Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Trouble with Harry. A

As Hitchcock's camera moves from one scenic spot to another at the start of The Trouble with Harry, capturing still-shots of the gorgeous New England autumn trees, the vast hillside speckled with red and yellow leaves, and the clear blue sky, we get the sense that this will be more of a tranquil experience than the tension-heavy suspense stories he's renowned for. And indeed, the movie is a complete delight, creating an idyllic world where it seems everything is okay, even the bad things. And sure enough, as a kid, then just about everyone else in the cozy little community stumbles across a dead man named Harry in the countryside, the reaction is one complete indifference. The conflict is not that somebody has died, but what to do with that person who has died. The how and why come into play later on, as well. The screenplay by John Michael Haynes, a frequent Hitchcock collaborator, is heavy on the repartee, the absurd, and the feel good sentiments. It's a great script that feels very British even though Haynes was an American. Also great is the music by the incomparable Bernard Hermann, the first of several key scores he did with Hitchcock. In many respects this a perfect movie. It's economically told but full of detail. It doesn't waste a single scene. There are a great many characters, all memorable and wonderfully played by a group of gifted actors. The ones you'll recognize most are Shirley MacLaine in her first role, and the great Edmund Gwenn, who's probably most known as owning the movie's greatest Santa Claus performance in the old Miracle on 34th Street. The Trouble with Harry is easily Hitchock's lightest mystery (I'm excluding his screwball comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith since that was so far off the track for him), but it doesn't come as a surprise that he chose to make such a funny picture. For a great number of his movies are periodically funny, indicative of the director's outstanding sense of humor amidst his macabre interests. And one more thing: the movie looks amazing. Shot in technicolor, the film takes full advantage of its beautiful locations. It looked so good that if it were shot in black and white I probably wouldn't like it as much.

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