James Stewart-Elwood P. Dowd
Josephine Hull-Veta Louise Simmons
Peggy Dow-Miss Kelly
Charles Drake-Dr. Lyman Sanderson
Cecil Kellaway-Dr. Willie Chumley
Victoria Horne-Myrtle Mae Simmons
Jesse White-Marvin Wilson
William H. Lynn-Judge Omar Gaffney
Wallace Ford-P.J. Lofgren, Taxi Driver
Nana Bryant-Mrs. Ethel Chumley
Grayce Mills-Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet
Clem Bevans-Herman Schimmelplusser
This excellent lighthearted film was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning hit play written by Mary Chase. Josephine Hull won a best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd’s long suffering sister Veta Louise Simmons. James Stewart, who plays Dowd, was nominated for best actor in this 1950 film but lost out to Jose Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac.
Elwood P. Dowd is a friendly, likeable drunk who has a best friend named Harvey, a six foot three and a half inch invisible white rabbit. This movie was made back in the days when alcoholics could be likeable, unlike the era of intolerance we live in today where it seems as if everyone is a crusader for or against some real or perceived social or ecological issue. People have written disputing that Elwood P. Dowd is a drunk because you never see him take a drink during the movie. While it is true that you don’t see him taking a drink in movie, you have to assume that he orders all those martinis for some reason. You also have to assume that he hides bottles in his bookcase at home for some reason, too.
Harvey is a pooka, which is described in the movie as, “From old Celtic mythology, a fairy spirit in animal form, always very large. The pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and….”
Jesse White does a good job portraying Marvin Wilson, the psychiatric orderly who totally mistrusts Elwood P. Dowd and isn’t fond of him as the other characters in the movie seem to be. Veta Simmons’ daughter, Myrtle May Simmons, is played by Victoria Horne. She is frustrated in her attempts to meet eligible gentlemen and blames her lack of suitable callers on Elwood and his large rabbit. She meets her soul mate in the form of Marvin Wilson, however.
Elwood P. Dowd tries, all through the movie, to introduce Harvey to everyone he meets but the only one who eventually sees him is Dr. Chumley, the psychiatrist. Dowd’s sister Veta sometimes acknowledges the existence of Harvey but only when she’s under extreme stress.
Some people may say that this movie is dated and out of touch with today’s reality but maybe that’s what gives it its charm.
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