Harvey (1950) – Henry Koster

James Stewart turns in yet another amazing turn, as I continue my way through DK Canada’s The Movie Book. Working on the What Else to Watch list following the recommendation of It’s a Wonderful Life, I delighted in settling in for this one.

Mary Chase adapts her Pulitzer-Prize winning stage play to the silver screen, with some help from Oscar Brodney, and under Koster’s direction, and Stewart’s charm, the story comes to life and has endured for decades.

Stewart is Elwood P. Dowd, an honest, gentle, somewhat whimsical gentleman, whose relatives, particularly his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) and her unmarried daughter, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne) view him as trouble, and most likely insane.

You see, Elwood spends most of his time in conversation, and in the company of a rabbit. A six foot three rabbit that only he can see. A rabbit named Harvey.

As Veta works to get Elwood committed so that she can take control of the estate, and perhaps save some of her family’s dignity, a chain of events is set off, a virtual comedy of errors that sees romance blossom, lives changed, and Elwood and Harvey’s friendship strengthened.

Whether or not Harvey is real is put to rest fairly early on as doors, chairs, etc. all interact with him, but there is never any real look at Harvey, and his appearance, apart from a portrait Elwood had done is left to the imagination of the viewer.

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It’s a surprisingly gentle, honest, and fun film, with lots of laughs and heart and Stewart’s performance guides that feeling through the course of the movie.

What could have descended into a goofy moronic comedy, a 90s update on it would have been offensive, I’m sure, this film realises it’s the story and the characters that make the movie work, not the existence of an imaginary creature known as a pooka.

And while Stewart is undeniably at the centre of things, the characters around him all have their own arcs, moments, and beats that make this film shine, some sixty-eight years on.

I’ve only seen this one a few times, the last time being a couple of decades ago, easy, and was happy to watch it again for the blog.

When people say they don’t make movies like that anymore, this is the kind of movie they are talking about. Earnest, joyful, not weighed down by towering budgets and visual effects, just a great story, performed by great actors.

DK Books’ The Movie Book is proving to be invaluable for classic titles that need a (re)watch, and if you pick one up yourself, you can find some amazing things to watch tonight!

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