Unloved Hitchcock 3: THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955)
Hitchcock’s most blatant black comedy is a wonderful exercise in gallows humour, benefitting from charming photography and a beguiling cast. Edmund Gwenn – a frequent collaborator in Hitchcock’s earlier works and great as Rowley in 1940’s FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – gives the most memorable performance in one of his last roles. Always carrying a shovel or his pop-gun ‘old faithful’, Gwenn’s knowing wink and waddling pot-belly gently enthrall every scene he’s in. A gorgeously youthful Shirley MacLaine, boy-next-door John Forsythe and character actor Royal Dano add colour to an ensemble cast who pitch the whole charade effortlessly.
THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY runs like a stage play really – as do ROPE (1948) and LIFEBOAT (1944) – and superbly book-ended by very similar opening and closing scenes involving a young boy discovering the body. The film is perfectly paced and shot by Hitchcock who gorges in the subject matter of what to do with an inconvenient dead body on a sunny autumn afternoon. This is really Hitchcock at his most mischievous with a plot that seems tailor-made for him. The script is playful, witty and dripping in double entendre but you can see why 50s audiences may not have fully appreciated Hitchcock’s macabre joke of a picture.
This film has one of my favourite scores of any Hitchcock movie and its cheeriness and warmth wrap around the darkly comic plot like a well-fitting glove. It’s the sort of music you’d skip along the road to. It’s not only the score which stands out relative to the director’s other movies, it’s also the inspired technicolour.
Still, there are faults. The film never quite matches the opening fifteen minutes and the sub-plot about John Forsythe’s struggling artist is something of a distraction. Unavoidably, much of it now seems tame as today’s viewers are more accustomed to the treatment of death and murder as cinematic comedy.
The light entertainment on display is not as sophisticated as Hitchcock’s straighter thrillers and for sure, this isn’t an all-time classic. But to be fair to the movie, it’s one of the most amusing films I have ever seen. You’ll chuckle. a lot.
hotdog rating: 8/10