The Trouble with Harry (1956)

96 or 99 mins | Comedy, Mystery | January 1956

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HISTORY

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 16 Oct 1955 NYT 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 30 Aug 1954 HR 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-Oct 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 ... More Less

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 16 Oct 1955 NYT 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 30 Aug 1954 HR 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-Oct 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 Apr 1955 DV 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 24 Sep 1954 HR 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 1 Dec 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 (see above). 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 6 Sep 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 18 Jun 1971 NYT interview, Hitchcock stated that it was his favorite of all his films. According to a Mar 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 Mar 1963 NYT article, Paramount intended to re-release The Trouble with Harry theatrically in a “Hitchcock package” with The Man Who Knew Too Much (see above). 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 (see above) 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 Jul 1980, a NYT article noted that due to Hitchcock’s recent death, the films might soon become available again. In Apr 1983, the rights to the five films were sold to Universal, which re-released them theatrically as a special package in Feb 1984, with newly struck prints, and later on videocassette and on DVD. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Oct 1955.
---
Box Office
Feb 1984.
---
Daily Variety
13 Apr 1955.
---
Daily Variety
7 Oct 55
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1983.
---
Film Daily
17 Oct 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1954
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1983.
---
LA Weekly
16 Mar 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Feb 1956.
---
Motion Picture Daily
6 Oct 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Oct 55
p. 625.
New York Times
12 Sep 1954.
---
New York Times
16 Oct 1955.
---
New York Times
18 Oct 55
p. 46.
New York Times
23 Mar 1963.
---
New York Times
18 Jun 1971.
---
New York Times
9 Jul 1980.
---
New Yorker
29 Oct 1955.
---
Time
7 Nov 1955.
---
Variety
12 Oct 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
WRITER
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Prop foreman
Props
Painter
Nurseryman
Nurseryman
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Casting dir
Casting secy
Scr clerk
Pub
Auditor
Generator op
Leadman
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Trouble with Harry by Jack Trevor Story (London, 1950).
SONGS
"Flaggin' the Train to Tuscaloosa," music by Raymond Scott, lyrics by Mack David.
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1956
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Barre, VT: 27 September 1955
New York opening: 17 October 1955
Production Date:
20 September--27 October 1954
retakes and addl seq 2 December--3 December 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Alfred Hitchcock Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 October 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5507
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
96 or 99
Length(in feet):
8,899
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17335
SYNOPSIS

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 ... +


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. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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