Classic of the Week: Harvey (1950)

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Harvey is a 1950 American comedy drama film based on Mary Chase’s play of the same name, directed by Henry Koster. It starred James Stewart and Josephine Hull. The story follows a man and his best friend, a pooka named Harvey- a six foot three and a half inch tall invisible rabbit.

This is a rather clever film in the ways that it is about a man with a mental illness (possibly schizophrenia), that is portrayed both humorously and seriously. It is funny, but also makes you really think about the main character’s mental state and how a person, even then, coped with it. James Stewart is perfect as Elwood P. Dowd the protagonist. He mixes the character’s issues with both seriousness and humor. Elwood knows he sounds downright silly, but at the same time, wants people to believe him. This role was made for Stewart.

Elwood spends time in and out of a sanitarium at his sister, Veta Louise Simmons’s force. This brings viewers into showing how people (even then) with mental illness in their family. This is all done with love, stress, concern and being at one’s “end of their rope.” Josephine Hull is equally perfect as Veta.

This is not much of a children’s film, because the psychiatric disorder of Elwood would have to be explained and would just confuse young children, along with the sanitarium. Also there is drinking, talk about a man’s drinking problem and Elwood is almost given a strong injection. Overall, this film is thought provoking and hilarious and absolutely wonderful from beginning to end. 11+ 5/5

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