Harvey: Classic Movie Review

HARVEY 1

Harvey

USA 1950, 104 minutes, black & white, Universal International Pictures. Director: Henry Koster, Written by Mary Chase and Oscar Brodney, Based on the play “Harvey” by Mary Chase. Cast: James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow, Charles Drake, Cecil Kellaway, Victoria Horne, Jesse White, William H. Lynn, Wallace Ford, Nana Bryant, Grace Mills, Clem Bevans.

Plot summary: Elwood P. Dowd is a likable, regular fella with a unique, mythical friend who never leaves his side no matter how weird others think he is.

Review: Elwood P. Dowd is quite a character. He’s pleasant, sweet and quirky – the kind of relative children would love but adults are frequently embarrassed by. Elwood lives with his sister Veta and niece Myrtle Mae, both of whom love him dearly but also want to get rid of him. They do not know how to handle his peculiarities, particularly his friendship with Harvey, a six-foot, three-and-one-half-inch-tall rabbit. Visible only to Elwood, Harvey is a Celtic myth, a so-called pooka, as real or unreal as you imagine him to be.

James Stewart played Elwood Dowd, a simple fellow whose devotion to his unseen companion makes him genuinely smart. While at first glance he may be flirting with addiction (he is what was known 60 years ago as a “rumpot”)  and mental illness, his heart is in the right place and his statements are everything but random. Always a natural at playing humble personalities with a touch of greatness, Stewart was rewarded with his fourth Academy Award nomination in 1951. He was supported by a powerful Josephine Hull, whose Veta Louise Simmons was lusciously torn between loving her brother and losing her own mind. She was rightly recognized by the Academy as Best Supporting Actress and, like Stewart, created a unique character you cannot help but like.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Mary Chase, Harvey is still every bit as remarkable and entertaining as it was upon release. Unwilling to give easy answers but offering bittersweet questions instead, the film is both funny and sad, yet also uplifting – a rare mix in movies today and thus a real treat for anyone who enjoys the quality and depth of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

  • Laura-Leigh

    I had such a hard time getting into this film at first. But once I allowed myself to dive into (what you call) the quirkiness of Stewart’s character, I loved it. Great story, indeed, and an awesome cast. Wonderful ending, too, one of those you don’t get to see a lot anymore these days.

  • Wayne P.

    Yes, a great classic film. In a special feature to an old VHS of the movie, James Stewart said this was his favorite role of all and its not hard to see that he enjoyed the heck out of performing it!