Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Hop to it and see Harvey. This is a very funny comedy.
The laughs are numerous, and usually prolonged, with this fine film version of the Broadway play by Mary Chase.
Josephine Hull is the real gem here in a role that earned her an Academy Award for best supporting actress.
As Veta Louise Simmons, she's at the end of her rope with younger brother Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart). Simmons and her daughter Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne) returned to live with Dowd after their their mother's death. Mom left all of her estate to Dowd.
It's then, Vera notes, that Elwood was acting "different." His best friend, and constant companion, is a white rabbit that stands more than six feet tall and is invisible to just about everyone by him. Harvey, he says, is a pooka, a fairy spirit that appears in animal form at times. Simmons is trying to get her daughter married off, but ladies of high society stay away in droves from her home because of Dowd's odd behaviour. Veta isn't keen about Elwood's habit of inviting "a lot of riff raff" to dine with them at his home. That includes bar patron Mr. Minninger, who tells Elwood he's been away a couple of times in recent years with "a job for the state" making licence plates and constructing roads.
When Simmons decides to commit Dowd to a home for the mentally ill, she ends up behind bars. It seems her stories about Harvey convince Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake) that she's the one who needs help at Chumley's Rest. Meanwhile, Dowd, who was originally checked in, is sprung free. It's only after he leaves the property that Sanderson and his boss, Dr. Chumley (Cecil Kellaway) realize they've mixed up the sibling who should be in care. They fear lawsuits and race to find Dowd.
He's not too hard to find, since he spends a lot of time in bars. But Harvey might not be the creation of Dowd's memory everyone thinks. Even Veta, on occasion, will acknowledge his unseen presence. Chumley sees possibilities in his own life where he'd like to be friends with Harvey.
While Sanderson and Chumley like to speak softly and talk in medical terms, orderly Wilson (Jesse White) is more than willing to use brute force to get patients under control. He strikes fear into Veta. She is convinced he's "a white slaver." But even he manages to notice Myrtle Mae. Romance blooms.
There's a fun, if a little strange, passive/aggressive subplot involving Samuelson and Nurse Kelly (Peggy Dow). She's keen on him, but he's oblivious to her interest. It's Dowd who shows an interest in her and gives her the attention missing from Samuelson's daily rounds.
Harvey is a very funny film about someone who's a little different. It boasts a great cast, with fine support work from William Lynn as Judge Gaffney. See this film.
FUN FACTS: Wallace Ford, who appears here as The Taxi Driver, made his last screen appearance in A Patch of Blue. That film was also reviewed on this site. It's a must see.
Charles Drake appeared as a reporter in The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart.
Jesse White had a long stint as advertising personality Maytag Repairman. He also appeared in Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood. I have to see this film!
Labels: cecil kellaway, charles drake, henry koster, james stewart, jesse white, josephine hull, peggy dow, victoria horne, wallace ford, william lynn
Reel Popcorn Junkie is a reporter with a newspaper in the province of Ontario in Canada. He began writing film reviews when he was a student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. Reel Popcorn Junkie continues to write entertainment copy for a daily newspaper, but not film reviews. Reel Popcorn Junkie always orders a regular popcorn, with no butter, when he attends the cinema.