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Still shot from the movie: Harvey.

Harvey

The frantic family of the very congenial Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) are worried about his imaginary friend rabbit Harvey. So his sister Veta Louise (Josephine Hull) tries to place him in a mental institution.

Overall Grade: B+
Violence: B+
Sexual Content: B
Language: A
Drugs/Alcohol: C+
Release Date: 13 Oct 1950
Run Time: 104
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

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In-Depth Review

When kindhearted Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) comes home early, he stumbles upon an afternoon tea hosted by his sister, Veta Louise (Josephine Hull). Since the event was intended to be a boost up the social ladder for his niece Myrtle (Victoria Horne), Elwood was purposefully left off the invited list due to an insistent belief that he is accompanied by an invisible, 6-foot-3-inch rabbit named Harvey. Veta is mortified as she helplessly watches her brother unintentionally crash the party by introducing his imaginary best friend. With the family's embarrassing secret revealed, Myrtle sees her chances of catching a husband hopping out the door--along with the alarmed guests.

Oblivious to their distress, Elwood humbly carries on through the rest of the day, always ready to extend kindness to strangers in the form of a dinner invitation or at least an offer to meet for drinks with Harvey and himself.

At wits end, Veta tries to save what is left of the family's reputation by committing Elwood to a mental institution. But as the situational comedy unfolds, Veta and some of the other "normal" people (including the resident psychologist) find their own cognitive abilities coming under the microscope. And it is a bitter pill for them to swallow when it appears the only way to tame all the high-strung insanity may be the delusional Elwood's gentle optimism.

Amid slapstick humor and plenty of laughs emerges a message of tolerance, understanding, and an appreciation for innocence and the simpler things in life. However, parents should be aware that some of the comments and attitudes portrayed are politically incorrect by today's standards, especially regarding mental health issues and the importance of marrying well. Also under scrutiny may be the emphasis placed on the need for social drinking as a way to feel comfortable and form friendships (perhaps even Harvey's?).

Yet, stellar performances by James Stewart and Josephine Hull (which earned her an Oscar) and a clever script based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play combine to deliver just what the doctor ordered--a fun, lighthearted family movie.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Overall: B+
The frantic family of a very congenial man with an imaginary friend rabbit tries to place him in a mental institution. In this gentle, family friendly comedy, characters struggle with themes of mental health issues and prejudiced behavior, although it may also offer a positive portrayal of implied alcoholism.

Violence: B+
Character wishes truck would hit another character. Man slips on soap then falls on floor. Male character in medical position is ordered to sit on woman so she can be strip-searched (no sexual implications made). Character pulled into elevator. Woman hits man with purse. Talk of character being stabbed and laying in pool of blood. Character hits his own hand with strap. Character in bar has to be restrained, fight almost breaks out.

Sexual Content: B
Sexual urges mentioned. Extra-marital affair suggested. Characters dance closely, man kisses woman’s forehead.

Language: A
Minor insults.

Alcohol / Drug Use: C+
Bar scenes with characters smoking and drinking. Man smokes cigar. Characters offered cigarettes and frequently invited to meet for drinks.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

What is the real reason for wanting Elwood in a mental institution? Who will benefit most from this arrangement—Elwood or his family?

Veta is desperate to find a husband for her daughter Myrtle, who appears destined to march down the horrible path to spinsterhood. How has society’s perception of single life changed since the depiction in this 1950’s film?

Video alternatives

K-PAX is a science fiction story of a man with a compelling delusion.

For other films featuring the incomparable James Stewart, check our reviews of Rear Window, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Harvey

Release Date: 28 August 2012

Harvey releases to home video in a Combo Pack (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy), with the following bonus extras:

- Special Introduction by star Jimmy Stewart with photographic montage

- Production Notes

- The Carl Laemmle Era

- The Lew Wasserman Era

- Theatrical Trailer

Join the Conversation

About the Reviewer: Melanie Law

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