I'm sure everyone knows Jimmy Stewart from the popular Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life, but back in his day he was one of Hollywood's biggest actors! He has so many movies to his name, but to me he'll always be Elwood P. Dowd from the film Harvey.
This movie was released 65 years ago this week and is actually my #2 favorite film of all time! Set in their present of 1950 Stewart plays Mr. Elwood P. Dowd, a middle aged and slightly eccentric man. Dowd lives with his sister and niece and his best friend Harvey a six foot tall rabbit only he can see. Harvey is a "pooka", a mystical being from Celtic mythology and in this case he takes on the form of a rabbit. He goes to Dowd because of his loneliness and outcast status. When we meet Dowd believes Harvey to exist, the problem is no one else around him can see his friend. This causes quite a bit of commotion as he attempts to introduce Harvey to anyone he meets. At the bar, on the street, even at his sister's tea party where she's hoping to impress the local women of the town.
Around the middle of the film Dowd's sister attempts to lock him in a mental institution when she frighteningly admits to the doctor that she's seen Harvey too! The hilarity continues when the doctor locks up the sister instead! The film really is quite light-hearted, but it's a classic! It's from a time where stories were more character driven, and you can't help but instantly fall in love with Dowd, his family and even Harvey - though you can't decide if he's real or not!
The film was originally a stage play, and the feeling of that translates to the film well! The characters exit and enter the "stage" just as if they were in a live theater. The movie is hilarious and whimsical, filled with goofy physical comedy.
Harvey has had some pretty funny jokes throughout popular culture. The jokes are almost throwaway lines if you don't know what they're referencing.
- 1971 - The film Mr Horatio Knibbles starred an enormous rabbit that only a single character could see.
- 1975 - The Invisible Man television show featured a scene with an invisible rabbit, but visible collar, called "Harvey", in a cage in a laboratory.
- 1988 - In the popular Disney film Who Framed Roger Rabbit we meet a man at the bar who yells "I've seen the rabbit!" Which gets everyone's attention because Roger Rabbit is being sought for murder. The man then puts his arm around an invisible presence and says "Say hello Harvey!"
- 1999-2003 In the Jim Henson TV show Farscape character Chricton was haunted by visual hallucinations as a side effect of a neural chip in his brain. Chricton names the unseen presence "Harvey".
- 2001 in the well known film Donnie Darko Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title character who is haunted by a six foot tall demonic looking rabbit named Frank. We see everything from Donnie's perspective and witness Frank tell him to do some pretty awful things!
I recommend checking out the film Harvey! I know you'll enjoy it, I've seen it many times, I've even seen it performed on stage which I also recommend! When you finish with it watch Donnie Darko again, it definitely adds to the comedy and feel of the film to know where some of its inspiration came from!
Happy 65th Birthday Harvey!