Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chick flicks for guys, part 4

Our final "chick flick for guys" in the run-up to Valentine's Day is The Trouble With Harry. Alfred Hitchcock directed this 1955 movie, which has much less of the suspense that one normaally expects from a Hitchcock movie, instead preferring to remain in the realm of black comedy.

"Harry" is a man about whom we don't know much, other than the fact that he's dead. Indeed, his body is lying on a hill outside a small Vermont town, and as various locals happen upon the body, each of them thinks he or she is the one responsible for the man's death. Edmund Gwenn is a hunter out for rabbits, and when he sees the body, he fears that he may have shot it accidentally. Back in town, he meets spinster Mildred Natwick, who also thinks she's responsible for the man's death, having hit him over the head with a shoe after "Harry" was harassing her. Meanwhile, there's also the single mother played by Shirley MacLaine, in her screen debut, whose son (that's Jerry Mathers not as the Beaver) also discovers the body, but also has a tendency to get his dates and places screwed up, so MacLaine isn't really certain if there's a dead body -- until it transpires that "Harry" was actually her ex-husband. Add to this mix an artist played by John Forsythe, who acts partly as amateur detective, trying to figure out what really happened to "Harry", and partly as love interest to MacLaine.

Since all of them think they might have been responible for "Harry's" death, they get together and bury the body so they won't have the authorities coming after them. Only, they find that the need to determine the actual cause of death, so they have to exhume the body. Or bury it again, and exhume it again; repeat as necessary. Along the way, not only do Forsythe and MacLaine find themselves falling in love with each other, but Gwenn and Natwick do, too. Eventually they find out that they're all responsible for killing "Harry" -- or none of them is, depending on how you look at things. Hitchcock, the master of suspense, deftly brings matters to a close with a resolution that seems like a twist but isn't, mixed with a healthy does of the black comedy we've been getting the entire movie. It's not necessarily what you think of when you think of Alfred Hitchcock, but in many ways, it is. And it's a highly enjoyable movie from Hitchcock that doesn't have the deathly seriousness about it that might keep viewers from just sitting back, relaxing, and having a good time.

For the women, The Trouble with Harry has all the elements of a good love story (actually, two love stories, with a mystery about a corpse thrown in. But for the guys, it's just as easy to look at the murder mystery first, and not pay so much attention to the love story.

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