Harvey, based on a play of the same title directed by Mary C. Chase, is a movie intended for all the fans of classic screwball comedies, and gentle, entertaining whimsy, appealing to the viewer’s imagination and moving most intimate emotions. It is an amusing comedy with a fantastic twist to it, looking oh-so-magical in the eyes of the bewitched audiences.
Due to its marvelously fresh screenplay the movie flows so gently and freely, rarely changing locations, which makes it actually looks like a stage play performed in the most vivid and subtle manner. The direction by Henry Koster is very imaginative and thorough, and the acting, particularly by James Stewart and Josephine Hull, shows their great engagement in the roles, thus making the picture much more enjoyable. It should be noted that Stewart once said that he considered playing Elwood P. Dowd as one of his most significant achievements.
Even though it presents a heartwarming story about a man, who has an imaginary 6-foot three rabbit as a friend (visible only to unique individuals?), the plot deals with some very controversial topics, considering the times, in which it premiered. There are the notions of habitual drinking, Celtic mythology, mental illness, delusions, paranoia, and magic.
After a few embarrassments Elwood P Dowd’s family tries to put him in a, so-called, loony bin, just to make sure that he wouldn’t scare more people with his illusory tales about a big rabbit companion. However, because of a hilarious turn of events, it happens so that his sister Veta is admitted as one of the patients and Elwood goes away. So the hunt begins for a lunatic on the loose. In what turns out to be a ridiculous affair filled with drinking, romance, compassion, and many laughable situations, Elwood is finally faced with a tough decision – all of his friends, relatives, and doctors urge him to take a serum and let Harvey go. Yet a deeply upset Veta, who starts banging on the examining room door, abruptly stops what was about to come out of this tricky farce.
One of the main reasons to see Harvey is the possibility to observe the wonderfully warm and truly sympathetic presentation of characters. James Stewart is irrefutably amazing as a slightly foolish, yet overly sociable and friendly, boozer and rabbit fancier. Josephine Hull gives an unforgettable performance as the loud, hysteric, and always-worried sister, who through her actions and words would probably fit into the mental hospital as well. What’s more, all of the supporting characters bring much joy to the overall experience.
To make a long story short, if you are a fan of charming and amusing comedies with a twist from the Golden Era of Hollywood you should definitely watch Harvey, as it is one of the most lighthearted and timeless pictures ever.