Monday, May 20, 2019

"Harvey" (1950)


Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) has an unusual friend:  a six-foot-tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey.  Only Elwood can see or hear Harvey, though Harvey can see and hear everyone else in the world just fine.


Elwood is a gentle, kindly fellow who is always ready to make a new friend.  And he always introduces his new friends to Harvey very properly.  Whether or not the new friends stick around much longer than that is up to them, not Elwood.


Now, Elwood lives with his widowed sister, Veta Louise (Josephine Hull), and her daughter, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne).  Veta Louise is desperately trying to marry her daughter off well, but Elwood's eccentricities scare away many people, including potential suitors for Myrtle Mae.  Elwood's insistence on Harvey's existence is the bane of Veta Louise's life -- they can't even keep maids for long because of it.


Elwood spends much of his days down at a local bar.  Is this because he enjoys alcohol?  Certainly.  Is this also because the bartender and the other tipplers there talk nicely about Harvey, while everyone else keeps insisting Elwood is being ridiculous?  Probably.


Elwood's odd behavior has convinced Veta Louise that he is insane, and she decides that the only way Myrtle Mae will ever find a good husband -- or any husband -- will be for Elwood to be taken to a sanitarium and "cured."


Several comical mix-ups occur at the sanitarium, but eventually they're straightened out, whereupon the movie goes from somewhat silly and whimsical to tender and bittersweet.  Elwood decides that, if him going to the sanitarium will make his sister and niece happy, then he will go, even though he is certain he's perfectly sane, and Harvey is perfectly real.  To please and help them, he even agrees to have an injection that will make him just like everyone else in the world.  He understands that this means he won't see and hear Harvey anymore, but he always wants to make Veta Louise happy and take good care of her, so he agrees.

But then... something very unexpected and lovely and wonderful happens.  I won't spoil exactly what it is, just in case you haven't seen this or the stage play and would like to.  But I absolutely love the ending of this movie.


James Stewart sells Elwood's belief in Harvey in a beautiful way.  He's never ridiculous, never winking at the audience saying isn't this character nutty?  His Elwood P. Dowd is very real, very grounded, very sweet, and he makes this movie poignant in so many ways.


Harvey was originally a stage play, written by Mary Chase.  It won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and deservedly so.  It ran for more than four years on Broadway, and James Stewart played Elwood P. Dowd on stage for part of that run.  He later reprised the role in a West End production in the 1970s.

Is this movie family friendly?  ABSOLUTELY.  It's also a great way to introduce children to the idea of psychiatric disorders and show that people who may behave a little strangely do not need to be scary.  And it teaches that people who view the world a little differently from you should be treated with kindness and understanding.


This has been my contribution to the Jimmy Stewart Blogathon hosted by Movies Meet Their Match.  Today would have been James Stewart's 111th birthday!  Happy birthday to an actor who has been dear to my heart for decades :-)

Find out what blogathons I'll be hosting or participating in on my Upcoming Blog Events page!

21 comments:

  1. I love this movie. It's so sweet and fun. Jimmy was the perfect actor for the part. Rambling, good-natured, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charity, I know! Brilliant casting.

      Back when I was in college, the theater dept. put this on one spring. I got to help make the set, which was super fun. They did a lovely job, but... Jimmy Stewart is incomparable.

      Delete
  2. I...didn't really like this movie because I dislike stories where the main character does things that are honestly insane in the context of the real world, but it turns out to be true? I don't know. :P

    Also, I tagged you. :) https://classicsandcraziness.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/the-fantastical-and-felicitous-fictional-character-blog-tag/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eva, interesting! This movie makes me happy because... I do things that are fairly weird, and I have had a lot of imaginary friends. Still have one that I talk to now and then, though not out loud. So part of why I love this movie is that I do identify really strongly with Elwood.

      I also have a thing for what I call "eternal children," people who maintain a childlike wonder and innocence into adulthood. And Elwood is very much that way too.

      Thanks for the tag! I'll check it out.

      Delete
  3. This is one I've never seen, but Jimmy Stewart is always wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DKoren, I'm not sure if you'd really love this movie, but you'd at least enjoy Jimmy Stewart. It might help you going in to know that it's going to dig deeper toward the end and not just be fluffy and humorous?

      Delete
  4. Wow.

    I, um, actually really want to watch this movie now.

    *collective gasp from the entire world because Katie wants to watch an OLD MOVIE* :-P :-P

    But for real, this sounds 100% like my cup of tea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katie, oh my goodness, yes. You should see it. It is quirky and affirming and charming and surprisingly poignant.

      Delete
  5. Elwood and Harvey charm me and erase all cynicism in my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, I love this movie! I watched it about a year and a half ago for the first time. I remember my mom explaining the idea (A man who has a giant imaginary rabbit named Harvey for a friend) beforehand, and I was sure that I wasn't going to like it. But, Jimmy worked his acting magic and made this fabulous. I agree, anyone else might have made Elwood seem ridiculous, but not Jimmy Stewart. He made him into the sweetest guy ever, and someone that I really can relate to.

    Awesome review! Thank you so, so, so, much for participating in my blogathon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MC, high five! Glad you love this one too :-)

      Thanks for hosting!

      Delete
  7. Oh my goodness, it's quite odd to see such a nice, calm review of a movie that terrified me and my siblings as wee children. XD To this day, I don't know why we were so afraid of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Evangline, too funny! I mean, I guess the idea of a ginormous rabbit could be scary... but I'm still cracking up. Have you watched it again now that you're older?

      Delete
  8. I just want to let you know I put a post on the page Happy Birthday, Bobby Darin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Anonymous! Yup, I see your comment there. Sometimes it takes me a day or two to find time to answer comments. But I get there eventually ;-)

      Delete
  9. Great post! Jimmy Stewart never disappoints. I enjoyed the movie when I first saw it several years ago. I think you hit it right on the head with how Stewart sells it with seriousness; it's never a joke or a wink and a nod. Our local theater is performing Harvey as our next play this fall. I don't know if I'll be asked to do the Jimmy Stewart role, but I'm pretty sure I'll be in it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Stanley! You're right, he never disappoints. Thoroughly dependable in the enjoyment department.

      What a fun play to be in! Our drama department performed it when I was in college, and I helped make a lot of the scenery for it. I wasn't in it, but I went to see it :-) Just such a charming story.

      Delete
  10. Aww I really, REALLY want to see this now! I mean, I've been interested since I first heard about it. But now it's rather an urgent matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Megan, yay! I love it when I can get people interested in seeing a movie I love :-) Hope you can see it soon!

      Delete

Agree or disagree? That is the question...

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)