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Harvey-1950


molo14

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My first introduction to any kind of theater was via the role of Wilson in my High School production of *Harvey.* Sadly, It's been all down hill from there. ;)

 

It was the first time I became acquainted with Mary Chase's play and then the film starring Jimmy Stewart and Josephine Hull. The film has stayed with me for all these years and has become one of my all time favorites.

 

I've read some fairly deep analytical interpretations of the play but to me the film is pure whimsical fun with a few moral lessons and an overriding theme of acceptance. It is one of Jimmy Stewart's signature roles and he is perfect as Elwood P. Dowd, who pals around with a pooka named Harvey, who takes the form of a six foot three and a half inch rabbit. No one can see Harvey except Ellwood and occasionally his sister Veta played by Josephine Hull. This all becomes too much for Veta who is trying to introduce her daughter Myrtle Mae into the proper social circles. It gets to the point where Veta seeks to have Elwood committed to the local sanatorium. This all leads to a good amount of misidentification and misadventure and great fun for the viewer.

 

The film is a sure mood brightener if you're in need of such. One of the things I like about the film is that it poses the question as to what is normal, what is real and what is possible. As Elwood tells Doctor Chumley at the sanatorium:

 

Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.

 

Another great quote from Elwood:

 

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. (and I did)

 

The film is full of wonderful dialog. Some cynics might find it all a little hokey but this cynic finds it all very insightful. It may not be easily acted upon or even realistic but it is something to ponder and yes perhaps even aspire to.

 

The other central character of Veta is played wonderfully by veteran stage actress Josephine Hull. She is just delightful trying to deal with Elwood, Myrtle Mae, the doctors at the sanatorium and even Harvey all in a state of ever increasing anxious befuddlement, yet always striving to maintain the norms of accepted behavior she clings to.

 

She has some great lines too. When she narrowly escapes her own commitment she shares the following exchange with family friend Judge Gaffney:

 

Veta: Judge Gaffney, is that all those doctors do in places like that - think about sex?

 

Judge Gaffney:I don't know.

 

Veta: Because if it is they ought to be ashamed of themselves. It's all in their heads anyway. Why don't they get out and take long walks in the fresh air?

 

and another quote from Veta that shows she understands more than she lets on:

 

I took a course in art last winter. I learned the difference between a fine oil painting, and a mechanical thing, like a photograph. The photograph shows only the reality. The painting shows not only the reality, but the dream behind it. It's our dreams, doctor, that carry us on. They separate us from the beasts. I wouldn't want to go on living if I thought it was all just eating, and sleeping, and taking my clothes off, I mean putting them on..

 

In the end it all comes down to whether Veta truly wants Elwood to conform to her idea of societal norms even if it changes him forever. It's done with the help of Harvey and an astute cab driver who tells her:

 

After this he'll be a perfectly normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are!

 

This film deals with a lot of what lies in our hearts and dreams. The psychiatrists are all very sure of themselves on the surface but when pressed the head of the hospital Dr. Chumley simply wants to go to Akron. The relationship between Elwood and Veta is well played. She loves her brother very much despite all the distress he causes her and Elwood is always loyal to Veta.

 

Josephine Hull was a wonderful actress who only made a handful of films. She won the supporting Oscar for this one.

 

Heres a link to her at wikipedia:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Hull

 

Anyway *Harvey* is a wonderful film . I can watch it again and again. It offers up a lot to think about. I would like to hear any comments about it. I could be off in my interpretations of the film but not in the way it truly touches me. Who knows? Are we all just dealing with flyspecks? Maybe there are miracles leaning on lamp posts at 18th and Fairfax!

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Hi Molo!

 

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Harvey and his friend, Elwood. I love this movie, it's just enchanting. Some of my favorite moments, besides those you mention, include the exchanges between Myrtle Mae and Jessie White's hilarious hospital attendant and Veta's hysterical reaction when she sees them together. Ha ha!! Delightful movie.

 

Have you ever seen the TV production Jimmy did of the play?

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Harvey (1950) is a delightful comedy. But it is also a film that makes you think a lot. For Example, Humans don't realize great things in this world. But Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) was able to understand the extraordinary and great things in this world. Like Harvey, Elwood P. Dowd wants to make other people happy. Society was so corrupt that they couldn't realize Who is a normal human being? That's why Elwood was taken to Chumley's rest.

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Molo, you have very eloquently described how +I+ feel about this movie, only I never could have written it nearly as good as you did. Harvey is one of my favorites, and for the same reasons you describe. I enjoyed reading your expressive critique.

 

"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." (and I did)

 

This quote should be entered in the "Favorite Line From A Movie" thread. It's great.

 

bOb.

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Hi MissGoddess,

 

I'm glad you stopped by.

 

*Some of my favorite moments, besides those you mention, include the exchanges between Myrtle Mae and Jessie White's hilarious hospital attendant and Veta's hysterical reaction when she sees them together.*

 

Yes I love the way Wilson and Myrtle Mae interact and Veta's reactions to Wilson. It's so well written that there are many lines of dialog that make me smile when they come to mind. I also like the scenes between Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Kelly.

 

Heres one I got off IMDB:

 

Nurse Kelly:Well what shall I say to Mr. Dowd? What do I do? He'll probably be so furious he'll refuse to come down here.

Dr. Sanderson: Look, Miss Kelly. He's probably fit to be tied, but he's a man, isn't he?

Miss Kelly: I guess so. His name's Mister!

Dr. Sanderson: Well, then, go into your old routine. You know, the eyes, the swish, the works. I'm immune to it, but I've seen it work on some people, some of the patients out here. Now, you get him down here, Kelly, if you have to do a striptease!

 

and another one between Wilson and Myrtle Mae:

 

Wilson:I'll tell you something, Myrt.

Myrtle Mae Simmons: Yeah?

Wilson: You know, you not only got a nice build, but you got something else, too.

Myrtle Mae Simmons: Really? What?

Wilson: You got the screwiest uncle that ever stuck his puss inside our nuthouse.

 

*Have you ever seen the TV production Jimmy did of the play?*

 

No I never have. I see Jesse White came back as Wilson in that one too. Helen Hayes as Veta hmm. I wonder if they ever show that one on cable. It doesn't look like it's on video.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing your comments!

 

Hi konway87,

 

Thanks for posting your comments.

 

*Society was so corrupt that they couldn't realize Who is a normal human being? That's why Elwood was taken to Chumley's rest.*

 

Interesting point. Thanks for bringing that up.

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The film is a sure mood brightener if you're in need of such. One of the things I like about the film is that it poses the question as to what is normal, what is real and what is possible. As Elwood tells Doctor Chumley at the sanatorium:

 

*Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.*

 

One of the finest lines ever, and something I'd like to say one day.

 

I actually saw a very fine stage production here in Seattle before I saw the movie, but I just kind of fell in love with it right away-I don't know how anyone could resist! The scene towards the end where his sister finally realizes the price of him becoming a 'normal person' always makes me a little teary.

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Hi Minya,

 

Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.

 

*One of the finest lines ever, and something I'd like to say one day.*

 

Me too!

 

I was actually in real need of a "mood brightener" last night so I watched *Harvey* again. (Always good to start a thread on a film you haven't seen in awhile and *THEN* go and watch it again ;) )

It did the trick just as I'd hoped.

 

Jimmy Stewart gives a nice introduction to the film on the DVD. He talks about the impact it had on him and the public. He also had some interesting things to say about Josephine Hull and how important her performance was in making the whole film work.

 

*The scene towards the end where his sister finally realizes the price of him becoming a 'normal person' always makes me a little teary.*

 

I love that part. She tells the cab driver not to worry because of how good and kind Elwood is and the cab driver let's her know that will all change. I love how Elwood holds her in his arms and trys to calm her and says Veta's all tired out she did a lot today. It's very effective, both funny and poignant at the same time. Also, the scene where she finds her change purse and gets that look on her face and says HARVEY is just classic.

 

Thanks for your comments

 

Molo

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Molo,

 

Thank you so much for starting this thread.

 

I love *Harvey*. I enjoy the film version over the television version because by the time that Stewart did the play for television he was a tad too old.

 

There are many things I love about the film. The performances from Stewart to Josephine Hull to Jessie White and all the actors in between giving it their all.

 

But underneath the comedy is the real story for me. During the Post-War era there was the feeling that individualism was being lost and people were conforming to the standards of the day as a means of being accepted, of rising above their "station" in life and of giving up pieces of their personalities in order to get ahead at the job, at home or in the neighborhood.

 

Don Siegel explored this theme except he did it through sci-fi, *Invasion of the Body Snatchers*. The conformity of the 1950s (pod people) would lead to much of the social revolution of the mid and late 1960s.

 

*Harvey* stands as a gentle reminder that one need not give up those ideas that you hold dear in order to conform.

 

Elwood P Dowd could easily be another man in a gray flannel suit but something in Dowd's make up doesn't allow him to give up that part of his personality that makes him Dowd. He comes from a long line of cinematic eccentrics dating back to before Longfellow Deeds and going forward to Forrest Gump.

 

And like Deeds and all the non-conformists, Dowd realizes that his strength and integrity come from not being part of the norm. Not doing what is expected. But being who he is at all times allows him the freedom to not only see Harvey but to live a life on his terms. Which, when you think about it, is what we all want. Elwood understands the need to stop and smell the roses, to sometimes get off the gravy train and the importance of principals. Elwood knows there is a time for compromise and a time to stay true to those principals.

 

Faced with the decision to turn Elwood into a normal guy (which the taxi driver tells Veta "And you know what stinkers they are! ") even Veta can not make the decision to turn Elwood into something that he is not.

 

She may want social standing and the respect of the blue bloods but not at the expense of her brother's well being. Given the choice, she sides with Elwood. Which, in turn, transforms Myrtle Mae's life.

 

Myrtle Mae will be happier with Jessie White than she ever would be with a blue blood banker.

 

There is something to be said for being able to see a six foot pooka named Harvey.

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Hi Izcutter,

 

Thanks for your wonderful post. It gave me a lot to think about.

 

*But underneath the comedy is the real story for me. During the Post-War era there was the feeling that individualism was being lost and people were conforming to the standards of the day as a means of being accepted, of rising above their "station" in life and of giving up pieces of their personalities in order to get ahead at the job, at home or in the neighborhood.*

 

While the theme of individual conformity is strong in the play and film I never associated it with a broader trend in the country. It does make sense in that the post war boom created a prosperity that started a massive change in society. That led perhaps to a conformity of success manifested in the new suburbia among other things.

 

*Don Siegel explored this theme except he did it through sci-fi, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The conformity of the 1950s (pod people) would lead to much of the social revolution of the mid and late 1960s.*

 

*Invasion of the Body Snatchers* is a great film and a great concept. You leave the film with a fear of the "pod people" and of their frightening conformity. The idea of the "pod people" sinks into popular culture. You are being entertained but you are also getting a definite message here.

 

*Harvey stands as a gentle reminder that one need not give up those ideas that you hold dear in order to conform.*

 

I like that you use the term "gentle reminder". *Harvey* is more subtle and perhaps more subversive in getting it's message across. You leave the film cheering for Elwood's individuality. When Elwood describes his first meeting with Harvey it's apparent that he has already made his choice of "so pleasant" over "so smart". It's Harvey that is attracted to Elwood for that reason. The play is so well written by Mary Chase. The audience is drawn to Elwood's way of thinking. The fact that he hangs out with a Pooka is, dare I say, almost beside the point. The introduction of Harvey, an invisible, ancient and supernatural being that singles out Elwood gives his actions a certain validity in the minds of the audience (or is this just me). This is of course accepting the fact that Harvey is real which I have always done without doubt but which is always being debated it seems.

 

*And like Deeds and all the non-conformists, Dowd realizes that his strength and integrity come from not being part of the norm. Not doing what is expected. But being who he is at all times allows him the freedom to not only see Harvey but to live a life on his terms. Which, when you think about it, is what we all want. Elwood understands the need to stop and smell the roses, to sometimes get off the gravy train and the importance of principals. Elwood knows there is a time for compromise and a time to stay true to those principals.*

 

I said in an earlier post that Elwood's ideas are something to aspire to. He can make his choices because he is financially able to. He tears up his mail. Veta handles everything "important" in the running of the household. Regular people like us must conform in some ways to survive. We have to show up for work and pay our bills. It's the idea of being like Elwood that is appealing. We have to be somewhat oh so smart to survive but we want to strive to be oh so pleasant as much as we can. Can we ever truly win out over our reality, our situation in life? As you said, living a life on our own terms is something we all want.

 

*Faced with the decision to turn Elwood into a normal guy (which the taxi driver tells Veta "And you know what stinkers they are! ") even Veta can not make the decision to turn Elwood into something that he is not.*

 

*She may want social standing and the respect of the blue bloods but not at the expense of her brother's well being. Given the choice, she sides with Elwood. Which, in turn, transforms Myrtle Mae's life.*

 

*Myrtle Mae will be happier with Jessie White than she ever would be with a blue blood banker.*

 

As Veta says I know people like that, I don't want Elwood to be like that and good for Veta. You are so right. She makes the right choice defying the "conventional wisdom" of the experts, the hospital staff who, particularly through Dr. Chumley and Nurse Kelly come to realize they don't have all the "right" answers. It transforms Myrtle Mae's life and she will be happier with Wilson. This will change Veta's life too. As she says if she and Elwood and Myrtle Mae want to live with Harvey what business is it of anybody else?

 

I hope my comments made some sense. I don't want to be too didactic ;) about all this. It's such a wonderful film. A pleasure to enjoy just on the service or to dig deeper into and discuss all the ideas and possibilities it brings forth. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and please let me know if I'm missing something in my reply.

 

*There is something to be said for being able to see a six foot pooka named Harvey.*

 

There is indeed!! :)

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> I was actually in real need of a "mood brightener" last night so I watched *Harvey* again. (Always good to start a thread on a film you haven't seen in awhile and *THEN* go and watch it again ;) )

> It did the trick just as I'd hoped.

 

I'm glad it worked! :)

 

I've yet to watch it and not walk away with a grin on my face. It's happy and soothing and you have that moment where you think, yeah, I could do that. In a world where people seem to need everything so exactly defined, it's nice to blur those lines a little.

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*> There is something to be said for being able to see a six foot pooka named Harvey.*

 

There is indeed.

 

*Harvey stands as a gentle reminder that one need not give up those ideas that you hold dear in order to conform*

 

Not only that, but to try and not take yourself and life so seriously. As adults we become so entrenched in the need to have everything explained and defined-life is difficult enough without having the harsh light of reality blinding you from all corners (which is why I will never understand the allure of reality television). Harvey is also just about accepting that some things cannot be pinned down, and the world is a better place for it, if one allows oneself to believe it.

 

I'm mostly a pragmatist, but it is for that reason that I decided a long time ago that I believe in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, that Robert Johnson went to a crossroads to make a deal and that science does not explain everything.

 

I have to draw the line at the Virgin Mary appearing on a grilled cheese sandwich, however. :)

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Harvey (1950) also focuses on the value of a human being and many of extraordinary things that humans forget to notice. Let me take the character Herman Schimmelplusser. He is an old man who opens the gate for Chumley's Rest. But he is an extraordinary man like Elwood P. Dowd. He constructed the brilliant gate himself for Chumley's rest. I think Elwood is the only person who was able to recognize the brilliance of Herman. We see Elwood P. Dowd congratulating Herman Schimmelplusser. Others will just ignore by saying like this "He is just an old man." One of the brilliant things about Harvey is the Cinematography by William H. Daniels. Cinematography makes the film far more intense.

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What a lovely thing you pointed out, Konway. I love that little scene where Elwood compliments and takes the time to treat Herman like a real individual human being with dignity.

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konway87,

 

Thanks for mentioning that scene between Elwood and Herman Schimmelplusser. It is a wonderful scene. I agree with the comments made by MissGoddess.

 

*Harvey (1950) also focuses on the value of a human being and many of extraordinary things that humans forget to notice.*

 

That scene illustrates this so well. Others would simply take Mr. Schimmelplusser and his gate for granted but Elwood not only notices but is interested in both the gate and the ingenuity of the man who came up with it. Great comment.

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Harvey (1950) has lots of extraordinary subjects. Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey are able to sense many extraordinary things where they live. I showed you Herman as a major example. Other Humans can't sense happiness or win conflicts, because they live just for themselves. Elwood and his friend Harvey wants to make other people happy. For Example, Elwood says to Nurse Kelly "You are very lovely, my dear." Elwood is trying to make Nurse Kelly realize who she really is. That's where Dr. Sanderson failed. You can see Nurse Kelly says this "Some People don't seem to think so." Dr. Sanderson is a psychiatrist. But Elwood can understand human minds more than Dr. Sanderson does. Elwood and Harvey are showing examples how to fight your conflicts in this reality. Let me take Herman. His major conflict is he is old and ignored by many people in the society. He lives in that small room right next to the gate. Elwood congratulated him and invited him to dinner. Its an example of showing that hope, respect, and happiness can help a human to survive, enjoy the life, and sense extraordinary things in this world.

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One of the great things about Harvey is Playwright Mary Chase was able to write a screenplay for the film version of her play. Henry Koster was really good at directing fantasy films. The Bishop's Wife (1947) is a good fantasy film from Henry Koster. Don't Forget Driver's Speech. It makes audience think a lot. Wallace Ford (Cab Driver) says "He will be a perfectly normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are." This line has a huge key role in brilliance of the film. In the viewpoint of cab driver, A Normal Human Being has no respect and live for themselves. Cab driver also says this "They yell me. watch the lights. watch the breaks. watch the intersections." Cab driver also says this "They got no faith in me or my buggy." That is a great example of explaining a normal human being in this corrupt world.

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