Harvey (1950)- Henry Koster



This post is my entry in the Build-Your-Own Blogathon, in which 20 different bloggers write about films that are connected to each other.Harvey 1950 To see the complete rundown of connected films be sure to visit our host at Classic Film and TV Café. I will be picking things up here from the always delightful Silver Screenings‘ post on the 1957 musical film,Bernardine”. Luckily for me, “Bernardine” was written for the stage by Mary Chase, who also happened to write the play as well as the screenplay for the deliciously entertaining James Stewart film, “Harvey” (1950). As it turns out, there is no better reason to talk about “Harvey” than to be connected by Mary Chase, because it is her writing that is the very heart and soul of this film.

For those who don’t know, or perhaps don’t remember, this enormously pleasurable movie is about the easy-going, free-spirited, and somewhat eccentric Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart). Harvey 1950He is a middle-aged man living in his family home with his widowed older sister, Veta (Josephine Hull), and her coming of age daughter, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne). Oh yes, he also lives with his best friend, Harvey, a six foot- three and a half inch invisible rabbit, or perhaps more appropriately, a pooka. In case you didn’t know, a pooka is a Celtic folklore creature, often large in size, that can bring good or bad fortune to those he visits. For Mr. Dowd, however, Harvey is more than a good luck charm or mythical hinderance. He is his best friend. They walk together, talk together, drink together, and entertain together. They are almost inseparable, and happy to be that way.

The conflict of the story comes when Veta has had enough of Harvey 1950Harvey, and decides to have her “insane” brother committed. She takes him to a sanitarium where, through a series of adventures and misunderstandings, Mr. Dowd becomes friendly (and helpful) with much of the staff (Peggy Dow, Charles Drake, Cecil Kellaway & Jesse White). The only remaining question is whether Harvey and Elwood can help those around them before they do their very best to “help” Elwood become more “normal”- at least the way they think he should be.

“Harvey” is a film that is funny and touching, but very serious as well. The warmth and tenderness of the characters is the driving force of the picture, and here is where Mary Chase and her story and words get their chance to shine. She had already won a Pulitzer Prize for Harvey 1950Drama in 1945 when the play became such a success, and the film translates her story so well.

Of course having Jimmy Stewart and Josephine Hull leading the way doesn’t hurt one bit. This film marked one of Stewart’s five Academy Award nominations, and Hull (in one of only six film appearances) won herself a well deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Together they are an unstoppable team, who almost effortlessly bring this extremely remarkable and usual story to life. Nobody could have been better in these roles, and time as well as other stage performances of the play, have only proven this point.

The popularity of “Harvey” has decreased somewhat over the years, but the acclaim has not.Harvey Everyone who takes the time to really put in effort and see this glorious movie the way it should be watched comes away better for it. After all, we could all use a little help from a pooka now and then.

Be sure to check out all the posts for this Build-Your-Own Blogathon. Up next, see how Caftan Woman connects “Harvey” to Anthony Mann’s wonderful film “T-Men” (1947).

16 thoughts on “Harvey (1950)- Henry Koster

  1. Patricia Nolan-Hall (Caftan Woman) says:

    “Harvey” truly is a special play/movie. Uproariously funny and deeply touching.

    I think Hull’s work may be my favourite Oscar win, but where do they get that “supporting” jazz? It worked out for the best considering the leading contenders that year, but anyone watching the movie knows that dumpy, 73-year-old gal was the leading lady.

    PS: Love that poster of the movie. I gave it to my daughter one year for Christmas.


    • Paul says:

      I completely agree about Hull’s performance. Heck, even Jimmy Stewart said she had the hardest role in the film. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this one, she will always make me smile.

      PS: I jealous about the poster. I think it would look quite good in my house.


  2. Rick says:

    As you know, I’m a big James Stewart fan and I think his performance in HARVEY ranks with his best. It’s a difficult part, too, for Elwood essentially “speaks” for Harvey, too, repeating what the pooka says so the audience can follow the dialogue. Also, Stewart is masterful at playing an older character. I’d love see the TV remake he did of HARVEY when he was closer in real life to Elwood’s age.


    • Paul says:

      This certainly is one of those roles that he knew backwards and forwards. He is so at ease with Elwood, and seems to really enjoy the challenges that playing him provided. I would love to see the TV remake as well. (I’m a little surprised you haven’t tracked that down yet!)


  3. Silver Screenings says:

    The first time I saw “Harvey”, I was so desperate for the rabbit to be real. I couldn’t bear the thought of Jimmy Stewart being a little soft in the head!

    I agree with you re: Mary Chase’s characters & writing. “Harvey” is such a unique and special film. It took a special play write to develop the idea in the first place.

    Thanks for your kind mention. It’s good to see you back in the blogosphere! 🙂


    • Paul says:

      Jimmy? Soft in the head? Impossible! He sure can play it well though. It’s funny because I don’t think anyone else could have played this part so well, and I don’t think anyone else could have written the screenplay (or the play) any better. It really is one of those times that all those involved were perfectly suited.

      Thanks for pass the baton to me on this one. It’s nice to be back.


  4. The Lady Eve says:

    When I was very young this movie was shown often on TV and so I’ve seen it many times – most of them long ago, though. Not sure why it rarely airs on TCM (perhaps it was produced by the “wrong” studio), for it is, indeed, a most classic movie.

    I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Dr. Chumley – a sweet character as played by the always endearing Cecil Kellaway – knowing that Harvey left him to return to Elwood, and hoped he eventually found a pooka of his own.


    • Paul says:

      I know!! Poor Dr. Chumley. He’s never going to make it to his beer drinking picnic with his silent dream girl. Oh, well, Harvey will be happier with Mr. Dowd anyway.


  5. Cameron says:

    This movie is one of those miracles that makes you laugh/cry/smile/care/think. It’s such a tender movie. I agree; nobody could have done this as well as Mr. Stewart! I can’t wait to watch it again after reading your post!


  6. John says:

    Harvey is my favorite Stew film, it is a movie that touches the human soul.

    It is a movie that literally gives us the opportunity to reexamine ourselves as human beings, it makes us realize what is really important in our lives. Much more than a comedy.


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