Last week, I talked about a brand new episode of a fairly popular television show. So, this week, I’ve decided to follow suit by writing about a relatively (to this director, anyways) lesser-known movie from 1955. Why? Because clearly, if there’s one thing I dislike, it’s consistency. Or watching television. Or paying to see new movies when there’s nothing all that interesting out. Moreover, because it’s an exceedingly busy week, you all get what you’ve always wanted: a Tuesday Zone with a reasonable word count! Yay! Merry Happy!
The Trouble with Harry
As said in one of my favorite taglines ever: “The trouble with Harry is that he’s dead.” This causes distress for Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), a goofy man that stumbles upon Harry while hunting; Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick), who struck Harry when he strangely came toward her; Jennifer (Shirley MacLaine), Harry’s wife, who had left him; and Sam (John Forsythe), an artist who is all caught up in trying to help everyone. The body is quite a bother because the local sheriff wants to find out who did it, and everyone just wants to forget the whole bothersome affair.
Now, as I’m sure you all guessed by now, this is clearly a comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Well, maybe that’s not terribly obvious, but it becomes increasingly clear that The Trouble with Harry is a Hitchcock film as it rolls. Hitchcock’s characters can be fairly eccentric, and it makes sense that, in his take on a comedy, this would be exaggerated. Everyone feels almost real, like you might believe this oddball person exists somewhere, but they also feel like some wild caricature from a cartoon. This, paired with a pseudo-murder mystery (all the characters think they did it), makes for a really strange, kinda black comedy that surprisingly fits in with Hitchcock’s filmography.
I am, in perhaps one of the least surprising statements I’ve made in this column, a fan of Hitchcock. I had the good fortune of catching a screening of this movie during the Hitchcock season of the BFI; thus, I think that I liked this movie a lot more than I normally would have because I was in a theater with other laughing Hitchcock fans, seeing the wonderful Technicolor (color was only used sporadically at this time) on the big screen. I think this is a movie that is a whole lot of fun, but you need to watch it in a certain mindset (lighthearted, preferably) and possibly with others who are similarly inclined.
So what are the merits of this movie? Well, besides from solid camerawork and all that typical fair for this director, it’s funny. Not usually belly-laugh, over-the-top humor, but absurd and silly. Everyone seems like they’re having an awful lot of fun, and you can imagine them giggling between takes. Shirley MacLaine is particularly delightful as Harry’s estranged wife, who might have accidentally killed him with a milk bottle. Of course, I am extremely biased in favor of Shirley MacLaine.
The pacing also adds a great deal to the humor. Harry’s burial is repeated several times, and direction and rhythm of cuts and line delivery made me laugh out loud (in a movie theater, like an idiot) every single time. Hitchcock also creates a fair bit of suspense in regard to what to do with the body, which is kind of his schtick. In the hands of a lesser director (and lesser actors), this movie might’ve been entirely forgettable, but with respect for the story and filmmaking in general, it ends up being a delightful piece of black humor.
That’s really the bulk of what I have to say here. The Trouble with Harry is a fun little movie that’s entertaining and a reasonably enjoyable addition to the Hitchcock canon. Whether you’re in the mood for some light fare or want to enjoy yourself while watching Shirley MacLaine be delightful (you do, trust me), then this is a pretty solid option.
And that’s the story of how I wrote one of my shortest, review-iest articles on a movie that’s over fifty years old.