I can’t remember the first time I watched the fantasy comedy film Harvey. I first began watching classic films in the days before Turner Classic Movies made them readily available and easier to access.
But somehow I stumbled across Harvey, this film about Elwood P. Dowd and his pooka best friend, a very tall white and invisible rabbit. I watched it many times during my childhood and since. It has never failed to lose its’ wonder or to make me laugh. Part of the reason for that is an affinity for Elwood P, as he calls himself.
Every time I view this film, I am struck by how much I admire and in some ways even wish to be like the easy-going Elwood played by James Stewart. Even though he is a chronic drinker and his sister and niece wish to commit him to a sanitarium thanks to the havoc his friendship with the invisible Harvey causes them, still he has so many exemplary character traits.
It is alluded to that Mr. Dowd used to be a man of position and some influence before this unusual friendship changed his life. But although now he has neither of these, he is happier and contented with his life. Elwood P. Dowd never meets a stranger and greets everyone as a friend, immediately inviting them into his inner circle and listening attentively to the stories of their lives.
” Dowd’s my name. Elwood P. Here, let me give you one of my cards. Now if you should ever want to call me, call me at this number. “
He is extremely considerate of others, particularly of his best friend, but also of those who don’t have his best in mind. He accepts people as he finds them, making no assumptions or demands, taking everyone at their word and trusting in their innate goodness.
“I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.”
Elwood also pays the loveliest compliments while giving the receiver, a beautiful nurse, his full attention.
“Miss Kelly, you know, when you wear my flower you make it beautiful.”
He sees the world through rose colored glasses and with the wonder and innocence of a child. Although it may seem he is ignorant to others’ thoughts and responses of his eccentricities, I believe he genuinely doesn’t worry about their opinions, glossing over anything which would create conflict.
“Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say “In this world, Elwood, you can be oh so so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart… I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
He is calm and accepting even when faced with the loss of his best friend. He respects Harvey’s right to make his own choices even if it isn’t what he would wish. He is a man of grace and kindness who believes the best of others even if they don’t deserve it.
Dr. Chumley: “This sister of yours is at the bottom of a conspiracy against you. She’s trying to persuade me to lock you up. Today, she had commitment papers drawn up. She has your power of attorney and the key to your safety box, and she brought you here!”
Elwood P. Dowd: “My sister did all that in one afternoon. That Veta certainly is a whirlwind, isn’t she?”
In the end, despite opinions that he might be a crazy drunk, he proves that love and kindness win over even the hardest, most skeptical heart.
“Well, thank you Harvey! I prefer you too.”