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Harvey (film)

Original poster
Directed by Henry Koster
Produced by John Beck
Written by Mary Chase
Oscar Brodney
Myles Connolly (Uncredited)
Starring James Stewart
Josephine Hull
Peggy Dow
Charles Drake
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Distributed by Universal International
Release dates
  • October 13, 1950 (1950-10-13)
Running time
104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.6 million (US rentals)[1]

Harvey is a 1950 comedy-drama film based on Mary Chase's play of the same name, directed by Henry Koster, and starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull. The story is about a man whose best friend is a pooka named Harvey — in the form of a six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall invisible rabbit.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Reception 3
  • Home video release 4
  • Honors 5
  • Remakes and other uses 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Elwood P. Dowd (Stewart) is a middle-aged, amiable (and somewhat eccentric) individual whose best friend is an invisible 6' 3.5" tall rabbit named Harvey. As described by Dowd, Harvey is a pooka, a benign but mischievous creature from Celtic mythology who is especially fond of social outcasts (like Elwood). Elwood has driven his sister and niece (who live with him and crave normality and a place in society) to distraction by introducing everyone he meets to his friend, Harvey. His family seems to be unsure whether Dowd's obsession with Harvey is a product of his (admitted) propensity to drink or perhaps mental illness.

Elwood spends most of his time in the local bar, and throughout the film invites new acquaintances to join him for a drink (or to his house for dinner). Interestingly, the barman and all regulars accept the existence of Harvey, and the barman asks how they both are and unflinchingly accepts an order from Elwood for two Martinis.

Veta (Josephine Hull) and Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne)

His sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Hull), tries to have Elwood committed to a sanatorium. In exasperation, she admits to the attending psychiatrist Dr. Lyman Sanderson (Charles Drake) that, after so many years of putting up with the invisible rabbit, she sees Harvey every once in a while. This causes Dr. Sanderson to let Elwood out and lock Veta up. After sorting out the mistake, Dr. Chumley, head of the sanatorium (Cecil Kellaway) decides that to save the reputation of the sanatorium he must bring Elwood back. At one point, when her daughter asks how someone possibly could imagine a rabbit, Veta says to her "Myrtle Mae, you have a lot to learn and I hope you never learn it."

When tracked down, Elwood goes through several ordeals, although he remains largely oblivious to the plans put in place for him by Dr. Chumley, Judge Gaffney (William Lynn) and Veta Louise. In a poignant scene where Dr. Sanderson and his nurse Miss Kelly (Peggy Dow) follow Elwood into an alley at the back of his and Harvey's favorite bar, Charlie's, Elwood tells the incredible story of how he came to meet Harvey, and explains the way in which people react when they meet them. In a later scene, he gives Dr. Chumley an insight into his philosophy of life:

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.
— James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd

Elwood also explains that Harvey has the power to stop time: "Did I tell you he could stop clocks? Well, you've heard the expression 'His face would stop a clock'? Well, Harvey can look at your clock and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like — with anyone you like — and stay as long as you like. And when you get back, not one minute will have ticked by.... You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space — but any objections."

In the final scene of the film, Elwood (along with everybody else) arrives back at the hospital. By this point, Dr. Chumley is not only convinced of Harvey's existence, but has begun spending time with him on his own, with a mixture of admiration and fear.

Dr. Sanderson convinces Elwood to come into his office where he will receive a serum called Formula 977 that will stop Dowd from "seeing the rabbit". As they are preparing for the injection, Elwood's sister is told by their cab driver about all the other people he has driven to the sanatorium to receive the same medicine, warning her that Elwood will become "just a normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are." Upset by the very thought of this, Veta halts the injection by banging on the examining room door, at which point Elwood comforts her and explains her tears to others with, "Veta's all tired out, she's done a lot today."

Miss Kelly (Peggy Dow) and Dowd (James Stewart). Judge Gaffney (William H. Lynn) is in the background.

As Elwood is leaving, Dr. Chumley asks Elwood for Harvey's help, and Elwood, being the obliging fellow he is, makes no objection. Dr. Chumley, arm in arm with an invisible companion, asks 'Have you ever been to Akron?'. This implies that Harvey will now use his power to stop clocks and mystically transport Dr Chumley to a personal paradise, in Akron, Ohio.

After the gates to 'Chumley's Residence' are closed, and Elwood is leaving, he stops, turns around and has a conversation with an invisible Harvey, who is already back from his trip to Akron and reaffirms their friendship. Harvey opens the gate, and Elwood and his invisible companion saunter off towards the bus stop, following Veta and Myrtle Mae, towards the planned last stop of Charlie's Bar and another drink.

Through the film, Elwood P. Dowd looks up at Harvey. Stewart, at 6'4" decided that Harvey should be 6'8" for the film, but the script lines stating that Harvey was 6' 3.5" were unchanged from the play.[2]


  • James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd
  • Josephine Hull as Veta Louise Simmons
  • Peggy Dow as Miss Kelly, nurse
  • Charles Drake as Dr. Lyman Sanderson
  • Cecil Kellaway as Dr. William Chumley:
  • Victoria Horne as Myrtle Mae Simmons
  • Jesse White as Marvin Wilson, nurse
  • William H. Lynn as Judge Omar Gaffney
  • Wallace Ford as second Cab Driver
  • Nana Bryant as Mrs. Hazel Chumley
  • Grayce Mills as Aunt Ethel Chauvenet:
  • Clem Bevans as Herman Shimelplatzer, gatekeeper
  • Dick Wessel as Bartender Mr. Cracker
  • Harry Hines as Meegles the criminal
  • Norman Leavitt as first cab driver
  • Sam Wolfe as Mr. Minninger, Gaffney's assistant
  • "Harvey as Himself" (This credit appears on screen, and is the final shot of the film.)


TV Guide said James Stewart gave "one of his finest performances in this lighthearted film", and it currently has five out of five stars on their site.[3] The film currently holds an 83% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

Home video release

In March 1990, James Stewart recorded a special narrative introduction, that would be combined with many of the film's still photos, which would be added to the film's original release on VHS. MCA Home Video released Harvey on VHS in 1990.


Hull's performance earned her an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress; Stewart's portrayal earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Stewart later declared in an interview that Hull had the most difficult role in the film, since she had to believe and not believe in the invisible rabbit ... at the same time.

American Film Institute lists

Remakes and other uses

The play/film was made for television several times:

Producer Don Gregory purchased the merchandising and film rights to Harvey from the Mary Chase estate in 1996. In April 1999 Gregory sold the rights to Miramax Films, who beat out several high-profile bidders, including Walt Disney Pictures (represented by the producing team Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson), Universal Pictures and New Line Cinema. However, Miramax still intended to have Gregory produce Harvey. Universal was interested in having Harvey with Jim Carrey starring and Tom Shadyac directing, while New Line saw it as an Adam Sandler movie. Harvey Weinstein of Miramax was also considering Carrey and Sandler, as well as Tom Hanks. Weinstein wanted Harvey to be set in a modern setting.[5] Weinstein eventually took the project to Dimension Films, who partnered with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to co-finance. Craig Mazin was hired by Dimension in November 2001 to adapt the screenplay.[6] John Travolta entered negotiations to star in March 2003,[7] but the rights for Dimension and MGM lapsed,[8] which were picked up by 20th Century Fox in 2008.[9] Jonathan Tropper was hired to write the script, which, in August 2009, drew interest from Steven Spielberg as director. As a result, Spielberg pushed back development for an Abraham Lincoln biopic, a remake of Oldboy and an adaptation of The 39 Clues. It was then announced that Harvey would be a joint 50/50 production between 20th Century Fox and Spielberg's DreamWorks, with Spielberg and Gregory also set to produce the film. Tom Hanks, who previously worked with Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal, was considered for the lead role.[9] Spielberg had also approached Robert Downey, Jr., but in December 2009 Spielberg opted out after a dispute over his vision for the project.[10][11]

In addition, The Jimmy Stewart Museum, based in Stewart's hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, presents the Harvey Award to a distinguished celebrity tied to Jimmy Stewart's spirit of humanitarianism. Past recipients include Robert Wagner, Shirley Jones, Janet Leigh, and Rich Little.

A 1971 children's film, "Mr Horatio Knibbles",[12] also starred a giant talking rabbit, visible only to one person.

The first episode of 1975 television series The Invisible Man featured a scene with an invisible rabbit (wearing a visible collar) called "Harvey", in a cage in a laboratory.

A scene in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit has a barfly confessing, "I seen the rabbit" (meaning Roger, who is being sought as a murder suspect). He puts his arm around an invisible presence and says, "Say hello — Harvey!"

In the Farscape television series produced by The Jim Henson Company between 1999 and 2003 the main character Crichton was often "haunted" by visual-auditory hallucinations referred to as a neural-clone of his archenemy Scorpius, produced by an interactive neurochip embedded in his brain. This character is dubbed "Harvey" and called such by Crichton in direct reference to the original film.

In the video game Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, the titular protagonist has a stuffed rabbit named Harvey whom she imagines talks to her.

In 2001, the fantasy and comedy-drama film Donnie Darko was released, in which the title character is haunted by a six-foot tall rabbit named Frank.

In the cartoon series Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, the city's founder was Elwood P. Dowd.

A British law firm was partially named after the rabbit.[13]


  1. ^ 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Harvey (1950)". Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Oliver Jones (1999-04-06). "'"Miramax to redo 'Harvey.  
  6. ^ Michael Fleming (2001-11-28). "Mazin inks to pen 'Harvey' update".  
  7. ^ Michael Fleming (2003-03-11). "'"Travolta has ears for 'Harvey.  
  8. ^ Michael Fleming (2009-08-02). "Spielberg hops to 'Harvey' remake".  
  9. ^ a b Gregg Kilday; Jay A. Fernandez (2009-08-02). "Spielberg picks next directing job: 'Harvey'".  
  10. ^ Sampson, Mike (2009-12-04). "Spielberg drops Harvey". Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  11. ^ "'"Spielberg hops onto update of rabbit tale 'Harvey.  
  12. ^
  13. ^ Lucy Burton, "Manchester-firm JMW has acquired local specialist property and litigation firm Goodman Harvey, set up in 2004 by an ex-Halliwells partner and an imaginary rabbit", The Lawyer, 30 May 2013

External links

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