The Trouble With Harry – Alfred Hitchcock
The character of Sam is unique in the fact that he is the only major character in a Hitchcock film who is an artist. He is a young man whose talent is unrecognized; all of his paintings are unsold, although his fortunes change at the end. John Forsythe is ideally cast as Sam, who alone does not share in the imagined guilt of his companions, but who assumes the role of leader in all of their schemes by virtue of his quick mind. Forsythe conveys the charm and intelligence necessary to make Sam’s manipulation of the others credible.
The other characters are equally well realized. Shirley MacLaine, in her first film,.makes an uncommon Hitchcock heroine, and there is no question that she was chosen for the qualities which set her apart from other actresses. Rather than the pathos associated with MacLaine’s most celebrated roles (Some Came Running, 1958; The Apartment, 1960), Hitchcock brings out her comic flair and ability to project sexiness in an amusing way, qualities also evident in her next film, Artists and Models (1955). Edmund Gwenn and Mildred Natwick, both endearing character players, make an unusual romantic couple. They take full advantage of the film’s rich possibilities for humor, and are unexpectedly touching in the courtship scenes, evoking the combination of shyness and bravado more commonly associated with romance between adolescents.
The Trouble with Harry was made in Hitchcock’s richest period. Robert Burks, a constant collaborator for over a decade, had already photographed a number of Hitchcock films, and his work in VistaVision and Technicolor is entrancing, especially in the attractive scenes of New England which are visually unlike those in any other film. Bernard Herrmann, another valuable collaborator in this period, composed his first Hitchcock score for The Trouble with Harry and expressed regret in later years that he had not been able to score more comedies. His music for the film is alternately wistful and whimsical. John Michael Hayes was scenarist for four consecutive Hitchcock films; these four screenplays abound in verbal wit and are easily Hayes’s best work. Hayes deserves special praise for the dialogue in the first meeting between Sam and Jennifer, in which they sit on the porch drinking lemonade as Jennifer talks matter-of-factly about her marriage to the ill-fated Harry. This sequence is one of the most outrageous boy-meets-girl episodes on film and would by itself be enough to justify Hitchcock’s high opinion of The Trouble with Harry, which he always cites as a personal favorite.
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