A macabre comedy about a body that refuses to stay buried, The Trouble With Harry is an unusually rustic entry in the Hitchcock canon that’s reminiscent of his Shadow of a Doubt in its subversion of our image of the squeaky-clean American small town.
In Highwater, Vermont, a young boy named Arnie Rogers (Jerry Mathers) finds the dead body of a man named Harry Worp (Philip Truex) on the hillside above the village.
The tragedy of Harry’s death, though, plays second fiddle to the farce of the citizens’ attempts to keep the corpse concealed, with huntsman Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), Harry’s estranged wife Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine) and elderly spinster Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick) all separately believing themselves responsible for his death.
Nobody seems keen to report the death to the police and in the course of the film, Harry’s corpse is buried, disinterred and re-interred several times as these three individuals and their friends and associates try to decide what they should do with it.
The humour is jet black but it plays out against the fleeting, gilded beauty of deciduous trees on the turn. Too fleeting in fact, and when Hitchcock’s crew arrived too late to catch autumnal Vermont in its prime, they were forced to glue fallen leaves back onto branches.
The acting is perfection, with 21-year-old MacLaine (in her film debut) quite wonderful, and Hitchcock was mighty proud of this adaptation of Jack Trevor Story’s novel, always naming it among his personal favourites.
Captain Albert Wiles
Miss Ivy Gravely
Ernest Curt Bach