60/60 Review #14: Harvey.

For the first time in this list, I have no idea how to react. Let's try to talk it out... starting with the plot. Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is a bit of a drunk... who happens to be best friends with a 6+ foot tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. His sister, Veta (Josephine Hull), and niece, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne), think he's totally nuts and want him committed. So they try to do just that. But thanks to some mix-ups, the mental hospital staff--including Miss Kelly (Peggy Dow), Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake), Dr. Chumley (Cecil Kellaway), and Wilson (Jesse White)--have to chase down Elwood and talk him into coming back to the sanitarium. However, Elwood is a bit of a charmer, and just talking to the guy can deter you in whatever you're doing.

In the first 20 minutes or so, I was so horribly bored. The interactions between Veta and Myrtle were so dull, and they just go on way too long. I couldn't tell if the direction wanted them to be horrible over-actors or if that was just one of those "of-the-times" kinda things. It makes me wonder because the other secondary characters are fine. Jesse White is kinda over-the-top as Wilson, but the two doctors and the nurse are decent. And dear God, Peggy Dow as the nurse (Miss Kelly) was one of the most gorgeous actresses I've ever seen.

Then there's James Stewart. To the shock of people everywhere, I've only ever seen one other James Stewart film (It's A Wonderful Life), which I haven't seen since I was a wee lad. James Stewart was fantastic in this role, and he's the only reason I stayed glued to this movie. Every scene he was in was magical, and every scene he wasn't in was... not that great. And surprisingly, there are quite a few he's not in. His little character quirks and how he portrays them are both endearing and hilarious. The way he uses his charm against his pursuers, making them believe him and distract them from what they're doing is truly fascinating.

Strangely, I can relate to those characters that were enchanted by Elwood. Random backstory time: my first girlfriend had some (self-proclaimed) issues. She's gotten better since and has apologized for what happened... but let's just say that she believed some stuff that didn't actually exist and had enough charm and charisma to make others (particularly me) believe it. I won't get into details here, but let's just say it was even more strange than a large, invisible bunny. So anyway, the point of this random aside is that I could see how these other characters were drawn in by Elwood and didn't see it as ridiculous or stretched that it could actually happen.

There was an interesting transformation I had throughout watching the film, going from bored silly at the beginning to totally engrossed by the end. By the time they were talking about injecting Elwood with the serum, my stomach was in knots and my heart was tight in my chest. I knew that the possibility of Elwood being injected was symbolic of the possible loss of imagination, friendship, and innocence. It was the threat of losing that childlike wonder and being forced into the evils of adulthood. The speech the cab driver makes when he hears what's going on and how he's always brought people up to the place and how they're different going to and come from is heartbreaking, especially when you think about what's going on at that moment.

Overall, the film is kind of uneven for me. Everything with James Stewart is phenomenal (and makes me even more excited--if that's possible--for Hitchcock Month later on). But all the stuff without him isn't all that hot, especially if it's his sister and/or niece. The dialogue is fun between the characters and how everyone gets mixed up. It's almost as if they were aiming at making a more sophisticated screwball comedy. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was a miss, but the majority of it was really good. And the film leaves you guessing whether or not Harvey is real or imaginary, which is pretty cool. So I guess my final verdict is that I liked it, but it could have been stronger (at least to me). That being said, let me give you my card...

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. That's a really strong McLovin. I was tempted to give it a Whoa, but I really didn't care for the non-Stewart scenes, and there were way too many of those. Sorry.)


  1. I think another one you need to add - perhaps to the comedy month is The Philadelphia Story. Another Jimmy Stewart and better than even Harvey. I think I just have Scott's impression of Stewart saying Harvey in my head now. Good movie, now you can say you've seen it.

  2. "Elwood, she told me, in this life you must be ever-so-clever, or ever-so-charming. All my life I have tried to be clever; I recommend charming. You may quote me"

  3. There really were some great quotes in this movie. That one, of course. There's one about the lamppost that I've forgotten, too.

  4. A great old-school film that still holds up today, and keeps a special place in my heart as I always remember the days of watching this with my pop-pop. Good Review!

  5. I didn't really care for this one as a kid, but it's one I know I need to revisit as my adult sensibilities would probably enjoy this film quite a bit.

    And you've got to see more James Stewart. Like Jess said, The Philadelphia Story is a must and check out his work with Hitchcock, especially Vertigo, which I think is his finest performance.

  6. I haven't seent his film yet - but I have it ready to watch. I think I shall watch it soon due to this positive review and the other opinionsnof other commenters! Good Job Nick - you have successfully got a viewing of HARVEY from me. Saying that, I completely agree with Jess - PHILADELHPHIA STORY is great to see you Jimmy Stewart on form. Additionally, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU - best picture winner - is great.



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