Trouble with Harry, The: Hitchcock Liked this Movie More than the Critics or Viewers

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection

Disc 5: The Trouble With Harry (1955) B+

Fourteen of Hitchcock’s brilliantly directed stories of crime, espionage and intrigue have been digitally re-mastered for this comprehensive 15-discs boxed set. The fifteenth disc includes “The American Film Institute’s Salute to Alfred Hitchcock,” a touching tribute to Hitchcock’s lifetime of extraordinary work, and “Masters of Cinema,” an in-depth interview with the director, as well as special looks at two of his most esteemed films in “The Making of Psycho” and “All About the Birds.”

An array of never-before-seen footage offers film lovers an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes of some of Hitchcock’s most elegantly suspenseful films. The arrival of this collection is timed to the highly anticipated release of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” Season One, which features all 39 TV episodes of the Emmy Award-winning murder mystery series.

An extraordinary tribute to the achievements to one of Hollywood’s most enduring talents, the Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection includes an original 36-page collectible book and exclusive bonus disc, showcasing materials never before available on DVD.

Original production notes, photos, drawings, trailers, new documentaries, alternate endings, additional scenes and a peek at some of the legendary storyboards on which Hitchcock meticulously plotted each shots of his films round out this distinguished collection.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will honor Hitchcock in a celebration that includes an on-air
39-films-festival, October 24-30. Original programming features Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia and Tippi Hedren (star of “The Birds” and “Marnie”).

The Special DVD includes a feature, “The Trouble with Harry Isn’t Over.” Hitchcock anonymously bought the rights to the Jack Trevor original novel for just $11,000, and assigned it to John Michael Hayes, who wrote some of the best screenplays for him, including “Rear Window.”

After heavy rainfall hampered outdoor shooting in Vermont, where the movie takes place, sets were constructed in a local high school gymnasium to short exterior scenes. Post-production recording was necessary when rainfall on the tin roof made the dialogue inaudible

The musical themes from the film were arranged into a concert suite, titled “A Portrait of Hitch,” by composer Bernard Herrmann. With this picture, Herrmann became a fruitful collaboration that would continue for seven more films, including the masterly scores for “Vertigo” and “Psycho.”

A quiet picturesque Vermont autumn provides the setting for this wonderful but underestimated black comedy, in which Harry Worp just won’t stay dead. The trouble with Harry is that he’s dead, won’t stay buried, and won’t give the inhabitants a peace of mind

Shirley MacLaine, in her film debut, plays Jennifer Rogers, a young widow and mother, who recognizes Harry’s corpse as that of her dead husband. She is certain that she accidentally killed him. So are retired sea captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) and the dotty old virginal Miss Graveley (Mildred Natwick) also believe they are the murderers. Indeed, all the characters get involved in disposing Harry’s body, because they all feel guilty about his demise.

Though the film is ensemble-driven, the nominal lead is eccentric painter Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), in a tongue-in-cheek nod to gumshoes Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, who tries to get to the bottom of Harry’s death and resolve the mystery. Two love stories are interspersed as Jennifer and Sam fall for each other, and the old Captain and Miss Graveley do too. Jerry Mathers, of “Leave It to Beaver” fame, is MacLaine’s often-hysterical young son.

Hitchcock loved the project for its potential macabre humor and understatement. The group reacts with cool, callous detachment toward the corpse and toward death However, he opts for subtlety, refusing to follow the subversive elements of the story through to their outrageous logical conclusion, as another director—say Luis Bunuel—would have.

Production values are excellent. Robert Burke’s handsome cinematography is all russet reds and golds. Herrmann’s sprightly score serves as ironic counterpoint to the dark seeds of the yarns, which some see as film noir.

The discreet style and conscious restraint may account for the moderate appeal of the film with the mass audience. “Trouble With Harry” was rediscovered by a later generation of critics and audiences. Yet pay close attention to the text: By standards of the times, the dialogue is replete with sexual innuendoes, particularly when Miss Graveley’s virginity is concerned.