Harvey has to be seen to be appreciated. I’ve seen many James Stewart classics, but nothing is as unique as Harvey. Based on the 1944 play, Harvey tells the peculiar tale of a man who sees an invisible over 6ft. tall white rabbit. My only knowledge of the imaginary rabbit was from references in either Who Framed Roger Rabbit or The Simpsons. I wondered how an entire movie could be centered on an unseen character, but Harvey was far more delightful than I was expecting.
Stewart is effortlessly likeable as the charming Elwood P. Dowd. Aside from frequent drinking, his only problem is how crazy he seems walking and talking with Harvey. Harvey remains unseen throughout, but we do get a quick glimpse in a portrait. Stewart was nominated for his performance, although it’s Josephine Hull who most deserved her Oscar win for playing Dowd’s sister Veta. She’s high-strung and humorous, but Veta is first to suggest committing her brother to a sanitarium. Even though she claims to have seen Harvey as well.
Much like the play it’s based on, each character plays an important role no matter how small. There’s Veta’s neutral daughter Myrtle Mae, a judge caught in the middle, a rough around the edges orderly, will they or won’t they sanitarium workers, and their boss Dr. Chumley who begins to see Harvey himself. Although Harvey is described as a somewhat sinister sounding pooka, you can’t help but root for Dowd’s friendship as he spreads kindness wherever he goes. Harvey is a classic with an invisible friend we all could use.