Harvey (1950)

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Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Mary Chase and Oscar Brodney from Chase’s play
1950/USA
Universal International
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant

Elwood P. Dowd: Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.

I hadn’t seen this in quite awhile and had forgotten just how funny and charming it actually is.  This is one of my very favorite James Stewart performances and the supporting cast matches him every step of the way.

Elwood P. Dowd (Stewart) is a gentle soul whose only aim is to please.  He receives a lot of support from alcohol and his friend Harvey, a six-foot three-inch invisible rabbit (really a legendary creature called a pookah). Elwood has a standard way of introducing himself. He presents his card and then introduces Harvey.

Elwood is a great trial to his sister Vita Louise (Josephine Hull) and her ungainly aging daughter Myrtle Mae.  This is especially true since Vita is trying to introduce Myrtle Mae to local society and get her married off. Eventually, they have had enough and attempt to get Elwood committed to a sanitarium.

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This is easier said than done.  Elwood happily goes along with whatever he is told to do. However, when Vita confesses to the doctor that she has seen Harvey too, he is convinced that they have committed the wrong patient.  While the orderly (Jesse White) is forcibly wrestling Vita into submission and putting her in a bath, Elwood gets away. Numerous people try to track him down only to come under his spell in the process. With Cecil Kellaway as the sanitarium owner.

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This movie is hilarious.  I can’t think of a single flaw.  It is whimsical without being frantic or stupid.  I have tried not to spoil any of the gags.  How I envy anyone seeing it for the first time!

Josephine Hull won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.  James Stewart was nominated for Best Actor.

Trailer

6 thoughts on “Harvey (1950)

    • I love it too. There’s a line something like he saw Harvey standing by a lamp post and Harvey said hello Mr. Dowd and how this was not surprising because in a small town you get used to everybody knowing your name. The whole script kills me.

          • The list is endless, isn’t it? I was so fortunate. During the late 60s and early 70s, many old Hollywood stars were on Broadway or touring or in summer stock. I saw dozens of them — “live and in person.” I had very indulgent parents . . . . Also, as luck would have it, I lived in one of the Ohio towns graced by The Kenley Players.
            http://www.kenleyplayershistory.com/
            Click on Dayton to see the stars who played here. Many were on summer hiatus from television shows while others, like Gig Young, Ann Blythe, Louis Jourdan, and Gene Kelly, were Hollywood stars with some kick left in their step.

          • You were truly blessed. I did manage to see a few stars at the Music Center in LA. My mother was good to me as well. Nothing like Broadway though.

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