15 Fascinating Facts About The Trouble With Harry

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry has all of the trappings of your usual Hitchcock film, including a mystery, a dead body, a beautiful young woman, and a darkly handsome leading man. But it has one thing that The Birds, Psycho, Vertigo, and Hitchcock's other horror offerings don't: humor—and plenty of it. 

The 1955 dark comedy about a pesky corpse may not be one of Hitchcock's most popular films, but it has developed a cult following—and Hitch himself always had a soft spot for it. Here are 15 things you need to know about The Trouble With Harry.

1. BEFORE IT WAS A FILM, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY WAS A SHORT COMIC NOVEL.

As with many of his films, Alfred Hitchcock found his inspiration in a novel. Unlike most of this other work, however, this one was a humorous book—not a horror or thriller. He was able to purchase the rights for just $11,000 by keeping his identity a secret. When he tried to renew the rights some years later—for free—author John Trevor Story fought back, saying that he had “no intention of maintaining Alfred Hitchcock in his old age.”

2. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE FLOP.

Apparently people weren’t interested in Hitchcockian humor at the time: Despite the fact that it was made on a small budget, the movie lost $500,000 at the box office. Nonetheless, it was one of Hitchcock’s favorite films.

3. IT WAS SHIRLEY MACLAINE’S FILM DEBUT.

She may be a Hollywood legend now, but in 1955, Shirley MacLaine was an ingenue chorus girl. Though Hitchcock had wanted his mainstay Grace Kelly in the role, she was unavailable. He considered French actress Brigitte Auber, but didn’t want to mess with her accent. A producer mentioned that he had seen The Pajama Game on Broadway and was particularly impressed by a young chorus girl who stepped into the lead role for one night. Hitchcock interviewed her and found MacLaine utterly charming—but he also liked the idea of directing someone who hadn’t acted in movies before. "All this simply means is that I shall have fewer bad knots to untie,” he told her when he hired her.

4. STUDIO HEADS CALLED MACLAINE TO TELL HER TO STOP EATING SO MUCH.

Not everyone was charmed by MacLaine. Horrifyingly, the actress was subject to a call from the president of Paramount, who was unhappy with her appearance after reviewing film. She had gained some weight over the course of shooting, due in part to the terrific meals she shared with Hitchcock every single day. “He knew I was just out of the chorus, so I hadn’t eaten in years,” she said. Studio heads noticed, and called to tell her to stop sabotaging her career. In another interview, she recalled, “I think the word was ‘blimp.’”

5. THE MOVIE NEARLY KILLED HITCHCOCK.

Though you might expect something to go awry on one of Hitch’s scarier sets, The Trouble With Harry was the one that almost did him in. He was on location in Vermont when a bracket holding an 850-pound VistaVision camera unit snapped. The unit plummeted to the ground, clipping Hitch in the shoulder and pinning a crew member to the ground. Had he been standing a couple of inches over, Hitchcock would have been a goner.

6. IT WAS PARTIALLY SHOT IN A GYMNASIUM.

Vermont, of course, is incredibly picturesque, and Hitchcock intended to film everything on location. But the weather didn’t always cooperate, so the crew had to build sets at a local gymnasium. That didn’t work so well, either; when it rained, which was often, the drops pinged off the tin roof of the building, ruining takes.

7. HITCHCOCK DISCOVERED JERRY MATHERS BEFORE THE REST OF THE WORLD DID.

Paramount Pictures

The director cast then-unknown child actor Jerry Mathers as MacLaine's onscreen son, little Arnie. Two years later, Mathers would land the role that cemented him in television history: Beaver Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver.

8. JOHN FORSYTHE, ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS ALREADY WELL-KNOWN.

Forsythe already had a great career under his belt when he signed on to play the role of Sam, but the roles that would come to define him would come along later in his career: He was the voice of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels, and played Blake Carrington on Dynasty.

9. RESHOOTS WERE PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT.

When Hitchcock later decided he needed more shots of Harry’s corpse in the leaves, there were two problems: No corpse and no leaves. Philip Truex, the actor who played Harry, was unavailable for reshoots, and of course, L.A. leaves aren’t really the same as Vermont leaves.

To solve the Harry problem, a double was cast, his head hidden by a bush in the shot to disguise the difference. The leaf problem was more complicated—Hitch ended up having boxes of autumn leaves sent from Vermont, then had some poor assistants painstakingly pin them onto trees.

10. IT WAS THE START OF HITCHCOCK’S ASSOCIATION WITH “FUNERAL MARCH OF THE MARIONETTE."

Composer Bernard Herrmann went on to score many of Hitchcock’s films, including North by Northwest (1959), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960). But he made one of his most lasting contributions with The Trouble With Harry, although audiences never heard it. Herrmann temporarily tried “Funeral March of the Marionette” as the music for the opening credits. Though they ultimately used a different tune, “Funeral March of the Marionette” would later be used as one of the most famous theme songs of all time: Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

11. THE MOVIE’S WORLD PREMIERE WAS HELD IN VERMONT.

Paying homage to the shooting location, Hitchcock arranged for the premiere to take place at a tiny movie theater in Barre, Vermont. As you might imagine, the town was thrilled to roll out the red carpet for the Hollywood cast and crew. According to the Barre Times, they were fed a Vermont-themed meal, including freshly pressed apple cider, boiled Maine lobster with drawn butter, prepared according to the Vermont recipe which won the New England Lobster Contest in 1954;” and “tossed Vermont harvest salad,” among other Vermont-y items. They also presented MacLaine with a red rose corsage “on behalf of the people of Barre,” and gave Hitchcock a Vermont map made of granite.

12. IT INSPIRED HITCH TO PROMOTE VERMONT TOURISM.

When the movie was released nationally, moviegoers were treated to a special opening film: A three-minute promotional short, directed by Hitchcock, called “Vermont the Beautiful.”

13. THE FILM WAS ONCE KNOWN AS ONE OF THE FIVE LOST HITCHCOCKS.

Along with Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope, and Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry was one of the five films Hitchcock himself bought the rights to—and chose, for various reasons, to keep to himself. When he died, he left the rights to his daughter, Patricia, who was more forthcoming with circulating them.

14. AS USUAL, THERE’S A CAMEO BY HITCHCOCK.

Paramount Pictures

Hitchcock shows up in most of his movies, if only for a second or two. But this cameo is truly blink-and-you'll-miss-it—that's him in the trench coat behind the car.

15. THERE’S A SINGLE LINE THAT CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF THE WHOLE MOVIE.

During a series of interviews for François Truffaut’s book Hitchcock, Hitch told the French director that one simple bit of dialogue in the movie sums up the whole thing:

“One of the best lines is when old Edmund Gwenn is dragging the body along for the first time and a woman comes up to him and says, ‘What seems to be the trouble, captain?’ To me, that’s terribly funny; that’s the spirit of the whole story.”

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Feel Nostalgic With the New Hello Kitty-Themed Tamagotchi

Bandai America/Amazon
Bandai America/Amazon

Back in November 1996, Bandai released the cult favorite Tamagotchi, a tiny virtual pet that users could feed, play with, give medicine to, and more. The name itself is actually a combination of two Japanese words, tamago and tomodachi, meaning egg and friend—and it was the toy's egg shape that was key to its distinct design. They could fit in pockets, on keychains, and inside the backpacks of any kid who wanted a distraction during the school day.

According to NME, more than 82 million of these egg-shaped digital pets have been sold since their initial release in the ‘90s, with 10 million of those coming within the first year alone. Now, the handheld pets are back again in the form of a collaboration with another famous Japanese creation, Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty first took over hearts starting in 1974 when a Japanese company called Sanrio put the design on a vinyl coin purse. More than 45 years later, Hello Kitty (her real name is actually Kitty White) has been developed into video games, cafes, hospitals, wine, and more. This new Tamagotchi is the perfect mixture of two of Japan’s most famous brands, both of which have reached a global audience.

Bandi America/Amazon

In these new editions, Hello Kitty will help you raise your Tamagotchi. You’ll be able to feed them Hello Kitty’s favorite foods, like apple pie or milk, and play a balloon game and piano game. Based on how well you raise your Tamagotchi from an egg to an adult will determine which of the seven surprise characters you receive.

These new Tamagotchis will be released on December 1, 2020, and are available to pre-order in red and white on Amazon for $20.

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.