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TROUBLE WITH HARRY, THE

From the Nov. 20, 1983, Deseret News

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY — John Forsythe, Shirley MacLaine, Edmund Gwenn, Mildred Natwick, Jerry Mathers; rated PG (violence).

The final entry in the five-film series of heretofore-unavailable Alfred Hitchcock pictures, "The Trouble With Harry," is a lighthearted, bright little movie that refuses to let its spirits be dampened by the black humor of its central joke.

This is one of Hitchcock's few comedies, something of an extension of the gallows humor that permeates most of his work. "The Trouble With Harry" also resembles many of the Hitchcock-produced television shows, which often were dark comedies with black punch lines.

In this case the title character is a dead body found in a wooded area outside a small, rural New England community. The first person to find it is young Jerry Mathers (yep, "The Beaver" himself), who runs off to tell his mother about it. Then a yarn-spinning old captain, out on one of his many inept hunting misadventures finds Harry and thinks he must have accidentally shot him.

When Mathers brings his mother (Shirley MacLaine in her film debut) to the scene, she thinks she accidentally killed him. Later, Mildred Natwick arrives, thinking she has done it.

In the center of this group is John Forsythe, a painter who has forsaken New York City life for the atmosphere and leisurely pace of the country. And during the course of the film Harry is buried and dug up three or four times as Forsythe and the guilt-ridden party try to decide what to do with him.

But the humor here really extends from the characters, each of whom is somewhat askew with the world, and each richly humorous in his/her own right.

From this film, it is easy to see how Shirley MacLaine established her slightly kooky, independent screen persona in the early years of her career, and she is loaded with charm and personality here. She had that rare capacity for being a bit goofy without being dumb.

But it is Edmund Gwenn, probably best known as Santa Claus in "The Miracle on 34th Street," who runs away with the picture. He seems to have all the best lines anyway but that wonderful, unique delivery of his makes them even better. Mildred Natwick is also delightful here. And Forsythe lets his hair down more than usual, handling the level-headed role with his usual aplomb (though I don't believe for a minute that his voice was used for the singing early on).

"The Trouble With Harry" is loaded with Hitchcock touches right and left, and he and his cast obviously had a lot of fun with this one. And chances are, you will, too.

Some of the gags don't quite click and a frenetic climactic scene isn't staged particularly well, but on the whole "The Trouble With Harry" is quite funny, and like MacLaine, it is a film that boasts an enviable amount of charm.