Archive for February 15th, 2007

This black and white comedy came to the silver screen in 1950.  Jimmy Stewart was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd, a friendly drunk with a an imaginary six foot rabbit friend named Harvey.  Josephine Hull won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as his sister, who tries to have him committed to an insane asylum.

This is a quiet little classic.   There is no sex, no violence, no  mystery, no chase scenes.  It wends its way along whimsically.  The artfulness of this movie and the excellent acting in it gets you to the point where you actually start to “see” Harvey.  One begins to root for Elwood and Harvey right around the time they unwittingly disrupt his sister’s tea party.   The problem is that everyone sees Elwood as a disturbing maniac because they are not comfortable with his relationship with Harvey.

There are some deep philosophical thoughts tucked into the bon-bons of this movie.  It makes you think about a lot of things:  the nature of reality, addiction, and what friendship is.  The amazing thing is how true and pure the relationship of friendship is between this self-confessed alcoholic and his invisible cohort Harvey.  Another lovely thing in this movie is how Elwood manages to make ordinary people feel important and special simply by being interested in them.  He approaches everyone, without fail, in a non-judgmental spirit, and genuinely seems to want to know about them.  He invites them to dinner.  Not surprisingly, he ends up making friends all over the place.

There are many truly funny moments in this movie, and some classic lines.  These are a couple of my favorites.   Elwood is talking to a psychiatrist, and says “I have wrestled with reality for 35 years and I am happy to report that I finally won out over it.”  My other favorite line, and one which we would all be well advised to meditate on, comes very near the end of the movie.  Elwood says, “My mother said to me, Elwood  (she always used to call me that, Elwood), Elwood, she said, ‘In this world you must be Oh-so-smart or Oh-so-pleasant.’  Well, for years I was smart, I prefer pleasant.”

There are good reasons why this is still a popular movie:  it is sweet, it is amusing, it is wise, it illustrates basic truths about human relationships.  I recommend it.  In fact, it is one movie I believe everybody should see, in a double feature with “Singing in the Rain.”

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