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The Trouble with Harry

The Trouble with Harry
Original poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes
Based on The Trouble with Harry 
by Jack Trevor Story
Starring Edmund Gwenn
John Forsythe
Shirley MacLaine
Mildred Natwick
Mildred Dunnock
Jerry Mathers
Royal Dano
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by Alma Macrorie
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
(original release)
Universal Pictures
(1984 re-release)
Release dates
  • October 3, 1955 (1955-10-03)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.2 million

The Trouble with Harry is a 1955 American black comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The screenplay by John Michael Hayes was based on the 1950 novel by Jack Trevor Story. It starred Edmund Gwenn and John Forsythe; Jerry Mathers and Shirley MacLaine, in her first film role. The Trouble with Harry was released in the United States on October 3, 1955, then re-released in 1984 once the distribution rights had been acquired by Universal Pictures.

The action in The Trouble with Harry takes place during a sun-filled autumn in the Vermont countryside. The fall foliage and the beautiful scenery around the village, as well as Bernard Herrmann's light-filled score, all set an idyllic tone. The story is about how the residents of a small Vermont village react when the dead body of a man named Harry is found on a hillside. The film is, however, not really a murder mystery; it is essentially a romantic comedy with thriller overtones, in which the corpse serves as a Macguffin. Four village residents end up working together to solve the problem of what to do with Harry. In the process the younger two (an artist and a very young, twice-widowed woman) fall in love and become a couple, soon to be married. The older two residents (a captain and a spinster) also fall in love.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Musical score 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • External links 7


The quirky but down-to-earth residents of the small hamlet of Highwater, Vermont, are faced with the freshly dead body of Harry Worp (Philip Truex), which has inconveniently appeared on the hillside above the town. The problem of who the person is, who was responsible for his sudden death, and what should be done with the body is "the trouble with Harry".

Three of the main characters in the film each believe that he or she is the person who killed Harry. Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) is sure that he killed the man with a stray shot from his rifle while hunting, until it is shown he actually shot a rabbit. Spunky and independent young Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine) is Harry's estranged wife. She, along with her small son Arnie (Jerry Mathers), ran away from her loveless marriage, and she believes she killed Harry because she hit him hard with a milk bottle after he tracked her down. Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick) is certain that the man died after a blow from the heel of her hiking boot when he lunged at her out of the bushes (still reeling from the blow received at the hands of Jennifer). Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), an attractive and nonconformist artist, is open-minded about the whole event, and is prepared to help his friends and neighbors in any way he can. In any case, nobody is upset at all about this death.

However, the principal characters are hoping that the body will not come to the attention of "the authorities" in the form of cold, humorless Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs (Royal Dano), who earns his living per arrest. The main characters conceal the body by burying it, and then have to dig it up again for various reasons. The interment and reinterment happens several times. The body is also concealed by being hidden in a bathtub before being placed back on the hill where it first appeared.

Finally it is established that Harry died of natural causes; no foul play at all was involved. In the meantime, Sam and Jennifer have fallen in love and wish to marry, and the Captain and Miss Gravely have also become a couple. Sam has been able to sell all his paintings to a passing millionaire, although Sam refuses to accept money, and instead requests a few simple gifts for his friends and himself.



The title shot in the film trailer shows the discovery of Harry by Arnie (Jerry Mathers).

The film was one of Hitchcock's few true comedies (though most of his films had some element of tongue-in-cheek or macabre humor); however it was a box office disappointment.

The film also contained what was, for the time, frank dialogue. One example of this is when John Forsythe's character unabashedly tells MacLaine's character that he would like to paint a nude portrait of her. The statement was explicit compared with other contemporary movies.

The film rights reverted to Hitchcock following its initial release. It was unavailable for nearly 30 years, other than a showing on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies network television broadcast in the early 1960s. After protracted negotiations with the Hitchcock estate, Universal finally reissued it in 1984, along with four others, including Rear Window and Vertigo which in turn led to VHS and eventually DVD versions for the home video market.[1]

Primary location shooting took place in Craftsbury, Vermont. Assuming that the town would be in full foliage, the company showed up for outdoor shots on September 27, 1954. To the filmmakers' shock, there was hardly any foliage left; to achieve a full effect, leaves were glued to the trees.[2] Several scenes in the film had to be shot in a rented high school gym because of persistent rain. In the gym, a 500 lb (226 kg) camera fell from a great height and barely missed hitting Hitchcock, and the sound of the rain on the roof of the gym necessitated extensive post-production re-recording.

Although the movie was a financial failure in the U.S., it played for a year in England and Rome, and a year and a half in France. Full details on the making of the film are in Steven DeRosa's book Writing with Hitchcock.[3]

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In The Trouble with Harry, he can be seen 21 minutes into the film as he walks past a parked limousine while an old man looks at paintings for sale at the roadside stand.

The corpse, Harry Worp, was played by Philip Truex (1911-2008), who was the son of character actor Ernest Truex.

Musical score

The Trouble with Harry is notable as a landmark in Hitchcock's career as it marked the first of several highly regarded collaborations with composer Bernard Herrmann. In an interview for The New York Times on June 18, 1971, Hitchcock stated that the score was his favorite of all his films. Herrmann rerecorded a new arrangement of highlights from the film's score for Phase 4 Stereo[4] with Herrmann calling the arrangement A Portrait of Hitch.

A song sung by John Forsythe's character, "Flaggin' the Train to Tuscaloosa", was written by Raymond Scott.

A "cash-in" single titled "The Trouble with Harry" by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. using the pseudonym of "Alfi & Harry" was released in early 1956. In the US the song reached #44 on the Billboard charts; in the UK it peaked at number 15. The title aside, the record had no connection with the film.

See also


  1. ^ Return of the missing Hitchcocks - The Times 15 November 1983
  2. ^ Barton Chronicle book review retrieved August 21, 2009
  3. ^ Writing with Hitchcock

External links

  • The Trouble With Harry at the TCM Movie Database
  • The Trouble With Harry at the Internet Movie Database
  • The Trouble With Harry at AllMovie
  • Profile of Hitchcock at Senses of Cinema website, giving particular attention to The Trouble With Harry
  • Eyegate GalleryThe Trouble With Harry
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