Harvey Short review (1950)

Not a big movie, but an entertaining one, Harvey provides light comedy and that certain warm fuzzy feeling that movies sometime provide. That’s appropriate since the movie revolves around Elwood P. Dowd’s 6’3″ invisible rabbit friend named Harvey. Okay, actually he’s a pooka. What’s a pooka? Watch the film. It’s worth it.

Cecil Kellaway as Dr. Chumley with his patient Elwood P. Dowd (Stewart).

I would think Terry Gilliam would have to love this movie. It captures that reality vs. the imagination that he attempts in just about all of his films, but here it stays on point from start to finish. The film relies heavily on the quirks of the various characters. If it were remade today this probably would have featured a ‘zany’ CGI rabbit a la Garfield, Scooby Doo and Marmaduke. pray that never happens.

The actors performances and the audience’s imagination are what’s most important here. James (Jimmy) Stewart is at his most friendly in this. He’s supposedly a drunk, but despite ending up in a pub very often, he never seems to have drunk more than a ginger ale. It’s easy to see why he was so popular in his heyday.

The other actors in this help to make it worthwhile. Veteran character actor Jesse White is deadpan funny as the bullheaded Wilson. It’s funny that his character doesn’t really listen to reason  given the fact he works in a sanitarium.

Hull with Victoria Horne...

Josephine Hull also stands out as Veta, Elwood’s loopy sister, who tries to have him committed (and not out of malice). She and the other characters surrounding Elwood are, by far, crazier than Elwood himself. Even the doctors wouldn’t pass a competency test in this.

Harvey holds up very well for a film made in 1950. It takes place largely at 3 locations: Dowd’s home, the sanitarium and the pub. It’s filmed in the way movies used to be lit and shot. The final shot especially is nicely designed. I haven’t seen many films by director Henry Koster, but after seeing Harvey I would like to.

4.5 of 5 whatevers, easy. It’s a classic.


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