The quirky but down-to-earth residents of the small hamlet of Highwater, Vermont, are faced with the freshly dead body of Harry Worp (Philip Truex), which has inconveniently appeared on the hillside above the town. The problem of who the person is, who was responsible for his sudden death, and what should be done with the body is "the trouble with Harry."
Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) is sure that he killed the man with a stray shot from his rifle while hunting, until it is shown he actually shot a rabbit. Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine), Harry's estranged wife, believes she killed Harry because she hit him hard with a milk bottle. Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick) is certain that the man died after a blow from the heel of her hiking boot when he lunged at her out of the bushes (still reeling from the blow received at the hands of Jennifer). Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), an attractive and nonconformist artist, is open-minded about the whole event, and is prepared to help his friends and neighbors in any way he can. In any case, no one is upset at all about Harry's death.
However, they all are hoping that the body will not come to the attention of "the authorities" in the form of cold, humorless Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs (Royal Dano), who earns his living per arrest. The Captain, Jennifer, Miss Gravely and Sam bury the body and then dig it up again several times throughout the day. They then hide the body in a bathtub before finally putting it back on the hill where it first appeared, in order to make it appear as if it was just discovered.
Finally it is learned that Harry died of natural causes; no foul play at all was involved. In the meantime, Sam and Jennifer have fallen in love and wish to marry, and the Captain and Miss Gravely have also become a couple. Sam has been able to sell all his paintings to a passing millionaire, although Sam refuses to accept money, and instead requests a few simple gifts for his friends and himself.Edmund Gwenn as Capt. Albert Wiles
John Forsythe as Sam Marlowe
Shirley MacLaine as Jennifer Rogers
Mildred Natwick as Miss Ivy Gravely
Mildred Dunnock as Mrs. Wiggs
Jerry Mathers as Arnie Rogers
Royal Dano as Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs
Parker Fennelly as Millionaire
Barry Macollum as Tramp
Dwight Marfield as Dr. Greenbow
Philip Truex as Harry Worp (the corpse)
The film was one of Hitchcock's few true comedies (though most of his films had some element of tongue-in-cheek or macabre humor). It was a box office disappointment, earning only $3.5 million in the United States.
The film also contained what was, for the time, frank dialogue. One example of this is when John Forsythe's character unabashedly tells MacLaine's character that he would like to paint a nude portrait of her. The statement was explicit compared with other contemporary movies.
The film rights reverted to Hitchcock following its initial release. It was unavailable for nearly 30 years, other than a showing on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies network television broadcast in the early 1960s. After protracted negotiations with the Hitchcock estate, Universal finally reissued it in 1984, along with four others, including Rear Window and Vertigo which in turn led to VHS and eventually DVD and Blu-ray versions for the home video market.
Primary location shooting took place in Craftsbury, Vermont. Assuming that the town would be in full foliage, the company showed up for outdoor shots on September 27, 1954. To the filmmakers' shock, there was hardly any foliage left; to achieve a full effect, leaves were glued to the trees. Several scenes in the film had to be shot in a rented high school gym because of persistent rain. In the gym, a 500 lb (226 kg) camera fell from a great height and barely missed hitting Hitchcock, and the sound of the rain on the roof of the gym necessitated extensive post-production re-recording. Other locations included Morrisville and Barre, with the shooting lasting up to December of that year. The world premiere of the film would also be in Vermont, with revenue donated to victims of a recent flood.
Although the movie was a financial failure in the U.S., it played for a year in England and Rome, and a year and a half in France. Full details on the making of the film are in Steven DeRosa's book Writing with Hitchcock.
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In The Trouble with Harry, he can be seen 21 minutes into the film as he walks past a parked limousine while an old man looks at paintings for sale at the roadside stand.
The corpse, Harry Worp, was played by Philip Truex (1911-2008), who was the son of character actor Ernest Truex.
The Trouble with Harry is notable as a landmark in Hitchcock's career as it marked the first of several highly regarded collaborations with composer Bernard Herrmann. In an interview for The New York Times on June 18, 1971, Hitchcock stated that the score was his favorite of all his films. Herrmann rerecorded a new arrangement of highlights from the film's score for Phase 4 Stereo with Herrmann calling the arrangement A Portrait of Hitch.
A song sung by John Forsythe's character, "Flaggin' the Train to Tuscaloosa", was written by Raymond Scott. Forsythe is not the performer, however.
A "cash-in" song titled "The Trouble with Harry" was written by Floyd Huddleston with Herb Wiseman and Mark McIntyre. A recording of the song by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (using the pseudonym of "Alfi & Harry") was released as a single in early 1956, reaching #44 on the US Billboard chart and #15 on the UK singles chart. A competing version by Les Baxter reached #80 on the Billboard chart. The title aside, the record had no connection with the film.
Originally released on October 3, 1955, the original soundtrack was re-recorded in 1998 and released on CD that same year, under the Varèse Sarabande label. All the original music, composed by Bernard Herrmann, was re-recorded at the City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland, on April 29, 1998, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, under the conduction of Joel McNeely.
The re-recording was originally released on CD in the United Kingdom on July 27, 1998, and in the United States on October 6, 1998. It was later re-released in the UK on May 16, 2014, and in the U.S.A on July 21, 2014.
All music composed by Bernard Herrmann, conducted by Joel McNeely and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra..