THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. 1955. DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. STARRING JOHN FORSYTHE AND SHIRLEY MACLAINE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’ve said this before many times and I’ll say it again. The best way to watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie is on BBC2 television on a Saturday afternoon, curled up on the couch while the rest of the world trudges tiredly round Tesco doing the weekly grocery shop, trailing fussy offspring and a shopping list a mile long. I recently had another chance to do exactly this, for which I’m enormously appreciative.
This time, the film was Hitchcock’s 1955 black comedy, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. It was preceded by an excellent documentary called HITCH: ALFRED THE GREAT. Narrated by Sylvia Sims, it told the story of the famous director’s early years and how he got started in the business of making pictures.
The documentary was followed by SHIRLEY MACLAINE :TALKING PICTURES. I’ve never been a huge fan of hers, more because I’m not too familiar with her films than anything else. I therefore enjoyed hearing her talk about her ‘pictures,’ as they used to call them back then(!), and watching long clips of her flirty interviews with Michael ‘Parky’ Parkinson, back when she had the gorgeous long hair and looked for all the world like a simmering sex kitten.
The movie, of course, was next. It’s a black comedy that at times has an almost surreal feel to it. It’s set in small-town America- Vermont, to be precise- in the Fall, as they call it across the pond. The one thing I’ve remembered my whole life about this film is its absolutely glorious colour. The whole film is coloured rich russets, reds, browns, oranges and greens, all the colours of autumn. It’s a visual treat, almost an orgasm for the peepers (Tee-hee, I said the ‘O’ word…!), and undoubtedly one of the most beautifully-coloured of all of Hitchcock’s films.
The star of the film is dead from the off. That’s right, he’s a stiff, a corpse, a cadaver. He has ceased to exist. He is an ex-parrot. Um, I mean, person. Sorry. Monty Python joke. His name is Harry and he’s lying in a grassy meadow not too far from the town, just waiting to be discovered. And discovered he certainly is, by just about everybody in the place.
They poke at him, they pull at him, they bury him and dig him up numerous times in one twenty-four period, they stand over him chatting about him or even making dates with each other over his dead body, they even paint him in his deceased state, for crying out loud.
John Forsythe stars as Sam Marlowe, a quirky artist who is besotted with Shirley MacLaine’s cutesy-pie twice-widowed mom, Jennifer Rogers. Forsythe, of course, later went on to star in glitzy, heavily shoulder-padded, super-successful American drama serial, DYNASTY, in which he played business mogul Blake Carrington. He was usually flanked by his glamorous current wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his superbitch ex-wife, Alexis Colby-Carrington (Joan Collins). He wasn’t quite as evil as J.R. Ewing, but he wasn’t a man to be crossed in big business, either.
It’s nice to see him in this film with his full head of lovely thick black hair, as we’re probably more used to seeing him with his Blake Carrington blue rinse. He’s very funny as Sam Marlowe, an artist so eccentric that he ignores a millionaire art buyer just so he can cut a middle-aged woman’s hair to pretty her up for her date with an adorable old sea-captain. And he isn’t even a hairdresser…!
There’s an absolutely hilarious conversation between Marlowe and the sea-captain about the aforementioned middle-aged woman. It’s a conversation conducted entirely, and brilliantly, in metaphors. They talk about how the sea-captain will be the first man to ever ‘cross her threshold,’ and how she may be well-preserved for her age but ‘even preserves have to be opened…’
Watch the film, please. The dialogue is witty, sharp and just so comical. The situation becomes more and more bizarre as the whole world and his wife- or so it seems!- gets in on the act. Who killed Harry and, more importantly, what’s to be done about him…? I won’t tell you how things pan out because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.
This is a terrific film and, while it doesn’t get as much publicity as some of Hitchcock’s other films, that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked by you, my review-reading friends. Go and dig it out. Meet Harry. He’s dead good company, you know. Only when he wants to be, though, that’s the thing. That’s the trouble with Harry, you see…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: