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A corpse creates a world of trouble for several passersby who each believe they may have caused the death.
One morning, in a forested area near the village of Highwater, Vermont, four-year-old Arnie Rogers is playing when he stumbles across the body of a dead man. After Arnie rushes off to get his mother, retired seaman Capt. Albert Wiles, who has been unsuccessfully hunting rabbits, cleans his rifle. Having shot a beer can and a "no shooting" sign, Capt. Wiles is lamenting his luck when he stumbles across the corpse. Fearing that his third shot killed the man, who has a wound on his forehead, Capt. Wiles searches his pockets and finds a letter identifying him as Harry Worp of Boston. As Capt. Wiles is dragging Harry away to bury him, he is stopped by spinster Miss Ivy Graveley, who calmly asks him what the trouble is. Miss Graveley, who was out for a walk, is unperturbed by Capt. Wiles's situation, and agrees with him that he should bury Harry without involving the authorities, as the death was accidental. Miss Graveley leaves after inviting Capt. Wiles for tea later that day, but before Capt. Wiles can begin digging, Arnie returns with his mother, Jennifer Rogers. The captain quickly hides behind a tree, and is pleased to hear Jennifer, who recognizes Harry, express delight that he is dead and instruct Arnie to forget that he saw the body. After Jennifer and Arnie leave, Capt. Wiles is forced to continue hiding when Dr. Greenbow, engrossed in a book, wanders by but does not see Harry, and a tramp also comes by and steals Harry's shoes. While the captain falls asleep, in the village, eccentric painter Sam Marlowe cheerfully reprimands Emporium store owner Mrs. Wiggs for not being able to sell his abstract paintings at her roadside stand. While the pair are inside the store, however, they ignore a millionaire, who has stopped while driving by and wishes to buy the paintings. Soon after, Sam walks through the woods with his sketchbook and comes across Harry, of whom he draws a portrait. The captain wakes up and explains his situation to Sam, who reluctantly agrees to help him bury the corpse, provided that Jennifer does not intend to notify the police. Capt. Wiles decides that Sam is right and goes off to dine with Miss Graveley while Sam introduces himself to Jennifer, whom he has admired from afar. Jennifer calmly takes Sam's unusual manner in stride and explains that after her first husband, Arnie's father, died shortly after their marriage, she learned that she was pregnant. Harry, the older brother of Jennifer's husband, decided that it was his duty to marry her, and although she did not love him, Jennifer agreed for the sake of her child. On their wedding night, however, Harry never came up to their hotel room, and Jennifer learned that he had read an ominous horoscope, advising him not to undertake any long-term projects. Repulsed, Jennifer left Harry, changed her name and moved to Vermont. That morning, however, Harry found her and insisted that she return to him because he was lonely. Refusing, Jennifer hit him over the head with a milk bottle and the dazed Harry wandered off. Theorizing that Capt. Wiles's shot finished off Harry, Sam asks if Jennifer minds a quiet burial for Harry, and Jennifer gives her assent. Meanwhile, the flirtatious captain is enjoying his luncheon with Miss Graveley when Arnie arrives with a dead rabbit, which Capt. Wiles happily realizes he shot that morning. Capt. Wiles then joins Sam in the woods, where they bury Harry in a huge hole. After they are done, however, Capt. Wiles deduces that he could not have shot Harry if his third and last shot felled the rabbit instead, and persuades a tired Sam to dig up Harry so they can examine him. Upon looking closely, Sam decides that Harry died from a blow to the head and wonders if Jennifer killed him. Determined to protect Jennifer, Sam and the captain again bury Harry. Later that afternoon, Capt. Wiles talks with Miss Graveley, who confesses her fear that she killed Harry during her morning walk in the woods. She describes how the addled Harry, believing that she was his wife, dragged her into the bushes, and she stunned him with a blow to the head with her sturdy hiking shoe. Despite the captain's misgivings, Miss Graveley insists that she must tell the authorities, and they go to the woods, where they dig up Harry. Meanwhile, Sam is at Jennifer's house, where the couple admits that they are comfortable together, despite having known each other for only a short time. Their conversation is interrupted by Capt. Wiles and Miss Graveley, who arrive covered with dirt and tell them of Harry's latest disinternment. The group then concludes that Harry should be re-buried, so that the details of Jennifer's marriage to him will not become public. After burying the body yet again, the quartet is returning to the village when Mrs. Wiggs tells them that the millionaire has come back and wants to buy Sam's paintings. In the store, Sam refuses the millionaire's offer of money and instead asks his friends what they want. Upon agreeing on fresh strawberries every month for Jennifer, a chemistry set for Arnie, a cash register for Mrs. Wiggs, shooting clothes for Capt. Wiles and a hope chest for Miss Graveley, Sam whispers his own request to the millionaire. After the millionaire and his chauffeur leave, Calvin, Mrs. Wiggs's son and a deputy sheriff, arrives with the news that he found the tramp with the stolen shoes. The quartet beats a hasty retreat, but after they depart, Calvin finds Sam's sketchbook with the portrait of Harry, which matches the tramp's description of the corpse. Meanwhile, at Jennifer's house, Jennifer agrees to marry Sam, which delights everyone until they realize that she cannot legally marry again until she proves that Harry is dead. Dragging themselves back into the woods, the friends dig up Harry and are startled by the sudden appearance of Dr. Greenbow, who believes that they have just come across Harry and agrees to examine him at Jennifer's house. There, the friends are attempting to clean Harry so that the doctor will not suspect that he has been buried several times already when they are interrupted by Calvin. They quickly hide Harry in the bathtub and scatter his clothes around the house, after which a suspicious Calvin interrogates Sam. Sam casually manages to alter his drawing so that it no longer resembles Harry, and as the doctor arrives, Capt. Wiles steals Harry's shoes out of Calvin's car so that Calvin will not have any other evidence. After Calvin finally leaves, the friends are astounded when Greenbow announces that Harry died from a heart attack. Once the doctor departs, the friends decide to take Harry back to the woods and have Arnie, who has a tenuous grasp of the passage of time, discover him again, so that they can alert the police. In the morning, the quartet watches as Arnie finds Harry, then rushes off to get Jennifer. Before they disperse, however, Capt. Wiles questions Sam about his request from the millionaire, and Sam happily reveals that he asked for a double bed.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||World premiere in Barre, VT: 27 Sep 1955; New York opening: 17 Oct 1955|
|Release Date:||1955||Production Date:||
[VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity]
EB; AFI Library; AFI
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Sound System)||Production Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp., Alfred Hitchcock Productions, Inc.|
|Duration(mins):||96 or 99||Country:||United States|
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