- Directed by Henry Koster
- December 4, 1950 (Brazil) / December 21, 1950 (US)
A man believes he is friends with a 6 ft. 3 1⁄2-inch white rabbit.
Jimmy Stewart is a legend of Old Hollywood. He was an amazing actor. His gift when it came to acting was that he came off as authentic in all of his performances. You could believe him in whatever role he took. He was the perfect everyman. He did not play a particular part. He WAS that particular part.
Here Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, a kind local man who spends his time visiting area bars and introducing friends and strangers to his invisible friend Harvey who is an invisible 6 ft 3 1⁄2-inch white rabbit. It may not be clear these days, but the implication then was that Harvey is a hallucination that was a product of Elwood’s heavy drinking though in the film Elwood is portrayed as a regular drinker but not a heavy drinker. He is uncomplicated and maybe even a bit lonely in life.
Elwood and Harvey are known and accepted throughout town. They are the harmless local oddity. The same is not true in his family. Elwood is an embarrassment to his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) and niece Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne) so they seek to institutionalize him and that is when the film gets going. Complications ensue and that is when Elwood and Harvey connect to the world at large.
Harvey is clearly just present for Elwood, but interesting thing is that in this film once Elwood comes into more contact with the outside world he and Harvey begin to positively affect people. They bring together Miss Kelly (Peggy Dow) and Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake). But more importantly both have a positive impact on just about everyone they meet. Even the psychiatrist Dr. Chumley (Cecil Kellaway) is left better though a little unsettled for his interactions with Harvey and Elwood.
The implication for most of Harvey is that Harvey is a figment of Elwood’s imagination but there are moments where this is made fuzzy. Veta alludes to the fact that she sometimes becomes aware of Harvey. Dr. Chumley actually sees Harvey. And there are moments when things move and one could believe that Harvey is doing it.
The story is about people who have grown up too much to be kind and just enjoy things. They are unable to deal with imagination. Elwood and Harvey do no harm, but Veta and Myrtle Mae are embarrassed. By the end of the film, it’s framed that his sister as well as his niece are the issue and not Elwood or even Harvey. Myrtle Mae meets a nice guy working at the sanitarium and Veta comes to an understanding of the situation.
Harvey is described as a pooka, a harmless yet mischievous creature from Celtic mythology. By the end Harvey is quite real. Harvey has had his fun and made things better for a few as well.
There is a nice message here about life and imagination and not taking things too seriously. Embrace the harmlessly odd in yourself and others. Do not avoid happiness.
Harvey has some laughs but it more importantly has plenty of heart. Jimmy Stewart is in top form and all performers deliver as well. If you want something to put a smile on your face and just make you feel good check this out!