Here is another entry in our ongoing series of Classic Hollywood Stars who are still with us. Please enjoy their many talents!
Peggy Dow (1928-)
Peggy Dow is most well-remembered for her enchanting turn as a nurse opposite Jimmy Stewart’s disarming Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. In later life, she’s been a prominent philanthropist. She also appeared in a few lesser-known pictures including Woman in Hiding (1950), I Want You (1951), and Bright Victory (1951) worth it for classic film aficionados.
Nancy Olson (1928-)
If you’re like me, Nancy Olson stands out for two landmark films from two completely opposite ends of the spectrum. The first one is the incomparable Sunset Blvd (1950) where she played opposite William Holden. The other is that preeminent childhood classic, The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) with Fred MacMurray. I also really enjoyed her in Union Station (1950).
Ann Blyth (1928-)
Ann Blyth was in a wide variety of pictures running the gamut of musical and drama, but if she’s remembered for one film, it’s certainly her sweltering turn as the vindictive Veda in Mildred Pierce (1945). When Joan Crawford slaps her across the face, it’s the climactic moment in one of the most terrifying mother-daughter relationships ever. I’m sure she’s lovely in real life!
Jane Powell (1929-)
What a lovely performer Jane Powell is and she brightens up the frames of many a musical with her multi-talented effervescence. Some personal highlights in her career include Royal Wedding (1951) with Fred Astaire and, of course, the wonderful Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).
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.
Having a solid cast headed by James Stewart with support by Josephine Hull, the film follows the life of a very pleasant man, Elwood P. Dowd, who befriends everyone he meets. However, he has a major peculiarity in that his closest companion is a 6 foot 3 1/2 inch rabbit named Harvey. His loving but annoyed sister tries to get Dowd interned at the sanitarium. However, due to circumstances, things do not turn out as she planned. Along the way Dowd capivates and befriends many people with his simple charm. Rather then have her brother injected so he forgets Harvey, Hull’s character realizes he needs to stay the same. With everyone in a happy and content mood, Dowd walks off again with his best friend. Stewart is wonderful in this quirky role and overall the cast is very good. I have to say I was wary of this film based on the premise but after you get past the absurdity it really is enjoyable and it reels you in.