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Paramount Pictures

15 Fascinating Facts About The Trouble With Harry

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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.


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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.


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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.”

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Revisit Your Teen Years With Vintage Sweet Valley High Editions
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Always Fits

The '80s and '90s were a special time to be a reading-obsessed child. Young adult series like The Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High were in their prime (and spawning plenty of spinoffs and blatant knockoffs), with numerous books a year—Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal published 11 books in her series in 1984 alone.

You can't find original Sweet Valley High books on the shelves anymore (unless you want to read the tweaked re-release versions published in 2008), but fans of Jessica and Elizabeth no longer have to trawl eBay looking for nostalgic editions of their favorite installments of the series. Always Fits, a website that sells gifts it describes as “nostalgic, feminine, feminist and wonderful,” has tracked down as many vintage teen series from the '80s and '90s as it can, including a number of Sweet Valley High books.

A stack of Sweet Valley High books
Always Fits

The collection of books was sourced by the Always Fits team from vintage shops and thrift stores, and covers editions released between 1983 and 1994 (the series ran until 2003). While you can’t get a shiny new copy of books like Double Love, you can pretend that the slightly worn editions have been sitting on the bookshelf of your childhood bedroom all along.

Each of the Sweet Valley High books comes with an enamel pin inspired by the cover for one of the series's classic titles, Secrets. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose which installment you want—you’ll have to content yourself with a mystery pick, meaning that you may get In Love Again instead of Two-Boy Weekend. Hopefully you’re not trying to fill in that one hole from your childhood collection. (You may not be able to get Kidnapped by the Cult!, but it appears that Crash Landing!, with its amazingly ridiculous paralysis storyline, is available.)

The Sweet Valley High book-and-pin set is $18, or you can get a three-pack of random '80s books for the same price.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Love Connection
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Telepictures

Between September 19, 1983 and July 1, 1994, Chuck Woolery—who had been the original host of Wheel of Fortune back in 1975—hosted the syndicated, technologically advanced dating show Love Connection. (The show was briefly revived in 1998-1999, with Pat Bullard as host.) The premise featured either a single man or single woman who would watch audition tapes of three potential mates discussing what they look for in a significant other, and then pick one for a date. The producers would foot the bill, shelling out $75 for the blind date, which wasn’t taped. The one rule was that between the end of the date and when the couple appeared on the show together, they were not allowed to communicate—so as not to spoil the next phase.

A couple of weeks after the date, the guest would sit with Woolery in front of a studio audience and tell everybody about the date. The audience would vote on the three contestants, and if the audience agreed with the guest’s choice, Love Connection would offer to pay for a second date.

The show became known for its candor: Couples would sometimes go into explicit detail about their dates or even insult one another’s looks. Sometimes the dates were successful enough to lead to marriage and babies, and the show was so popular that by 1992, the video library had accrued more than 30,000 tapes “of people spilling their guts in five-minutes snippets.”

In 2017, Fox rebooted Love Connection with Andy Cohen at the helm; the second season started airing in May. But here are a few things you might not have known about the dating series that started it all.

1. AN AD FOR A VIDEO DATING SERVICE INSPIRED THE SHOW.

According to a 1986 People Magazine article, the idea for Love Connection came about when creator Eric Lieber spied an ad for a video dating service and wanted to cash in on the “countless desperate singles out there,” as the article states. “Everyone thinks of himself as a great judge of character and likes to put in two cents,” Lieber said. “There’s a little yenta in all of us.”

2. CONTESTANTS WERE GIVEN SOMETHING CALLED A PALIO SCORE.

Staff members would interview potential contestants and rate them on a PALIO score, which stands for personality, appearance, lifestyle, intelligence, and occupation. Depending on the results, the staff would rank the potential guests as either selectors or selectees.

3. IN 1987, THE FIRST OF MANY LOVE CONNECTION BABIES WAS BORN.

John Schultz and Kathleen Van Diggelen met on a Love Connection date, which didn’t end up airing. “They said, ‘John, she’s so flat, if you can’t rip her up on the set, we can’t use you,’” he told People in 1988. “I said, ‘I can’t do that.’” However, they got married on an episode of Hollywood Squares. As the article stated, “Their son, Zachary, became the first baby born to a Love Connection-mated couple.”

4. IT LED TO OTHER DATING SHOWS, LIKE THE BACHELOR.

Mike Fleiss not only created The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but he’s also responsible for reviving Love Connection. “I always had a soft spot for that show,” Fleiss told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. He said he was friends with Lieber and that the show inspired him to “venture into the romance TV space.” “I remember it being simple and effective,” he said about the original Love Connection. “And I remember wanting to find out what happened on those dates, the he said-she said of it all. It was intriguing.”

5. A FUTURE ACTOR FROM THE SOPRANOS WAS A CONTESTANT.

Lou Martini Jr., then known as Louis Azzara, became a contestant on the show during the late 1980s. He and his date, Angela, hit it off so well that they couldn’t keep their hands off one another during the show. Martini famously talked about her “private parts,” and she referred to him as “the man of my dreams.” The relationship didn’t last long, though. “I had just moved to LA and was not ready to commit to anything long-term," Martini commented under the YouTube clip. "The show was pushing me to ask her to marry me on the show!" If Martini looks familiar it’s because he went on to play Anthony Infante, Johnny Sack’s brother-in-law, on four episodes of season six of The Sopranos.

6. BEFORE THE SHOW WENT OFF THE AIR, A LOT OF CONTESTANTS GOT MARRIED.

During the same Entertainment Weekly interview, the magazine asked Woolery what the show’s “love stats” were, and he responded with 29 marriages, eight engagements, and 15 children, which wasn’t bad considering 2120 episodes had aired during its entire run. “When you think that it’s someone in our office putting people together through questionnaires and tapes, it’s incredible that one couple got married, much less 29,” he said.

7. CHUCK WOOLERY WAS AGAINST FEATURING SAME SEX COUPLES.

In a 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the interviewer asked him “Would you ever have gay couples on Love Connection?” Woolery said no. “You think it would work if a guy sat down and I said, ‘Well, so where did you meet and so and so?’ then I get to the end of the date and say, ‘Did you kiss?’ Give me a break,” he said. “Do you think America by and large is gonna identify with that? I don’t think that works at all.” What a difference a quarter-century makes. Andy Cohen, who is openly gay, asked Fox if it would be okay to feature gay singles on the new edition of Love Connection. Fox immediately agreed.

8. ERIC LIEBER LIKED THE SHOW’S “HONEST EMOTIONS.”

When asked about the show's winning formula, Lieber once said: “The show succeeds because we believe in honest emotions. And, admit it—we’re all a little voyeuristic and enjoy peeking into someone else’s life.”

9. IN LIVING COLOR DID A HILARIOUS PARODY OF THE SHOW.

In the first sketch during In Living Color's pilot—which aired April 15, 1990—Jim Carrey played Woolery in a Love Connection parody. Robin Givens (played by Kim Coles) went on a date with Mike Tyson (Keenan Ivory Wayans) and ended up marrying him during the date. (As we know from history, the real-life marriage didn’t go so well.) The audience had to vote for three men: Tyson, John Kennedy Jr., and, um, Donald Trump. Tyson won with 41 percent of the vote and Trump came in second with 34 percent.

10. A PSYCHOLOGIST THOUGHT THE SHOW HAD A “MAGICAL HOPEFULNESS” QUALITY.

In 1986, People Magazine interviewed psychologist and teacher Dr. Richard Buck about why people were attracted to Love Connection. “Combine the fantasy of finding the perfect person with the instant gratification of being on TV, and the two are a powerful lure,” he said. “There’s a magical hopefulness to the show.”

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