The classic stage hit gets the Hollywood treatment in the story of Elwood P. Dowd who makes friends with a spirit taking the form of a human-sized rabbit named Harvey that only he sees (and a few privileged others on occasion also.)
After his sister tries to commit him to a mental institution, a comedy of errors ensues. Elwood and Harvey become the catalysts for a family mending its wounds and for romance blossoming in unexpected places.
James Stewart ... Elwood P. Dowd
Josephine Hull ... Veta Louise Simmons
Peggy Dow ... Miss Kelly
Charles Drake ... Dr. Sanderson
Cecil Kellaway ... Dr. Chumley
Victoria Horne ... Myrtle Mae Simmons
Jesse White ... Wilson
William H. Lynn ... Judge Gaffney (as William Lynn)
Wallace Ford ... The Taxi Driver
Nana Bryant ... Mrs. Hazel Chumley
Grayce Mills ... Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet (as Grace Mills)
Clem Bevans ... Mr. Herman Schimmelplusser
Directed: Henry Koster
DivX 5 / MP3
There are too many aspects of Harvey to analyse. This is a typical example of a film being incredibly deceptive. On the outside the film is a light hearted comedy but when looking at it closely it is very clearly a serious social commentary of it's time, and indeed of the present time (for the same prejudices still exist today).
Harvey is a "pooka" ( a mischievous spirit) that manifests itself as a six foot white rabbit. Only Elwood P. Dowd can see Harvey and it is from this that the underlying dark story of an alcoholic's friendship with an invisible spirit blends itself in to comic fantasy.
The comic side to the film opens up the subject of prejudice and peoples fear of what is different from themselves. Elwood P Dowd is seen as insane by his sister, niece and the public and yet he is not a killer, he is not an angry or violent man. What he is, however, is a happy, cheerful and exremely pleasant gentleman who takes great pleasure in trying to make other people happy with the aid of a six foot white rabbit.
The film's success, in my mind, is entirely on the shoulders of James Stewart who's portrayal of the eccentric Elwwod P Dowd is exceptionally moving and fulfilling. He is surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast and one of the best scripts in movie history.
If this does not sound appealing to you, I urge you to watch Dowd's comments regarding Harvey outside the bar. This speech never fails to bring a lump in my throat. Not because it is sad but because it is such an innocent speech (delivered superbly by Stewart).
To me, Harvey has a hidden message to the audience,
"Elwood P. Dowd does not see life as it is, but life as it should be!!
Shoudn't we all see life like this?"
* Though James Stewart's character, Elwood P. Dowd, may certainly be referred to as an alcoholic, only at one time in the entire picture is he seen taking a drink.
* Universal-International paid $750,000 for the film rights.
* The original play opened in New York on 1 November 1944.
* Josephine Hull first performed her role in the Broadway version of Harvey.
* At the suggestion of James Stewart, the director changed many shots to make them wider so that "Harvey" would be in the frame.
* Despite earning an Oscar nomination, James Stewart never really liked his performance as Elwood; he thought that he had played Elwood as too innocent and sweet, and preferred to have more of an edge in his performance.
* First film project of 'Fess Parker' .
* James Stewart's character Elwood claims that Harvey is 6'3 1/2", and he looks up at him throughout the film to show this. Stewart himself is 6'4".