Author Topic: Harvey (1950)  (Read 4297 times)

Offline Antares

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Harvey (1950)
« on: June 11, 2010, 01:50:40 AM »
Harvey





Year: 1950
Film Studio: Universal International
Genre: Comedy, Classic
Length: 104 Min.

Director
Henry Koster (1905)

Writing
Mary Chase (1907)...Play
Mary Chase (1907)...Screenplay
Oscar Brodney (1907)...Screenplay

Producer
John Beck (1909)

Cinematographer
William H. Daniels (1901)

Music
Frank Skinner (1897)...Composer

Stars
James Stewart (1908) as Elwood P. Dowd
Josephine Hull (1886) as Veta Louise Simmons
Peggy Dow (1928) as Miss Kelly - Nurse
Charles Drake (1917) as Dr. Sanderson
Cecil Kellaway (1893) as Dr. Chumley
Victoria Horne (1911) as Myrtle Mae Simmons
Jesse White (1917) as Wilson - sanitarium orderly
William H. Lynn (1888) as Judge Gaffney

Review
Elwood P. Dowd: “Years ago my mother used to say to me, "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant."
Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me”.

       And so I have. I’ve started my review with this quote from the film Harvey, because it best describes the feeling you get from watching it. A sublime sense of pleasantness, that is oh so lacking in most of the films today. What also separates it from the vast majority of the cookie cutter type films and actors, who star in them today, is the ensemble cast surrounding Jimmy Stewart. Stewart may have been the lead actor, but it is Josephine Hull who steals the show. Every moment she is onscreen is a pure joy to behold. Her mannerisms, reactions and speech inflections help to create a sense of not only hilarity, but whimsy and pathos. For once, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences got it right, when it bestowed upon her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her incredible performance. Peggy Dow, Cecil Kellaway and Jesse White round out the stellar troupe of character actors, each visually unique and essential to the subtle comedic timing of the film.
   
Elwood P. Dowd: Well, anyway, I was walking down along the street and I heard this voice saying, "Good evening, Mr. Dowd." Well, I turned around and here was this big six-foot rabbit leaning up against a lamp-post. Well, I thought nothing of that because when you've lived in a town as long as I've lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name. And naturally I went over to chat with him. Well, we talked for awhile and then I said to him, I said, "You have the advantage on me. You know my name and I don't know yours." And, and right back at me he said, "What name do you like?" Well, I didn't even have to think twice about that. Harvey's always been my favorite name. So I said to him, I said, "Harvey." And, uh, this is the interesting thing about the whole thing: He said, "What a coincidence. My name happens to be Harvey."

       Elwood P. Dowd is an oddity; not only to his sister and niece, but to everyone that he meets. You see, Elwood has a mysterious friend, a six foot, three and a half inch tall friend named Harvey. Now this wouldn’t seem strange to most people, but you see, Harvey is only visible to Elwood, and did I mention he’s a white rabbit? You’re probably thinking that Elwood isn’t playing with a full deck. That’s what his sister Veta and her daughter Myrtle Mae think. And to that end, after suffering the embarrassment of Elwood’s and Harvey’s intrusion into a social event for Myrtle Mae, have decided to have Elwood committed to the Chumley Rest Home. And in the beginning, you too, will believe that Elwood’s choo-choo is off the track. He meanders through life in a most nonchalant way. The hustle & bustle of everday life hardly puts a dent into his day’s proceedings. He’s a contented man, who only sees the good in every person he meets or the positive in any situation that arises. Oh, and before I forget to tell you, Elwood likes to drink, and he spends most of his day at local taverns.
   
       The first third of the film dwells upon Veta’s attempt to get him situated at the Chumley home. When she relates to Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake) at the sanitarium, the trauma she has endured with Elwood’s imaginary accomplice, he mistakenly diagnoses her as the one in need of medical treatment, and has her admitted instead of Elwood. When he finally meets Elwood, he is taken by the calming influence of his subdued nature, and lets him leave the grounds. When the mistake is revealed to him, a frantic search is conducted, not only on the grounds, but in all of Elwood’s favorite hangouts in town. While Mr. Chumley (Cecil Kellaway), who is now afraid that Veta is going to sue him for false internment, is searching for Elwood along with the sanitarium’s heavy-handed orderly Wilson (Jesse White), Sanderson releases Veta.

Elwood P. Dowd: Harvey and I sit in the bars... have a drink or two... play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people they turn toward mine and they smile. And they're saying, "We don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fella." Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We've entered as strangers - soon we have friends. And they come over... and they sit with us... and they drink with us... and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back; but that's envy, my dear. There's a little bit of envy in the best of us.

       Throughout the rest of the film, the charming, somnambular nature of Elwood’s personality subdues anyone who tries to ensnare him. As they realize that he is a peaceful, contented man, who could not and would not hurt himself, or anyone for that matter, a longing for the kind of detached life he lives, settles in to each person. And when the outside chance of Harvey’s existence becomes a possibility at the end of the film, the viewer too becomes a little envious, and eternally hopeful that he is not an illusion. For if Harvey can bring such joy to those he touches, maybe the rat race we all participate in, in our lives, will diminish into a peaceful bunny hop. See this film, it's a tonic for the soul.


Review Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 12:00:17 AM by Antares »

Najemikon

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2010, 02:20:31 AM »
In a very odd, thinking way outside the box, this was the Fight Club of it's day!  :-[ And so much better, in any case.

Offline Antares

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2010, 02:22:16 AM »
In a very odd, thinking way outside the box, this was the Fight Club of it's day!  :-[ And so much better, in any case.

I still haven't seen Fight Club, but after this statement, I'm going to have to put it on my library queue.

Najemikon

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2010, 02:30:27 AM »
Whoa there pardner! Really, really way outside the box.

You simply have a character, who may or may not be nuts, going against society to prove to that society how direction-less it really is.

But where as Harvey has a wonderful, subtle honest optimism, Fight Club is rather grim, borderline nihilistic, blunt and it's conclusion offers very little of actual substance. It's quite clever, but it knows how clever it is and can be annoying.

In other words, Stewart's quiet ways steadily wins people over. Norton in Fight Club repeatedly hits them instead so they reconnect with their masculinity and it becomes a huge movement that gets involved in terrorism. Like a lot of Fincher's work, it's as naive as it is brutal.

Offline Antares

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2010, 02:35:30 AM »
Jon, I'm not casting aspersions upon you for the remark, it just baffled me, knowing the little I know about Fight Club.  :friends:

I was curious as to what you meant, but your answer explains it. Now I want to see that film.

Najemikon

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2010, 02:36:55 AM »
No problem, I just wanted to be clear that Fight Club is not a psuedo sequel!  :laugh: It's definitely worth seeing though. :thumbup:

Offline Achim

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2010, 06:11:25 AM »
I just wish listed Harvey. :thumbup:

A sublime sense of pleasantness, that is oh so lacking in most of the films today. What also separates it from the vast majority of the cookie cutter type films and actors, who star in them today, is the ensemble cast surrounding Jimmy Stewart.
To be fair, there is good films today as well. And even more, such cookie counter fare was also made back in the day, we just don't remember them, for a reason.

But, I'll agree if you were to point out, that the yield was better in those days ;)

Offline Antares

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2010, 03:32:31 PM »
A sublime sense of pleasantness, that is oh so lacking in most of the films today. What also separates it from the vast majority of the cookie cutter type films and actors, who star in them today, is the ensemble cast surrounding Jimmy Stewart.
To be fair, there is good films today as well. And even more, such cookie counter fare was also made back in the day, we just don't remember them, for a reason.

But, I'll agree if you were to point out, that the yield was better in those days ;)

What I was trying to convey with this statement, and I really didn't do a good job, was that back in the day, the actors who made their living as character actors, were all very unique looking and distinctive. You wouldn't call any of them glamour queens or heartthrobs. As opposed to today, where every actor has had multiple plastic surgeries giving an ensemble cast an eerie sense that they all come from a mystical land were everyone is beautiful and perfect. You could almost say Stepford. Not every person you meet in a given day is beautiful, but if you watch a film today, you would think that. Back then, the surrounding character actors looked like everyday people you would meet on the street.


I hope that explains it better.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 04:05:13 PM by Antares »

Offline Achim

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2010, 06:59:08 PM »
"They just don't make 'em anymore like they used to..."

 :)

Like I also tried to say: I basically agree. It sounded just a tad too generalized maybe(...?) and I wanted to say that we still have good ones today as well, just not as many.

Najemikon

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2010, 07:12:41 PM »
I think there was more honesty back then. That's the key difference. Also post world war two, I think America cinema responded very well to the national consciousness. A lot of films today simply lack purpose.

Offline Antares

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2010, 09:06:51 PM »
A lot of films today simply lack purpose.

 :thumbup:

But they have one purpose, to sucker the money out of the theater going public with films that insult the intelligence of the viewer.

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2010, 01:30:46 AM »
It was always the purpose of Holywood since day one, so it isn't a recent thing :shrug:

Offline Antares

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2010, 01:36:12 AM »
It was always the purpose of Holywood since day one, so it isn't a recent thing :shrug:

While it's true that the prime goal is to make money, at least Hollywood at one time cared enough to make intelligent films of quality. Today they are far and few between.

Najemikon

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2010, 01:40:48 AM »
I think they were always a business, always a production line and usually a frighteningly cynical one, but the product wasn't. Probably through lack of choice to the audience.

lyonsden5

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Re: Harvey (1950)
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2010, 04:32:02 PM »
I think there was more honesty back then. That's the key difference. Also post world war two, I think America cinema responded very well to the national consciousness. A lot of films today simply lack purpose.
and there you have it. Today's movies do the same thing. They are geared for their audience. The American people and life in general was a lot simpler in the 50s. By simpler I don't mean easier. Dad went to work at 9:00 and came home to his wife in her apron with a hot cooked dinner at 5:00. The kids went to the malt shop in the afternoon to hang out. A family picnic or going to the park to watch a baseball game was the weekend activity. You didn't need to add much to a movie to create an escape or an adventure. People didn't travel like they do today. A vacation was a trip to "the lake". A movie filmed in an exotic location or even something as "exotic" as a big city gave people something they could only dream about in their real life.

Times are different. You can't just show a picture filmed in New York and expect people to get excited. I recently watched Mogambo with Clark Gable. Such a big deal was made that it was filmed in Africa. Take a look at the 1st 35 seconds of the trailer. It tells you how the crew of actors and technicians went to this exotic land to bring you a film as you have never seen. It even has real untamed animals! Imagine today if a studio tried that.  :yawn:

Many families have two working parents now. Families are busier now. Many families don't even sit together for dinner anymore. They certainly aren't intrigued by exotic lands or big city life. They can see animals up close in high definition like the people in the 50s couldn't even imagine. People today don't have the same dreams as those of the 50s. They don't have the same values either.

Movie studios today are no different than they were 60 years ago. They give the public what they want and they profit from it. Not every movie from that era was a work of art either. There were a lot of bad movies back then. So much so they created their own genre. Look at all the B-movies from that era. Yes, they were low budget but many of them were just bad.

I should add that I am a big fan of pop corn movies. What can I say, I like it when things blow up. I also really enjoy movies from the "golden era of Hollywood" where I can watch and be amazed at just the sets, the costumes or try to imagine just what they had to do to pull off a scene.

With todays technology available to the general public it takes an awful lot to give that same public an escape, an adventure or a fantasy in a movie. I can't even imagine what it will take to continue with the fantasy of movie making in another 50 or 60 years.