This movie was Sir Alfred Hitchcock's experiment to see how audiences would react to a non-star-driven movie. He was of the opinion that oftentimes having a big star attached actually hindered the narrative flow and style of the story. He also developed the movie to test how American audiences would react to a more subtle brand of humor than they were used to.
"What seems to be the trouble, Captain?" was Sir Alfred Hitchcock's favorite line from all of his movies.
This movie was unavailable for three decades because its rights (together with four other movies of the same period) were bought back by Sir Alfred Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter Patricia Hitchcock. They were known for years as the infamous "five lost Hitchcocks" amongst movie buffs. The movies were re-released in theaters in 1984 after an approximately thirty year absence. The others are Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958).
Unlike some of Sir Alfred Hitchock's other leading ladies, Shirley MacLaine became his "eating buddy", and he took her for breakfast every day before shooting. He never propositioned her, but thought of her as "a girl who needed to be fed". Having just been plucked from the poverty-stricken life of a Broadway chorus girl, it was a pleasant change for MacLaine. As a result, she gained fifteen pounds during shooting, resulting in a phone call from the studio telling her to stop eating so much, as she was going to "ruin her career before it had even begun."
Sir Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights to the original novel anonymously for just $11,000.
Location filming in Vermont was hampered by heavy rainfall. Many exterior scenes were filmed on sets constructed in a local high school gymnasium, but much of the dialogue recorded there was inaudible due to the rainfall on the tin roof, and much post-recording was necessary.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock insisted on using a real actor for the body of Harry. He chose Philip Truex.
Philip Truex's cameo as the deceased title character is his last appearance in a movie.
While music composer Lyn Murray was working on the music score for To Catch a Thief (1955), Sir Alfred Hitchcock was already looking for a composer for this movie, which was to be his next. Murray suggested Bernard Herrmann and this was the beginning of the long professional relationship between Hitchcock and Herrmann.
Although this was a failure in the U.S., it played for a year in England and Italy and for a year and a half in France. It was then re-released domestically and did better due to its stature abroad.
DIRECTOR CAMEO (Sir Alfred Hitchcock): (At around twenty-one minutes) Walking past the limousine of a man looking at the drawings.
Due to the inclement weather conditions in Vermont, boxes and boxes of autumnal leaves were shipped back to California, where they were painstakingly pinned onto trees on a studio soundstage.
Bernard Herrmann's score was Sir Alfred Hitchcock's favorite of the seven movies they did together.
After The Skin Game (1931), Strauss' Great Waltz (1934) and Foreign Correspondent (1940), this was Edmund Gwenn's fourth and final film with Alfred Hitchcock.
After the millionaire pulls up to the roadside stand in to admire Sam's art, he is in a 1954 Chrysler Crown Imperial C66 Series. Only one hundred were made, with a base price of about $7,000 ($62,500 in 2017). It is still not very popular, as one in excellent condition would fetch at most $20,000 at auction in 2016.
Jack Trevor Story's original novel, published in 1949, is set in post-war England, not America in the mid-1950s. There would seem to have been some censorship problems with the adaptation. In the book, the young son (who has a different name) is the illegitimate son of an R.A.F. pilot killed on a bombing raid, and Harry has married the unwed mother to prevent staining the family honor. There is also an extra character in the book, an unsavory war profiteer, who was edited from the movie completely.
This was Sir Alfred Hitchcock's second comedy. His first was Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery.
The car that Calvin Wiggs drives appears to a 1913 Buick, repainted a modern color. The badge on the radiator, white with blue scrip, was used on Buicks. Although a right hand drive, it was common in early years, and was a carryover from horse and buggy. (They are still driven from the right.) Not all manufacturers adapted to left hand drive at the same time. Pierce Arrow continued into the 1920s. Buick switched in 1914.
The stained glass lampshade that is in the Captain's house was also used for set dressing in Sir Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956).
Several scenes had to be shot in a rented high school gym because of the rain. In the gym, a 500-pound Technicolor camera fell from a great height, narrowly missing director Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
When Sam Marlowe guesses Miss Ivy Gravely's age, he guesses 50. She then tells him she is only 42. Mildred Natwick was 50 years old at the time.
Composer Bernard Herrmann arranged his themes from this movie into a concert suite he called "A Portrait of Hitch".
Although a perverse sense of humor permeates all of his movies, this was only Sir Alfred Hitchcock's second outright comedy. Perhaps because American audiences of the 1950s were uncomfortable with "black comedy", this was one of Hitchcock's few box-office failures upon its initial U.S. release.
The poem that the doctor is reading when he finally discovers the body is Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare.
Parts of Bernard Herrmann's score was lifted from the music he had composed for a radio series called "Crime Classics".
Although extensive location filming was done in autumnal New England, most of the scenes set in the forest where Harry's body is discovered were shot on a Paramount Pictures soundstage.
Original literary source: "The Trouble With Harry", novel by Jack Trevor Story, Broadman & Company, London, 1949, 192 p.
The cast includes two Oscar winners: Shirley MacLaine and Edmund Gwenn; and three Oscar nominees: Mildred Dunnock, Mildred Natwick, and Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
Though never mentioned in the film, the setting is evidently the village of "Highwater" according to the signage outside of Wiggs' Emporium. The place is, of course, fictional.
Theatrically released in the USA with Mister and Mistletoe (1955) as the preceding cartoon.