Harvey is the film that is often regarded as the one which gave James Stewart his finest performance. I’m fairly new to discovering his talents but it is certainly the finest I’ve seen so far. Harvey is an incredibly sweet and funny film which I’m certain wouldn’t work today. The central character’s innocence and kindness simply wouldn’t sit right in twenty-first century cinema. As sweet as the film is though it is also notable for having a less than favourable view of mental illness and in keeping with Hollywood movies of the time, it depicts the fear and misunderstanding which surrounded illness of the brain although it slightly rectifies its position towards the end.
Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is an overly polite and gentle man who lives with his older sister (Josephine Hull) and niece (Victoria Horne) in their mother’s old house. Despite his amiable personality, charm and kindness, his family are deeply embarrassed by Elwood and try to get him out of the house whenever they have company. The reason for their embarrassment is Elwood’s friend Harvey. Harvey himself is as friendly and polite as Elwood but he happens to be a six foot, three and a half inch invisible white rabbit whom only Elwood can see. After embarrassing Veta (Hull) for the final time, she decides it’s time to institutionalise Elwood.