hour. It is, in fact, a very drab hour and a half, in the company of actors who have not yet established reputations and are unlikely to achieve them as a result of this film. The story combines a rather unsavoury triangle drama with a jewel robbery, and the director, Mr. Michael Curtiz, has achieved a certain amount of suspense but little else.