Why am I so infatuated by Harvey you ask? Let me clarify that. I’m not talking about the title rabbit. Why am I so enamored by this fantastical film from 1950? It all stems from Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, which was undoubtedly one of the most unique and remarkable performances in his storied film career.
Elwood is often quotable (Here, let me give you one of my cards, What did you have in mind, etc.). However, I think his innocence and perpetually pleasant demeanor is what makes him so wonderful to moviegoers, like myself, and to many of the characters in this story. He has his oddities, to be sure, but a little common courtesy and thoughtfulness is something that is often lacking in this world. Elwood is the complete epitome of that kind of individual. He always has an open invitation, he constantly insists that others enter before him, he has a penchant for giving flowers, he is the king of compliments, and he can put a positive spin on most anything (I Plan to leave. You want me to stay. Well, an element of conflict in any discussion’s a very good thing. It means everybody is taking part and nobody is left out).
Sure, his friend is a giant invisible rabbit named Harvey. So what? By the end of this film, I might be a little bit of a lunatic too, but after all, that’s being human for you. What makes us who we are, are those quirks that populate our persons. For Elwood it’s his pal Harvey, for others, it might be something more mundane than a giant invisible pal.
However, I will undoubtedly keep returning to Harvey, because it is a thoroughly enjoyable film that gives us a little lesson in life, and it certainly does not hurt that it is quite funny, in a whimsical sort of way.
As I noted already Stewart is wonderful, playing Mr. Dowd straight, but he is surrounded by an eclectic group including Josephine Hull, Cecil Kellaway, and Jesse White. They are necessary foils for his character to bump up against. Although Charles Drake and Peggy Dow are somewhat flat at times, both of them fit the sentimentality of the film just right. It’s a pity Dow was not in more films because she seems like such a lovely person on the screen. But why focus on the negative, because after all Elwood P. Dowd never would.
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