director Alfred Hitchcock
The thing about Alfred Hitchcock is that I’ve been actively revisiting (and visiting for the first time), film by film, his whole oeuvre. I’ve been delving into Hitchcock with my kids, something I only started a few years back after a long lag in seeing his films. Why the long lag? I don’t know but for the most part the kids have been pretty into watching Hitchcock films. The Trouble with Harry seemed like a good one for us.
Somewhat a-typical for “the master of suspense” is this rather dark yet very light comedy about a small Vermont town and a suspicious corpse that suddenly appears on one of its gorgeous hillsides. Edmund Gwenn is a poacher who thinks he’s accidentally shot and killed the man. Mildred Natwick is a spinster (at 42!) who thinks she’s killed him with her shoe. Or maybe it was Shirley MacLaine (insanely pretty in her first screen role) who turns out to be the wife of the itinerant body. Harry gets buried and unburied several times with the help of roving artist John Forsythe and the crew, who all for various reasons of ranging a-morality don’t have much trouble helping to cover up the murder, no matter who done it.
This was one of those Hitchcocks that had fallen out of availability until the 1980’s and got a lot of play when they were re-released. I could have sworn that I’d seen it, but after watching it with Felix and Clara, I think it’s fair to say that I hadn’t actually seen it before for whatever reason.
I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, though I suppose it isn’t one of Hitchcock’s great films. It has a strange tonality, of lightness and humor, while a strong component of awkward darkness. Because it is light and nothing really bad happens in it, and it’s funny too, but the undertone is about how happily and readily all these would-be small town sweethearts of people so willingly contrive to cover up a crime (the kids were quite perplexed by their attitudes on this front, though I reckon that is the whole point). Light and deft and good-natured and fun but quite cynical deep in its roots.
Jerry Mathers appears (have to say I didn’t even recognize him) as a funny pre-Leave It to Beaver oddball kid. He’s got the best lines and is very funny, too.
Not your typical Hitchcock, but interesting more so perhaps because of that.