MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.
The Trouble With Harry (1955, 100 minutes)
Taking in a deep breath of the invigorating air of New England before plunging, a few years later, into the twisted murder of Psycho and The Birds (where nature would become the enemy), director Alfred Hitchcock let his eye wander over the riotous autumnal splendor of Vermont for a romantic comedy called The Trouble With Harry that would co-star Shirley MacLaine in her first screen role.
Arnie Rogers (a seven-year old Jerry Mathers, two years before he became the star of TV sitcom Leave It To Beaver) is wandering the back woods of Vermont, toting an oversized blue plastic raygun. He’s imagining he’s scouring the landscape for aliens in the Martian wilderness, when a man’s voice barks out, “OK, I know how to handle your type!” Two gun shots ring out, and Arnie dives behind the trunk of a towering tree whose leaves have gone crimson. When he regains his nerve, he trudges up the next hill and comes upon a man in jacket and tie, lying dead with a single bullet hole in his left temple.
The next hill over, Capt. Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn, who was Santa Claus in 1947′s Miracle On 34th Street) is muttering to his .22 rifle whose shoulder strap is made from clothesline rope. “Well, old faithful, that’s your shooting for the day. If we haven’t run up two rabbits, we deserve to go home empty-handed.” As the captain gets to his feet to retrieve the hare he thinks he’s plugged, he spouts, “Fewer things in life give a man more pleasure than hunting, and this plump rabbit’s waiting for the frying pan.”
He soon comes upon the same dead man that scared spaceman Arnie straight. “I’ve done him in,” moans the captain, inhaling deeply. “A harmless shot at a rabbit, and now I’m a murderer.” Getting up the nerve to poke through the dead man’s jacket pocket, he finds a wallet identifying the corpse as Harry Worp from Boston. “Well, Mr. Worp, you’re a long way from home, and it looks as if you won’t get back for Christmas,” says the old man. He begins to drag the body back to town, when he’s startled by a familiar female voice.
“What do you plan to do with him?” asks Miss Ivy Gravely (MIldred Natwick). “Please don’t say anything, Miss Gravely,” the captain begs. “It was an accident. He was poking around the clearing, and I thought he was a rabbit.” She replies, “Do what you think best, captain. I’m sure you’ve seen much worse.” The captain rambles, “When I was on the Orinoco, this Turk with a machete … ” Miss Gravely politely interrupts, “If I were going to hide an accident, captain, I wouldn’t delay. And perhaps you’d care to come over later for some blueberry muffins and elderberry wine.”