The Trouble with Harry ★★★

A droll film by one of Hollywood’s drollest filmmakers, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY is nonetheless something of a departure for Alfred Hitchcock. Noted as the film debut of 20-year-old Shirley MacLaine, HARRY is straight black comedy and not a hit for Paramount, though Hitchcock himself was quite fond of it.

Shot in gorgeous VistaVision on Vermont locations in the fall of 1954 by Robert Burks (VERTIGO), HARRY features the ultimate McGuffin: a corpse. To be specific, the dead body of poor Harry Worp (played without credit by good sport Philip Truex), which is found, buried, dug up, buried, dug up, ad nauseum through the length of the picture while the other characters fear they are Harry’s killer, fall in love, or both.

Witty screenplay by REAR WINDOW’s John Michael Hayes (“Did he live around here?” “Well, he died around here, that’s what counts now.”) is not based not in plot, but in the oddball characters played by John Forsythe (...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL), Edmund Gwenn (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET), Mildred Natwick (BAREFOOT IN THE PARK), Royal Dano (THE FAR COUNTRY), little Jerry Mathers (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER), Mildred Dunnock (BABY DOLL), and, of course, MacLaine, who is charming as heck. The story is too light to sustain its running time, however, and would have been more effective as an episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, which premiered on NBC a few months earlier.