The classic stage hit gets the Hollywood treatment in the story of Elwood P. Dowd who makes friends with a spirit taking the form of a human-sized rabbit named Harvey that only he sees (and a few privileged others on occasion also.) After his sister tries to commit him to a mental institution, a comedy of errors ensues. Elwood and Harvey become the catalysts for a family mending its wounds and for romance blossoming in unexpected places.Written by
When Henry Koster married Peggy Moran in 1941, he promised her he would put her in every movie he made from then on. He did, but it was her statue. Usually it is a sculptured head on a mantelpiece or a piano or desk. In this film, we see the sculptured head of Peggy Moran in the scene (runs for almost 2 minutes without a cut) where Veta Simmons tells Judge Omar Gaffney "Omar, I want you to sue them. They put me in and let Elwood out." In this long take scene, we see the sculptured head of Peggy Moran on the table. See more »
The cab driver comes in to get Veta Louise to handle Elwoods luggage. When the orderly carries her in from the garden, there is no sign of the luggage. See more »
"In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." So says Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart), a character who combines the gentle temperament of the Dalai Lama with the martini intake of Frank Sinatra. He also seems a bit crazy, seeing as his pal is an invisible 6'3½" rabbit named Harvey, and happily introduces him to everyone he meets. While he seems harmless, his sister (Josephine Hull) wants to commit him to a sanitarium, and in a comedy of errors, gets locked up herself. From there it's a series of screwball moments, with the hospital staff trying to track down Elwood, and him oblivious to it all.
The film is a little bit of indictment of the mental health industry, with one doctor (Lyman Sanderson) jumping to harebrained conclusions and an orderly (Jesse White) aggressively putting his hands on people. He alludes to having had to take the corset off of Hull's character while stripping her, a fact that intrigues her daughter (Victoria Horne), in one creepy and awkward scene. Horne at 39 was far too old for the role (Jimmy Stewart, playing her uncle, was 42), and scenes with her and White are the low points of the film.
If it seems like just another goofball comedy in the first half, stay with it and let Elwood Dowd's benevolence sink in. He engages everyone he meets in real conversation, cares about them, and almost always invites them over to his house for dinner or for drinks. He does that not out of politeness, but actually wants and expects them to show up. The character is quite endearing, and Stewart's performance is nuanced and brilliant. In this screwball comedy, there is a real message of the importance of simple kindness, and it's delivered in a subtle way.
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