Towards the end of the 1950 film, Harvey, Elwood P Dowd (played by James Stewart in an Academy Award nominated role) says this:
â€śIn this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.â€ť
It is a memorable line, and one that sums up the film quite well. For the picture is filled with lots of smart people, and a few pleasant ones. It, in fact, seems to be the filmâ€™s central theme. Dowd is an alcoholic and mentally ill, all of which creates quite a disturbance throughout the film, but is ultimately washed over because he smiles a lot, allows others to pass through the door first, and speaks in a gentle, even voice.
Perhaps Iâ€™m being too unkind myself, it is after all a harmless comedy, slap stick and all. At that, it fairs well enough. The catch of the film, if youâ€™ve somehow managed to not hear it before in the 55 years since its release, or forgot to look at the picture on the front of the DVD box, is that Dowdâ€™s best friends happens to be an invisible 6 foot rabbit, named Harvey. Much of the filmâ€™s humor, and a great deal of itâ€™s heart, come from that rabbit, which the audience never sees.
The conflict comes from Dowdâ€™s sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Josephine Hall) and her daughter Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne). They have grown tired of Dowdâ€™s antics with Harvey, and the embarrassment of having such a relative has caused untold grief for their social positions. Early in the film they decide to have Dowd committed to an insane asylum. Slapstick ensues when Verta is mistaken for the crazy one.
I found it to be a fine, humorous film. All of the cast members are firing on all cylinders and create a wonderful ensemble cast. Stewart and Hall are particularly fine as Dowd and his sister. The jokes work well enough, at least they are not particularly unfunny, and are pleasant enough. I think this is where my complaint comes in; it is all just too pleasant. Even the Simmonsâ€™ are rather sweet and kind while they try to put Dowd away.