Sunday, September 18, 2016

Harvey (1950)

Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is something of an embarrassment to his aunt and cousin. He is pleasant enough, but he keeps introducing people to Harvey, a 6’ 3 ½” invisible rabbit. This won’t do in polite society. Especially since his slightly younger cousin is trying to catch a man. So, they decide to have him committed. Things don't go according to plan.

I've never been impressed by Jimmy Stewart. Not that I have a problem with him, he always puts in a fine performance. But I am never amazed by him. Many of his characters are alike and his affable stammering becomes irritating at times. In Harvey, however, I have found his best performance so far. He comes off as something of a simpleton, having an invisible friend and all, but there is more to him than that. His behavior is explained by the shock of his mother dying, or alcoholism, yet he has found a good place with his Pooka. You’ll have to look that one up.

Maybe you remember Elwood’s aunt Veta (Josephine Hull) as Aunt Abby from Arsenic and Old Lace. She’s just the batty Auntie type, I suppose. If you blink (or even if you don’t) you will miss Fess Parker’s first movie role. He’s the man singly responsible for causing Americans to confuse Davy Crockett with Daniel Boone.

It's chatty, as plays-turned-movies tend to be, clever, and charming. There is a magnificent serenity with Stewart’s Elwood. He enjoys his life, enjoys his company, and never gets too upset at anything. He truly believes in Harvey's existence and by the end, you will too. Stewart often referred to it as his favorite role, and it's my favorite of his, so far. AMRU 4.
“Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.”

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