Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'The Trouble With Harry' is worth getting into

The Trouble with Harry (1955)
Starring: John Forsythe, Edmund Gwenn, and Shirly MacLaine
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

One fall morning, a mysterious stranger (identified as Harry by an envelop in his pocket) dies in the forest near a small Vermont town, and several of the citizens think they accidentally killed him. The retired sea captain (Gwenn) thinks he shot him while aiming at a rabbit; the single mother with a sketchy past (MacLaine) thinks she killed him by striking him with a milk bottle, and the spinster thinks she killed him after beaning him with a hiking boot. They all want to cover up the murder they think they've committed, and free-spirited, game-for-anything painter Sam Marlowe (Forsythe) is more than happy to lend his assistance at grave-digging. But Harry doesn't stay buried, and as the group of conspirators struggle to find the best way to put the trouble with Harry behind them, the local deputy sheriff receives a report of a dead man in the forest... and his investigation quickly leads him to the four grave-digging friends.

"The Trouble with Harry" is a fun little black comedy about a group of people who act on assumptions rather than fact. It has an odd juxtaposition of light-hearted, romantic comedy with grim murder and death, as romances form over Harry's dead body. This, along with the fact that none of the main characters really seem all that concerned about Harry being dead is where much of the film's humor comes from.

The actors all give great performances, and MacLaine was really cute when she was young. There are some very clumsy moments--such as a couple complete failures at slapstick at a couple of occasions, and the times where characters are just a little too oblivious for sake of plot--and the film takes on a bit too much the feel of a stage play at times, but it's still pretty good. The excellent score by Bernard Hermann gets a full Star by itself; "The Trouble with Harry" score is perhaps the best music he did.

Although one of Hitchcock's personal favorites, "The Trouble with Harry" isn't the best movie he did, but it is an enjoyable, quirky effort with a strange sort of charm.

Click here to read reviews of early Hitchcock films at Shades of Gray: Reviews From a Place Where Everything is in Black & White.

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