Saturday Matinee – Harvey

Time for another Saturday matinee!  Grab your popcorn.

I adore this classic 1950 film, and Jimmy Stewart is the epitome of Elwood P. Dowd.  It was written by Mary Chase for the stage, and Stewart starred in the play for months before it was made into a film.  Josephine Hull, who played his sister, also starred in the play with him for the entire run.

Elwood P. Dowd is a middle-aged, amiable, and eccentric individual whose best friend is an invisible 6’3.5″ tall rabbit named Harvey. Harvey is a pooka, a benign but mischievous creature from Celtic mythology. Elwood has driven his sister and niece to distraction by introducing everyone he meets to his friend.  His family seems to be unsure whether Dowd’s obsession with Harvey is a product of his (admitted) propensity to drink or perhaps mental illness.

His sister Veta tries to have Elwood committed to a sanatorium. In exasperation, she admits to the attending psychiatrist Dr.  Sanderson, that, after so many years of putting up with the invisible rabbit, she sees Harvey every once in a while. This causes Dr. Sanderson to let Elwood out and lock Veta up. After sorting out the mistake, Dr. Chumley, head of the sanatorium decides that to save the reputation of the sanatorium he must bring Elwood back. At one point, when her daughter asks how someone possibly could imagine a rabbit, Veta says to her “Myrtle Mae, you have a lot to learn and I hope you never learn it.”

Stewart plays Dowd as an extremely kind man.  Towards the end of the film, he explains his philosophy of life:

The scene where Dowd describes how he met Harvey is, in my humble opinion, one of the best monologues on film.

I love this scene where Mr. Wilson, a thorough skeptic, gets a little nudge from Harvey…

Both Stewart and Hull were nominated for Oscars.  Hull won.  Forty years after the film, in 1990, Stewart talked about the film and the role:

The Jimmy Stewart Museum, based in Stewart’s hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, presents the Harvey Award to a distinguished celebrity tied to Jimmy Stewart’s spirit of humanitarianism. Past recipients include Robert Wagner, Shirley Jones, Janet Leigh, and Rich Little.

Have you had a pooka in your life?

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