"What seems to be the trouble, Captain?" — 1 year ago
An idyllic country scene in Vermont. A little boy is wandering over the hills playing with his toy gun. He hears the shot of a real gun; approaches the bushes ahead; and looks through them to find a man lying dead! The man is later discovered to be Harry Worp, husband of Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine), but what is he doing in the bushes, and how did he end up dead?
The Trouble with Harry is a rather different Hitchcock film. Unlike his usual thrillers, it is a black comedy and didn’t do so well on release in America (it went down much better with audiences in Britain and Europe). It is very funny, as one by one many of the townsfolk become convinced that they are the one who killed Harry and the poor bloke is buried and reburied numerous times as they try to find out the truth and keep his death a secret! The film was based on a British novel by Jack Trevor Story (I love the idea that a novelist has the surname Story) but the action has been transported to New England. The film looks very pretty with green fields and autumn leaves on the trees, but a lot of it was filmed in a studio after a storm stripped the trees of all their lovely leaves!
One of my favourite moments in the film is when Miss Ivy Gravely, Albert Wiles’ love interest, happens upon him just as he is dragging the body away. Instead of screaming and running for the hills she calmly asks, “What seems to be the trouble, Captain?” I also found the scenes later in the film – numerous shots of the main cast traipsing solemnly along with shovels over their shoulders as they go off to dig up or rebury Harry – rather amusing! The whole film is funny, not in a laugh out loud kind of way but in a darkly comic sort of way.
I personally didn’t recognise any of the actors, although I gather a number of them are quite famous, but special mention should go to Shirley MacLaine who stood out for her charm, humour and beauty; Mildred Natwick who plays the prim and proper spinster with a past, Miss Ivy Gravely; and the little boy Arnie who was just so funny. I thought the whole cast (listed below) did a great job.
Edmund Gwenn … Capt. Albert Wiles
Shirley MacLaine … Jennifer Rogers
John Forsythe … Sam Marlowe
Mildred Natwick … Miss Ivy Gravely
Mildred Dunnock … Mrs. Wiggs
Jerry Mathers … Arnie Rogers
Royal Dano … Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs
Parker Fennelly … Millionaire
Barry Macollum … Tramp
Dwight Marfield … Dr. Greenbow
What I really liked about this film was the way Harry’s death and all the problems surrounding it acted as a catalyst for bringing the townspeople together, in some ways rather closely! Often the trouble was forgotten as the characters got to know one another. The development of the relationships in the film, particularly those between Captain Albert Wiles and Miss Ivy Gravley, and Jennifer Rogers and Sam Marlowe, were highlights.
My DVD is the slimline version included in the 14 disc box set, but according to reviews I’ve read seems to have the same special features as the standalone DVD. There is a long documentary which is very interesting and informative and includes an interview with Hitchcock’s daughter as well as cast and crew members. The trailer is also included, as well as a trailer compilation of some of Hitchcock’s other films.
Personally I think this is far from being Hitchcock’s best film. But it’s still better than the best films of many inferior directors. If you want to see another side to the man, this is a good place to look.