Cast & Crew
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.
Ernest Curt Bach
C. O. Erickson
John P. Fulton
John Michael Hayes
Chas. Wayne Hendrickson
Bernard Mceveety Jr.
The Trouble With Harry
"With Harry," Hitchcock said, "I took melodrama out of the pitch-black night and brought it out into the sunshine. It's as if I had set up a murder alongside a rustling brook and spilled a drop of blood into the clear water. These contrasts establish a counterpart; they elevate the commonplace in life to a higher level."
The film opens with a very young boy (Jerry Mathers, before he gained fame as Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver on the TV series, Leave It to Beaver) stumbling upon a dead body while playing in the golden New England countryside. Wholly unperturbed by the discovery, he alerts his mother, Jennifer Rogers (MacLaine), who recognizes the body as being her ex-husband, Harry Worp. Jennifer recently struck Harry across the head with a bottle, and she's afraid she may have killed him.
Ah, but Jennifer isn't the only possible killer. There's also a retired sea captain (Edmund Gwenn) who thinks he may have shot Harry while hunting rabbits, and a doddering old woman (Mildred Natwick) who believes she may have done him in. This incites a round-robin of people burying Harry, then digging him up again, as they attempt to dispose of the body. A local painter (John Forsythe) is enlisted to help the "killers," and, as you might expect, he finds himself falling in love with MacLaine. Gwenn and Natwick also develop a romance, but, frankly, who cares when there's a body in the bathtub?
MacLaine was as surprised as anybody that she was suddenly starring in an Alfred Hitchcock movie...or any movie at all, for that matter. Originally, Hitchcock wanted Grace Kelly for the role, but she was unavailable. Then he briefly considered Brigitte Auber. But he decided he'd rather not wrestle her French accent in such an American picture. The cast and crew was headed to New England without a lead actress when producer Hal Wallis mentioned MacLaine, a 21 year-old chorus girl who had triumphantly stepped into the lead role for one night in Broadway's The Pajama Game. Having nothing to lose, Hitchcock agreed to interview MacLaine, and was thoroughly charmed by her. He was also intrigued by the prospect of directing a performer who had no film or television experience. None. MacLaine was floored when he told her, "All this simply means is that I shall have fewer bad knots to untie. You're hired." Almost 50 years later, MacLaine is still in the game.
Hitchcock intended to film all of The Trouble with Harry on location, in the towns of Stowe, Morrisville, Craftsbury, and Sugarbush. Unfortunately, the weather didn't always cooperate, and the shoot became a headache. Many scenes where staged on sets that were built at a local gymnasium. Even that was tough, however, as rainfall regularly echoed off the building's tin roof, ruining takes. Later, the woods had to be partially reconstructed on a Hollywood lot, so that Hitchcock could get a few more shots of Harry lying in the leaves. To make it even more difficult, the actor who played the corpse was in New York City, so a double was cast and his head was hidden by a bush to maintain continuity. As a finishing touch, one character's reference to Daniel Boone was changed to Davy Crockett in post-production, to take full advantage of the Crockett-mania that was then sweeping the nation. All in the name of art.
This was Hitchcock's first film with Bernard Herrmann, who would go on to write legendary scores for such pictures as North by Northwest (1959), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960). Herrmann's work on The Trouble with Harry is no less impressive than the above. But, this time around, he served Hitchcock particularly well by inserting Funeral March of the Marionette as temporary music over Harry's opening credit sequence. It later became Hitch's trademark when it was used as the theme song to TV's Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
By the way, if you're looking for Hitchcock's cameo, this one is a little hard to catch. He can be seen through the window of the general store, walking past a Rolls Royce.
Produced and Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: John Michael Hayes
Editing: Alma Macrorie
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Art Direction: John B. Goodman and Hal Pereira
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Costume Design: Edith Head
Set Design: Sam Comer, Emile Kuri
Makeup: Wally Westmore
Principal Cast: Edmund Gwenn (Capt. Albert Wiles), John Forsythe (Sam Marlowe), Shirley MacLaine (Jennifer Rogers), Mildred Natwick (Miss Ivy Gravely), Jerry Mathers (Arnie Rogers), Royal Dano (Calvin Wiggs), Parker Fennelly (Millionaire), Barry Macollum (Tramp), Dwight Marfield (Dr. Greenbow).
C-100m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Paul Tatara
The Trouble With Harry
Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.- Capt. Wiles
How old do you think I am young man?- Miss Graveley
Hmm...fifty. How old do you think you are?- Sam Marlowe
Forty-two! I can show you my birth certificate.- Miss Graveley
I'm afraid you're going to have to show more than your birth certificate to convince a man of that.- Sam Marlowe
What seems to be the trouble, Captain?- Miss Graveley
A real handsome man's cup.- Captain
It's been in the family for years. My father always used it ... until he died.- Miss Graveley
I trust he died peacefully. Slipped away in the night?- Captain
He was caught in a threshing machine.- Miss Graveley
He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only he was vertical.- Jennifer Rogers
about 20 minutes in, walking past the limousine of a man looking at the paintings.
The film was unavailable for decades because its rights (together with four other pictures of the same period) were bought back by Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter. They've been known for long as the infamous "5 lost Hitchcocks" amongst film buffs, and were re-released in theatres around 1984 after a 30-year absence. The others are Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1956), Rear Window (1954), Rope (1948), and Vertigo (1958).
Hitchcock bought the rights to the original novel anonymously for just $11,000.
Location filming in Vermont was hampered by heavy rainfall. Many exterior scenes were actually filmed on sets constructed in a local high school gymnasium. Much of the dialogue recorded there was inaudible due to the rainfall on the tin roof, so much post-recording was necessary.
The film's opening titles are written as the camera pans a cartoon drawing of rural Vermont scenery, ending with a drawing of a dead body. According to a October 16, 1955 New York Times article, producer-director Alfred Hitchcock helped design the titles, which were drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg. At the conclusion of the film, a title card reading "The trouble with Harry is over" appears, superimposed over a shot of Harry's corpse. Actor Philip Truex, who plays "Harry Worp," is seen in the film only as a dead body. Modern sources state that Hitchcock purchased the rights to Jack Trevor Story's novel anonymously, and upon learning the identity of the purchaser, Story and his agent were dismayed at having received only $11,000. According to information in the Paramount Scripts Collection, located at the AMPAS Library, Paramount originally considered purchasing Story's novel in 1950, just after it was published, but decided that its humor would be too difficult to translate to the screen.
Although a August 30, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that the picture would be shot in Maine and Connecticut, information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals that the film was partially shot on location in Vermont in several locations, including Craftsbury, Stowe and Morrisville. Although Hitchcock had hoped to shoot the entire picture on location, inclement weather forced him to return to Paramount's Hollywood studios in mid-October 1954 and finish filming there. According to modern sources, Hitchcock changed the novel's London setting to Vermont in order to contrast the beauty of New England's brilliant autumn foliage with the dark comedic theme of the constant burial and exhumation of a corpse.
An April 1955 Daily Variety news item noted that the song "Flaggin' the Train to Tuscaloosa" was originally composed as a commercial jingle for the Lucky Strike Hit Parade televsion show. The news item noted that the melody originally had different lyrics when it was to be used for the commercial. A September 24, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item includes Ramsay Hill in the cast, but he does not appear in the released picture. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo by walking past the limousine of the "millionaire" as he is admiring "Sam's" paintings at the roadside stand. A modern source states that Sam's paintings were created by artist John Ferren.
According to information in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA office expressed reservations about the script because, as in the original novel, "Arnie" was illegitimate, as his father, Harry's brother, died before he could marry "Jennifer." After the screenplay was changed so that Arnie's legitimacy was clearly established, it was approved by the PCA. A December 1, 1954 studio billing sheet contained in the PCA file reveals that the opening title card was originally to read: "Alfred Hitchcock's Comedy About a Body The Trouble with Harry."
The picture marked the first collaboration between Hitchcock and composer Bernard Herrmann, who went on to compose numerous scores for Hitchcock, including those for Vertigo (see below) and Psycho. Considered one of the most important collaborations in the history of film music, Hitchcock and Herrmann worked together numerous times, with their final film being the Universal Pictures 1964 production Marnie (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). The Trouble with Harry also marked the screen debut of Shirley MacLaine, who had been signed to a personal contract by Hal Wallis after he saw her perform in the Broadway production of Pajama Game, for which she was star Carol Haney's understudy. Wallis loaned her to Hitchcock's production company for The Trouble with Harry. MacLaine received mostly good notices for her film debut. Along with Kim Novak, MacLaine was named Most Promising Newcomer at the 1955 Golden Globes ceremony. According to studio records, Ernest Curt Bach, who played the chauffeur, was Edmund Gwenn's real-life valet. The Trouble with Harry marked the last American film of Gwenn, who died on September 6, 1959. Although Gwenn also appeared in the 1955 M-G-M production It's a Dog's Life, which was filmed after The Trouble with Harry, the Hitchcock production was released later. Gwenn's last film appearance was in the 1956 Italian-Spanish production Calabuch.
The film received a BAFTA nomination for Best Film from any Source, and MacLaine was nominated by BAFTA as Best Foreign Actress. Although the picture was not a financial success in the United States, it was well-received in Great Britain and France, and in an June 18, 1971 New York Times interview, Hitchcock stated that it was his favorite of all his films. According to a March 1984 LA Weekly article, Hitchcock so liked The Trouble with Harry that he required the writers who worked on the introductory segments for his television show to watch the film before writing his monologues.
According to a March 1963 New York Times article, Paramount intended to re-release The Trouble with Harry theatrically in a "Hitchcock package" with The Man Who Knew Too Much. As noted by modern sources, the rights to six films directed by Hitchcock, Rope, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho, Vertigo and The Trouble with Harry, reverted to Hitchcock after their release. Although the director sold the rights to Psycho to MCA/Universal in 1962, he retained the rights to the five other films and by 1973, they were rarely in circulation because Hitchcock's lawyers were negotiating new financial arrangements for their distribution in theaters and on television. In July 1980, a New York Times article noted that due to Hitchcock's recent death, the films might soon become available again. In April 1983, the rights to the five films were sold to Universal, which re-released them theatrically as a special package in February 1984, with newly struck prints, and later on videocassette and on DVD.
Released in United States on Video January 12, 1994
Re-released in United States on Video May 23, 1995
Released in United States June 1998
Shown at Florida Film Festival June 12-21, 1998.
Feature film debut for actress Shirley MacLaine.
Released in United States Fall October 1955
Released in United States on Video January 12, 1994
Re-released in United States on Video May 23, 1995
Released in United States June 1998 (Shown at Florida Film Festival June 12-21, 1998.)
Released in United States Fall October 1955