This utterly charming and occasionally hilarious film from 1950, stars James Stewart (and really, who can’t be charmed by James Stewart?!) as Eldwood P. Dowd, a genial, mild-mannered man…whose best friend is a giant rabbit named Harvey. Elwood is a great embarassment to his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) and his niece Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne), who live with him, due to his insistence on introducing everyone he meets to Harvey!
When Veta attempts to have him placed in a psychiatric institution, a mix-up occurs, and there then follows a comedy of errors, as the doctors try and chase the unwitting Elwood around town. But when they get to know him, they find that Elwood is perhaps not the only person who is charmed by Harvey’s presence…
I liked this film on a couple of levels. It is first and foremost, a gentle comedy, and Elwood is played beautifully by James Stewart. It was impossible not to like the character, and Stewart was an ideal actor for the role. The film also raised the question of whether it is necessary or right to try and cure someone of a condition that makes them happy (for there is no doubt that Elwood enjoyed Harvey’s friendship, whether it was real or not) and does not cause harm to anyone else. By the end of the movie, the viewer questions whether in fact Elwood was the one with the problem at all!
Josephine Hull was great – if a little ‘shrieky – as Veta Simmons, and injected a lot of humour into her role. I found the character of Myrtle Mae a little harder to warm to, but I don’t believe that she was intended to be a sympathetic character.
A lovely film, which will surely make you smile. I definitely recommend this.
Year of release: 1950
Director: Henry Koster
Writers: Mary Chase (play), Oscar Brodney, Myles Connolly
Main cast: James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow, Charles Drake, Cecil Kellaway, Victoria Horne, Jesse White