If you want to get someone into old-timey movies, Harvey is a great place to start.
Harvey tells the tale of Elwood P. Dowd (played by the legendary Jimmy Stewart) who is friends with a 6 foot pooka rabbit, invisible to everyone but him. Convinced that he’s gone mad, his sister takes him off to be committed to a sanatorium. The sister makes a passing remark to one of the resident psychiatrists, and gets locked up instead of Dowd. Hijinks ensue, as the staff attempts to bring Dowd back in. Yet, along the way, people make some interesting discoveries regarding Dowd’s friend Harvey…
Jimmy Stewart has been in a LOT of films, but his performance here is superb. His ability to feign discussion with essentially no one is incredibly convincing. Were this movie made in modern times, you’d think there had been an actor on set with him, but digitally removed during post production. As it stands, Stewart’s performance of a likable guy who doesn’t appear to have an insane cell in his body yet still talks to a seemingly invisible creature is exceptional. Even if you’re not into comedies from this era, it’s worth watching Harvey just for Stewart’s performance.
Considering the film was released in 1950, the audio and visual quality is outstanding. I’m not sure how much cleaning up was done when it was moved to DVD, but the transfer looks great. The difference in shades of grey are distinct, and there is no evidence of smearing, spotting, or ghosting as normally seen in film from this era. Voices are crisp and easy to understand, while “action” scenes are kept around the same volume as speaking scenes. You could set the volume on this film when it first starts, and not have to make a single adjustment throughout its duration…a rare thing indeed!
As with most movies from the 50′s, the majority of the shots are static and head on. Unlike most movies from the 50′s, the acting isn’t meladramatic or overdone; this is professional stuff, something that could have easily been filmed today using old equipment. The way characters react to Dowd introducing his invisible friend and the way Dowd reacts to their reactions all come across as genuine. Remember, this was 1950; some guy going around, nice as can be, saying he has an invisible 6-foot rabbit as a friend is going to freak some people the hell out. They try to scramble away from him as quickly (yet politely) as they possibly can. Dowd attempting to introduce people to Harvey is a running gag throughout the film…he only manages a handful of times to do this sucessfully, but every time he starts trying we got our hopes up. When Dowd puts his hand in the air (presumably on Harvey’s “back”) and says “I’d like you to meet my friend”, the reactions on people’s faces is pure gold every time.
Harvey is a great example of comedy in the early 1950′s. It’s clean, approaches a potentially touchy situation from a light-hearted angle, and will provide all but the most fuddy-duddy individuals a great time. If you’re having a bad day, or just want some good clean fun, I highly recommend you check this one out: it’s impossible not to be entertained.