Classic Cinema #1: Harvey

 

It feels right beginning to discuss old films on this blog with one starring James Stewart. Many know the man for two of the four films he did with Hitchcock, Rear Window and Vertigo. Practically everybody has seen him on television during the holidays when NBC does its yearly airing of It’s A Wonderful Life. Instead of talking about a film always discussed hundreds of times, I’ll start outside the box.

Harvey is the film adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize winning play about a man Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend happens to be a bunny over six feet tall only he can see. After Elwood’s sister and niece are embarrassed at an important high society party, they decide to have Elwood locked up at the local mental asylum.

The thing I love most about Harvey other than seeing yet another great performance from James Stewart is seeing what feels like a Disney film for adults. This film which is a quality and intelligent sentimental film seems to be something discontinued long ago. Nowadays, since adults feel no embarrassment about watching Disney movies or superhero films there really is no need for the sentimental film not intended for a children or family audience which is quite the loss.

It’s wonderful watching a film where an outcast repulsing people away with a pooka only he can see is finally accepted when his sister finally realizes she loves him for the great person he is and not concerned with how high society reacts to his eccentric personality. This story originally shown on stage during the late 1940s where it’s stated that any shot that makes people normal is bad is certainly before its time given that it was shown and then adapted for the big screen when people more than ever wanted to fit in to whatever group was the biggest.

The humor within this film are as strong as the sentimental parts of the film. It’s such a comedic thrill watching Elwood approaching the snottiest rich people and introducing a six foot bunny they cannot see and watching as they exit the room as fast as possible. After all these years, the image of a gorgeous painting featuring a man sitting down with a large bunny by his side is still a hilarious visual.

Harvey succeeds at everything it strives for. It’s a touching story, hilarious and a quality film that should be a must watch for any cinefile.

 

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