In Alfred Hitchcock’s world, nothing is more certain than death and attempts to cover up death. This seems to be a common thread from Lawrence Olivier’s character in Rebecca all the way to the last features, such as Frenzy and Family Plot. Psycho probably features some of the more shocking and infamous scenes of disposing of dead bodies or living with them. The Trouble With Harry, however, features the funniest. In this film, Hitchcock comedically drops the curtain on his rather cynical yet accurate view of human nature: everyone’s guilty, whether or not they’re guilty in the strict, judicial sense. The film’s opening scene has a young boy (the soon-to-be Beaver from the famous TV show) walking through the quaint woods with a toy gun. This sanitized picture of an “innocent” child carrying a “harmless” weapon of death is revealed as exactly the menace it is when gunshots are fired and the boy instinctively ducks for cover. Immediately, Hitchcock does violence to his viewers by showing them their refusal to acknowledge the threat of violence in the most mundane images of postwar Americana. The film maintains its critique of depraved humanity throughout the film, demonstrating uncannily the truth that he who hates his neighbor is guilty of murder. The unanimous disdain for Harry leads to multiple confessions, not in the Murder on the Orient Express style of group-executor but the worse kind, wherein apathy pervades to such a degree that though all are somehow guilty, no one quite knows how. Hitchcock’s subtle critique on the stereotypical image of 1950s America as suburban, domestic, tidy, and perfect in every way may be the most interesting aspect of The Trouble With Harry. In the age of Ike Eisenhower, deleting the recent past (Pearl Harbor, Normandy, Hiroshima…) and ignorance of the present darkness (iron curtain, American nationalism, red scare…) had become all too normal. Turn away from death, and it’s as if it isn’t there. The closet door in this film reminds one of the persistent nuisance that is death, always there, yet always ignored, unfixable, always invading and interrupting.
Images from here.