Universal Pictures is well known for its horror movies such as Dracula and Frankenstein. However, the studio also produced other kinds of films; dramas like comedies. I have the pleasure, today, to participate to The Universal Pictures Blogathon hosted by Silver Scenes. The Universal film I’ll write about is one of the most imaginative ones: Harvey, directed by Henry Koster in 1950. The movie was based on a play by Mary Chase. It stars James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Down, Charles Drake, Cecil Kellaway, Victoria Horne, Jesse White, William H. Lynn and Wallace Ford.
Harvey presents us the story of the most social and friendly person ever: Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart). Elwood is a very nice guy, but there’s something special about him: he has an imaginary friend, a giant rabbit, a “Pooka”, that only he can see. He leaves with his sister, Veta (Josephine Hull) and his niece, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne) who are both desperate by his strange behaviour. Elwood doesn’t see any anomaly in this and it’s always a pleasure for him to introduce Harvey (that’s the name of his friend) to the new people he meets. During a tea party organized by Veta, Harvey makes everybody leaves after having introduced Harvey to them. Traumatized by Elwood, they all find a pretext to leave the house. Veta, who can’t stand it anymore, decides to do something she should have done since a long time: place Elwood in a mental institution, so he can be “cured” and forget Harvey. Elvwood, who also is a very innocent man, doesn’t see any harm by being taken there. Only, think won’t turn as Veta would have wished when Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake) will misunderstand the situation and think the person with a mental issue is Veta and not Elwood. Well, I won’t say more for those who haven’t seen the film, but you can imagine it’s a movie full of surprises.
Does Elwood really has mental issues or is he just very imaginative? We’ll never know. All we can say is that, after all, we also appreciate this Harvey, and this film certainly presents us one of the best on-screen friendship. It’s a movie that tells us that nothing is wrong with imagination and that we all have the right to be friend with everyone we like, even if its a giant rabbit that nobody can see (except those who also have a great imagination). Because of James Stewart character’s, Elwood, it’s also a movie that makes us understand that we sometimes worry too much about insignificant things. Elwood is a person that appreciates life and knows how to enjoy it in its simplest way. He’s ALWAYS happy, he understands that it’s no use to be worried and angry all the time and that makes him quite a swell guy. Yes, Elwood P. Down certainly is the person everybody would like to be friend with, even if we have to compete with his best friend Harvey.
Elwood also has the strong advantage (and quality) to be played by the one and only James Stewart. Well, as he is my favourite actor, it makes me appreciate this character even more. I think I’m right when I say that this is surely one of his most appreciated performances. There’s a real sensibility in his acting and he makes us smile from the beginning until the end. Of course, I hate this when other characters are mean to him, because he’s just the most gentle person in the world. James Stewart was fortunate to receive an Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance. Unfortunately, he did not win. As IMDB informs us, Henry Koster really enjoyed working with James Stewart and says some very kind words about him: “without any doubt one of the most pleasant experiences of my life…It must have been his spirit. There was very little friction, ever, only ambition and craftsmanship and precision, just doing it right professionally. On top of that he put the whipped cream of great talent…He was always the first on the set.” (Henry Koster)
Josephine Hull, however, did won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar for her memorable performance of Veta. She was unforgettable indeed, and this award was well deserved. I believe she was very well cast. And that voice! It was so suitable for her character! All the other actors did an amazing job. I was glad to find Cecil Kellaway back, because, before seeing Harvey, I really liked him in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? I think, except Elwood, my favorite character is Myrtle Mae, played by Victoria Horne. Very tall just like James Stewart, she certainly is her uncle’s niece ! I also enjoy her little love story with Marvin Wilson (Jesse White), who doesn’t seem to be the romantic type. Of course, Veta’s scandalized reactions when she sees the two together are quite hilarious. You see, she loathes this man!
As I mentioned previously, Harvey was based on a play. Of course, I would have loved to see this one. Well, if it’s staged one day in Montreal, I’ll make sure not to miss it. Josephine Hull originally played the role of Veta in the Broadway state production before the movie was taken to the screen. Well, that leeds me to the screenplay. This one was well made. The story is very original, of course, and there is a good evolution of the characters, especially Veta. You can find some great lines in this film. Most of my favourites are said by Elwood Here are some:
1- Elwood P. Dowd: – Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “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.
This quote explain perfectly why Elwood is such a nice guy.
2- Elwood P. Dowd: – I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.
3- Elwood: – Miss Kelly, you know, when you wear my flower you make it beautiful.
He’s a charmer!
4- Elwood: Here, let me give you one of my cards. Now if you should ever want to call me, call me at this number. Don’t call me at that one, that’s the old one.
What he always says when he introduces himself to a new person.
5- Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet: – Is, is that Mrs. Frank Cummings? Doesn’t she look ghastly, I thought she was dead. I must get a closer look.
6- Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet: – Does Elwood see anybody these days?
Veta Louise Simmons: Oh, yes, Aunt Ethel, Elwood sees *somebody*.
7- Elwood: Oh, every day is a beautiful day.
8- Veta: -Oh good! Nobody here but people.
And some others! Anyway, this film/ play was brilliantly written.
Finally, I want to give good credits to the nice cinematography of this film.It is not well known for this, but the film can be visually very beautiful, especially during the final scene. Here is an image, just an image. It doesn’t tell you what happen. Anyway, I’m sure you have seen it many times. William H. Daniels is the one who created this poetic a pretty cinematography.
Harvey certainly can be credited as one of Universal’s best motion pictures. They can be proud of themselves and Henry Koster too for having directed such a beautiful movie. I read this very funny trivia on IMDB that makes us the impression that this was a nice movie to shoot: “As a joke, the cast and crew would often set a chair for the title character at lunch and order him something to eat.” (IMDB). Love this! 🙂
I invite you, of course, to discover many other great Universal Pictures’ films by reading the other entries of this very nice blogathon! Of course, a big thank to Silver Scenes for hosting it!
The Universal Pictures Blogathon Day 4