Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Trouble with Harry

Go To

Over the years, Alfred Hitchcock gave the world such thrillers as Rebecca, Psycho, and The Birds. He also gave us this 1955 Black Comedy adapted from Jack Trevor Story's novel of the same name.

The residents of a small Vermont town are faced with the appearance of one Harry Worp. The trouble with Harry is that he's dead. Four people in particular are concerned with what to do with him: Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine, in her film debut), the dead man's long-estranged wife; retired sea captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), who thinks he shot Harry by accident while hunting; spinster Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick), who hit Harry in self-defense after he attacked her; and local artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), who never actually met Harry, but is interested in Jennifer. The rest of the movie is spent trying to figure out exactly why he's dead, and more importantly, what to do with the body.


This film was initially a box-office failure but has since become well regarded. It's also notable for its music score composed by Bernard Herrmann, his first of several for Hitchcock. And Jerry Mathers of Leave It to Beaver fame appears as Jennifer's young son Arnie, who's the first to discover Harry's body in the woods.

Not to be confused with The A-Team episode of the same name.

Provides Examples Of:

  • And Starring: "And introducing Shirley MacLaine"
  • Arcadia: The film starts with a series of Scenery Porn shots showing the staggering beauty of the Vermont countryside in fall.
  • Artistic Title: The opening credits are shown while the camera scrolls along a stylized, childlike drawing (by The New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg) of a house, trees, birds... and Harry's corpse.
  • Asshole Victim: Harry doesn't sound like a very pleasant man.
  • Advertisement:
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Arnie has a lot of fun playing with a dead rabbit, and wants more animals.
  • Brick Joke: After Sam sells some paintings to a millionaire, Sam details some items he'd like the other leads to receive in exchange. When Sam gets to what he'd like, he has to whisper it in the millionaire's ear. He also tells Jennifer, who responds, "Sounds practical." At the end of the movie, Sam finally tells Captain Wiles what he will get for the paintings, and the captain proceeds to tell Ms. Gravely: a double bed for Sam and Jennifer.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Harry's shoes.
    • Sam's drawing of Harry.
    • Subverted with the opening closet. The Scare Chord that plays whenever it opens makes you think that it's going to have an important part to play in the plot. When it finally does open unexpectedly in front of the police, Harry's body isn't in it. He's in the tub instead.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The tramp. He is later picked up by the police for taking Harry's shoes and is the one who informs them of the body.
  • Creator Cameo: Hitchcock can be seen walking in the background as the millionaire is examining Sam's paintings outside his parked limousine.
  • Dead Man's Chest
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sam
  • Eccentric Townsfolk: Pretty much each and every resident of Highwater, Vermont.
  • The End: "The trouble with Harry is over."
  • Everybody Did It: Subverted; everyone assumes they caused Harry's death. In the end, it's revealed he died naturally.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The movie's original trailer, which initially makes us think we're watching a lighthearted travelogue film called "Autumn in Vermont".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: All over the place, most memorably Sam and Captain Wiles discussing Miss Gravely's presumed virginity (a scene the studio told Hitchcock to change, but he never did).
  • Goshdang It To Heck: When Captain Wiles finds Harry's body, he exclaims, "For rice cake!"
  • Happily Ever After: "The trouble with Harry is over."
  • Hollywood New England: But the gorgeous autumn location footage makes it okay.
  • Lotsa People Try to Dun It: Multiple characters think they might have killed Harry, which results in his body behind moved multiple times as they try to hide their possible crime. In this case, none of them actually set out to murder him, but each one believes they may be guilty of at least manslaughter. It turns out none of them actually killed Harry. He died of natural causes!
  • MacGuffin: Harry
  • Maiden Aunt: Ivy Gravely
  • Meaningful Name: Ivy Gravely
  • Posthumous Character: The titular Harry.
  • Romancing the Widow: Sam and Jennifer.
  • Starving Artist: Sam
  • Zany Scheme: The attempts to figure out what to do with Harry's body evolve into one.


Example of: