is that they make it hard to tolerate mediocre ones. Fortunately, today’s post is about one of the perfect ones, The Trouble with Harry (1955), starring the incomparable Edmund Gwenn, Mildred Natwick, and John Forsythe, and introducing Shirley MacLaine and Jerry Mathers. Filmed in pristine rural Vermont, the Trouble with Harry combines great situational comedy with spectacular scenery and an assortment of sweetly eccentric characters.
While on a tramp through the woods, young Arnie (Jerry Mathers) finds a corpse.
High jinks ensue as different people believe they are responsible for the ‘murder’ and try to dispose of the body, which gets buried and exhumed about three times. Everyone seems to take the crisis in stride as they approach the back-breaking toil with resignation and plenty of witty dialogue.
The script includes some priceless exchanges, including this conversation between young Arnie and the dreamy artist, Sam Marlow (John Forsythe).
Sam Marlowe: Perhaps I’ll come back tomorrow.
Arnie: When’s that?
Sam Marlowe: The day after today.
Arnie: That’s yesterday. Today’s tomorrow.
Sam Marlowe: It was.
Arnie: When was tomorrow yesterday?
Sam Marlowe: Today.
Arnie: Oh, sure. Yesterday.
Aside from being amusing, that conversation actually ends up playing an integral part in the resolution of the whole story. Imagine that — a script that is both funny and tightly plotted! The direction and comedic timing of the actors are just perfect.
Who but Mildred Natwick (Miss Graveley) and Edmund Gwenn (the captain) could make afternoon tea both hilariously horrifying and romantic?
As the Captain admires a large tea cup that Miss Gravely purchased earlier in the day:
Captain: A real handsome man’s cup.
Miss Graveley: It’s been in the family for years. My father always used it… until he died.
Captain: I trust he died peacefully. Slipped away in the night?
Miss Graveley: He was caught in a threshing machine.
Hitchcock’s restrained direction allows the actors to play their roles to perfection, but the movie’s greatest asset is its script. Forgive me for harping on this point in recent posts, but I can’t help it. Nowadays, too many movie-makers seem to have forgotten the fundamental necessity of a good script.
Watch or re-watch The Trouble with Harry. It’s the perfect Fall movie and is guaranteed to raise your spirits (pun intended!).