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There are too many aspects of Harvey to analyse. This is a typical example of a film being incredibly deceptive. On the outside the film is a light hearted comedy but when looking at it closely it is very clearly a serious social commentary of it’s time, and indeed of the present time (for the same prejudices still exist today).
Harvey is a “pooka” ( a mischievous spirit) that manifests itself as a six foot white rabbit. Only Elwood P. Dowd can see Harvey and it is from this that the underlying dark story of an alcoholic’s friendship with an invisible spirit blends itself in to comic fantasy.
The comic side to the film opens up the subject of prejudice and peoples fear of what is different from themselves. Elwood P Dowd is seen as insane by his sister, neice and the public and yet he is not a killer, he is not an angry or violent man. What he is, however, is a happy, cheerful and exremely pleasant gentleman who takes great pleasure in trying to make other people happy with the aid of a six foot white rabbit.
The film’s success, in my mind, is entirely on the shoulders of James Stewart who’s portrayal of the eccentric Elwwod P Dowd is exceptionally moving and fulfilling. He is surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast and one of the best scripts in movie history.
If this does not sound appealing to you, I urge you to watch Dowd’s comments regarding Harvey outside the bar. This speech never fails to bring a lump in my throat. Not because it is sad but because it is such an innocent speech (delivered superbly by Stewart).
To me, Harvey has a hidden message to the audience,
“Elwood P. Dowd does not see life as it is, but life as it should be!!
Shoudn’t we all see life like this?”