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What is the Trouble with Harry?

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Dusty is an avid classic movie fan who wants to share movie stories and evoke conversation about them.

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Shirley MacLaine and John Forsythe

Shirley MacLaine and John Forsythe


The Trouble with Harry

1 hr. 39 mins. Comedy, Mystery, Romance 1955 7.0 stars

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: John Forsythe - Sam Marlow

Shirley MacLaine - Jennifer Rogers

Edmund Gwen - Captain Albert Wiles

Mildred Natwick - Miss Ivey Gravely

Mildred Dunnock - Mrs. Wiggs (Wiggy)

Jerry Mathers - Arni Rogers

Royal Dano - Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs

Dwight Marfield - Dr. Greenbow

Note: Spoiler alert. This review reveals the outcome of the movie

Arni shows Harry to His Mother

Jerry Mathers and Shirley MacLaine

Jerry Mathers and Shirley MacLaine

Synopsis (Part I)

The opening scene is of a beautiful fall day in Vermont. A little boy, Arni, is out tromping through the woods with his plastic toy gun when he hears real gunshots. He wisely drops to the ground. Later he continues on through the woods and comes to a meadow. There he finds a dead body which had sustained a head wound. He looks at it briefly, and then runs off to tell his mother.

Meanwhile an older man, Captain Wiles, is cleaning his rifle after taking some shots and is talking to himself about the pleasures of hunting and the hopes that he was able to bag a rabbit. As he wanders through the woods he happens upon the same corpse that Arni had discovered earlier. His reaction is more panicked and apologetic. He reaches into the corpse’s lapel pocket and produces a letter that identifies him as Harry Worp of Boston. Captain Wiles doesn’t want to get into any sort of trouble so he decides to hide the body and go on his way as if nothing ever happened. But as he starts to drag the body off a woman from the village, Miss Gravely, comes along and talks to him about what he’s doing. He asks her not to mention to anybody what she has seen there. She agrees to keep quiet and then invites the Captain over that afternoon for coffee and muffins. After that she departs. Captain Wiles begins again to drag the body into the brush when Arni reappears along with his mother, Jennifer Rogers. She looks at the corpse, recognizes him immediately as Harry and expresses aloud how happy she is that he is gone. After she and Arni depart Captain Wiles again comes out of hiding and again attempts to drag Harry off into the brush and again has to run and hide as the local physician, Dr. Greenbow comes along. Dr. Greenbow is not watching where he is walking as he is engrossed in a book and trips over Harry. Instead of looking to see what he has stumbled over he just picks himself up, brushes himself off and continues on his merry way reading his book. Now Captain Wiles will attempt again to hide Harry, but once again he is interrupted and must hide as a bum comes along. The bum is in need of good shoes and he has the same size feet as Harry so he helps himself to Harry’s shoes and saunters off. Captain Wiles falls asleep where he is hiding. In the meantime the local eccentric artist, Sam Marlow, comes strolling into the village, singing very nicely I might add. He has a new painting to put on display at the general store. While in the store to get some things from the shop owner, Mrs. Wiggs, who he affectionately refers to as “Wiggy”, he sees Miss Gravely intently studying a coffee cup. She is excited about having Captain Wiles over and wants to impress him with a nice cup to drink from.

At the same time, unbeknownst to Sam or even Wiggy there is a millionaire art connoisseur outside admiring Sam’s works. Not getting any service he finally gives up and leaves.

Sam looks at Miss Gravely and offers to give her a makeover ahead of her date with the Captain. Sam and Wiggy then begin to cut Miss Gravely’s hair and put ribbons in it etc. They do a nice job and off she goes contented. Sam then walks up to the meadow to do some sketching and of course runs into Harry. Sam believes that this would be a great subject for his art so he starts to sketch Harry’s face.

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Captain Wiles awakens and comes to talk to Sam. The two have a deep conversation about Harry and his death. Soon the two are interrupted by Dr. Greenbow again as he wanders by and again trips over Harry. This time he gets up, apologizes to Harry and continues on his way.

Sam and Captain Wiles leave the meadow and head back to the village. Sam visits Jennifer and Arni. He makes it clear that he is romantically interested in Jennifer. Jennifer tells him the story of Harry. He was her husband, but she had left him and moved far away from him. He is not Arni’s father – that man had died prior to her marrying Harry. Harry had stalked her and had come to surprise visit her that morning. They fought and she hit him over the head with a milk bottle and he staggered off – end of story.

Captain Wiles went over to Miss Gravely’s for coffee and muffins out on her porch. Arni wandered over to Miss Gravely’s with a dead rabbit he had found. He said the Captain had shot it, then got some muffins and ran along.

Miss Gravely Wants Sam to Try the Cup She Wants to Buy

John Forsythe and Mildred Natwick

John Forsythe and Mildred Natwick

Synopsis (Part II)

The Captain and Sam met up again in the meadow with a spade to bury Harry and they discussed their new love interests. After the burial the Captain recalled his shots, he had started the day with only 3 bullets. He had shot a beer can, a “No Trespassing” sign and the rabbit made three. He suddenly realized that he couldn’t have killed Harry and he was elated! So he and Sam exhumed Harry and placed him back in the meadow.

Then the Captain and Sam began to discuss what may have happened to Harry, and realized he may have died due to the blow on his head from Jennifer. Not wishing to get her in any trouble they buried Harry a second time. Exhausted, they retired back down to the village. At this time a troubled Miss Gravely came to Captain Wiles’ home and confessed that she had killed Harry earlier that morning. She said that he had jumped out of the bushes and attacked her. He thought she was his wife and she thought that he was a masher. She hit him on the head with the heal of her shoe and he went stumbling off into the woods.

Miss Gravely and the Captain exhume Harry’s body then go over to Jennifer’s house and discuss things with both Jennifer and Sam, who is visiting her. Miss Gravely intends to tell all to the police. Sam interjects and says that such a confession will subject Jennifer to insufferable scrutiny by the press. In light of that all four proceed back up to the meadow to bury Harry yet again. This time night has fallen so it’s dark and harder to see. On the way back down to the village they are met by Wiggy all excited by the fact that a millionaire has stopped by her store and is offering to buy all of Sam’s paintings. When they arrive at the store Sam negotiates a price for the entire lot. He doesn’t ask for money, but instead he requests various things for all his friends there. Then right there in Wiggy’s shop Sam proposes to Jennifer. She does not accept at that moment.

Calvin Wiggs, Wiggy’s son, shows up. He’s the deputy sheriff in the village and he has just arrested a bum for vagrancy. Upon seeing that the bum was wearing nice shoes he had questioned him and was told that he had taken them off a dead body up in the meadow. He had gone up there to investigate but found no corpse.

Sam, Jennifer, the Captain and Miss Gravely then all returned to Jennifer’s house. While they were going there Calvin, still back at the store, discovered Sam’s sketch pad which he had left there and in it he saw Sam’s sketch of Harry. This raised questions in his mind.

Back at the house Jennifer accepted Sam’s proposal, but that caused a complication. Jennifer could not remarry until Harry was declared dead, which would take seven years. So back up to the meadow they all went to re-exhume Harry. After exhuming Harry again Dr. Greenbow, out for a night time stroll wandered upon the scene, and as before tripped over the body. This time however he noticed Harry and saw that he was dead. Sam and the others then stepped out from where they had been hiding. Jennifer explained that Harry had been her husband. Sam asked if he could determine the cause of death, but Dr. Greenbow said it was too dark to examine him there. So Sam suggested that they take Harry to Jennifer’s house and that the doctor could come over later and examine him there. Dr. Greenbow said he’d need get his medical bag first and then come over. This allowed time for them to clean Harry up.

Back at Jennifer’s a lot of work was being done to clean Harry when all of a sudden Calvin Wiggs showed up inquiring about Sam’s sketch. Sam stalls him and tells him it was just an image he had done from within his own mind. He denied that there was a corpse model for the sketch. Calvin left frustrated because he could not get anywhere with Sam. Shortly thereafter Dr. Greenbow arrived and examined the body (which had been hidden in the bathtub). After the examination he came out and declared that Harry had had a heart attack and was therefore dead of natural causes. This, then, exonerated each person in that room who had suspected themselves of having committed a murder. And thus ends this tale.

Sam and Captain Wiles Dragging Harry off to Be Burried

John Forsythe and Edmund Gwenn

John Forsythe and Edmund Gwenn


This movie, though it revolves around a corpse and possibly a murder, presents a warm atmosphere. The setting is very pretty being in a picturesque little Vermont village on a warm autumn day. It is made all the more picturesque by the abundance of fall color that abounds. It is candy for the eyes.

One of the colorful aspects of this movie is that each one of the characters is eccentric. Their eccentricities can be seen in each scene. For instance they each have a non-normal reaction to the presence of a corpse in the woodland meadow. The three that believed that they had killed him, were concerned but only a little. Sam’s initial reaction as an artist was to sketch the scene – not at all for the police, but just for the sake of art. Dr. Greenbow didn’t even realize it was a corpse he tripped over until the third time. Wiggy and her son, Calvin, were, however somewhat normal, very few eccentricities. Arni was just a kid and all kids possess eccentricities and that’s normal.

There are two romances in the movie, that of Sam and Jennifer which leads to a marriage proposal and that of the Captain and Miss Gravely which is not developed by the end of the movie. It is interesting to note that both Sam and the Captain had changes of opinion on what to do with the corpse depending on whose girlfriend would be implicated at the moment. Human nature often dictates a person’s opinion based on what advantage or disadvantage is brought about for them.

This was the first movie role for Shirley MacLaine whose career continues up to today.

It is also interesting to note how interaction with Harry, a dead man, was able to bring four practical strangers into a close friendship and spawn two romances all within one day.

The Four Adults Awaiting Arni to Rediscover Harry

Shirley MacLaine, John Forsythe, Mildred Natwick and Edmund Gwenn

Shirley MacLaine, John Forsythe, Mildred Natwick and Edmund Gwenn

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