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Monday, March 31, 2008

Harvey: An Essential?

Much of 95total’s work has attempted to shed light on current goings-on, whether they are in the realms of technology, entertainment, or random finds, respectively. This all makes perfect sense. One of the best ways to study and/or reveal aspects of a culture is to stay one step ahead. In so doing, certain truths or patterns are revealed about our own time. But there are also some truths and patterns in life, or rather perspectives, which are timeless and should ring out in every culture. I am reminded of some of these when I watch Harvey.

The plot of the story is simple. Elwood P. Dowd is an endlessly pleasant and delightfully eccentric rich bachelor, and the most likable drunk you ever met. His equally eccentric, though not as likable, sister, however, has had enough of him, and decides to place him in an insane asylum. Her daughter, Myrtle May, cannot enter society with a man like him around. This is not because he is a drunk, but because he has a 6’3” friend named Harvey who no one else can see (well, almost no one else). To make matters worse, Harvey is a pooka, or rabbit. In moment after moment of misunderstanding brought on by the typical old movie system of never letting any character completely explain what is occurring to another, chaos takes over. Elwood’s sister winds up in the asylum, the doctor for the asylum wants Harvey to stay with him, and Elwood takes people out for drinks and invites them to dinner. In the end, of course, things wind up all right, though I won’t spoil the obvious ending for you.

What makes the movie brilliant is the character of Elwood, brilliantly played by James Stewart. He is so nice and so genuine that he clearly touches all those he talks to. He reminds us that life is quirkier than we ever imagined, and that it is for this reason that we should embrace it. In posing the question of who is really crazy in this world, the film responds by at least saying that Elwood is an ideal. All he wants to do is sit at Charlie’s, his favorite bar, with Harvey and watch the people go by, talk to a few, and make friends where strangers once stood. Here are a few quotes, both funny, amusing, and remarkably wise.

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

Dr. Chumley: This sister of yours is at the bottom of a conspiracy against you. She's trying to persuade me to lock you up. Today, she had commitment papers drawn up. She has your power of attorney and the key to your safety box, and she brought you here!
Elwood P. Dowd: My sister did all that in one afternoon. That Veta certainly is a whirlwind, isn't she?

“You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space, but any objections.”

“After this he'll be a perfectly normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are!”

“Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.”

Is it an essential? Maybe. Check out TCM to make up your own mind. It will be on in April. I say that at certain times, there’s nothing better.


don said...

too long. did not read.

Lauren Kilberg said...

Haha, admittedly I haven't finished it yet either. But....I'm looking forward to reading it. From what I can tell, it looks good.

I'm a movie buff, all the way, and am quite excited for your contributions. Welcome to the team Will!

Lauren Kilberg said...

Ok, finished it. I guess I didn't have that much left. You've spiked my interest and I plan on checking it out. I'm currently/slowly making my way through TCM's list of 25 best films of all time. I don't remember seeing Harvey on it, but it very well may be.

Randy said...

i liked ur comment. it was good. i will rent movie. thanks.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who likes Stewart, also check out The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance if you haven't already seen it.