Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey.
"Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be' - she always called me Elwood - 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."
A classic play which has been made into a film starring Jimmy Stewart
and a TV Movie starring Harry Anderson. Jim Parsons
has starred in it on stage as well.
Harvey himself is a giant rabbit who is also a Pooka and who is Invisible to Normals
. (To those who can see him, he is white.) He is quite friendly. He may or may not have several Stock Superpowers
Of course, since he is invisible and usually unobtrusive, his existence is frequently doubted.
His best friend is Elwood P. Dowd, who is the local useless eccentric who is living off his inheritance. He spends his days in bars, drinking and introducing people to Harvey. He wants everyone to meet Harvey, including the local socialites whom his sister wants to impress so her daughter can get married. His attempts to get everyone to meet Harvey tend to disturb the socialites, though.
After one garden party too many is wrecked this way, his sister calls an insane asylum so that she can cure Elwood of seeing and recognizing Harvey. This is made difficult because Elwood is a nice man who charms most of the hospital staff and who doesn't understand that there might be a problem. It also doesn't help that she herself also isn't quite sure whether Harvey is real or not — she just wants Harvey gone.
The questions: Does Harvey exist? Can Elwood be cured of believing in him? And is it worth it?
While the 1950 version is the most popular over five other film versions have been made and a sixth was abandoned in 2009/2010.
Harvey contains examples of:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Myrtle Mae becomes romantically attached to Wilson, a rather Jerkass caretaker at the asylum, who uses necessary force when dealing with patients, and who appalls her mother because of this.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Attempted by Sanderson, but perhaps one of the only times where it completely fails.
Dr.Sanderson: Mr. Elwood...what was your father's name?
- Ask a Stupid Question...
Dr. Sanderson: "How did you come to call him Harvey?"
Elwood: "Well, Harvey's his name."
- Basement-Dweller: Subverted. Early on, Myrtle Mae complains that Elwood is this, as he lives with his sister and won't move out or get a job. Veta at once reminds her that, since Elwood got the entire family fortune, they're the ones living with him.
- Bowties Are Cool: Harvey seems to think so, if the portrait is to be believed.
- Catch Phrase: Elwood is always introducing himself:
Elwood P. Dowd. Let me give you one of my cards. Now, use this number, not that one. That's the old one.
- He's also delighted to meet new people, even if they aren't as nice as he is (or even nice to him).
I want you to know that I'm glad to have met you.
- Character as Himself: Harvey.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Elwood, much to Veta and Myrtle Mae's dismay.
- Comically Missing the Point: Elwood does this several times throughout the story. Most notably:
I started to walk down the street when I heard a voice saying: "Good evening, Mr. Dowd." I turned, and there was this big white rabbit leaning against a lamp-post. Well, I thought nothing of that, because when you've lived in a town as long as I've lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name.
- Heck, it's even the page quote!
- Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: you can see here you can see how the boundaries between patient and therapist gradually merge Poor, poor thing. The movie’s ending seems to suggest that the therapist went insane with an inexistent Harvey and if you believe that Harvey is Real After All, Elwood ends with the real Harvey… or… something
- Department of Redundancy Department: "...And Uncle Elwood is my Uncle."
- Drink Order: "Two martinis!"
- The Fair Folk: Harvey is a pooka, a type of Celtic fairy/spirit that take the form of various animals.
- For Happiness: Elwood makes friends with everyone he can, and believes in being pleasant to all; he wins over a lot of people by being sweet to them, most everyone by the end of the movie is happier.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Attractive sales lady at a department store: What can I do for you, Mr. Dowd?
Elwood P. Dowd: What did you have in mind?
- Half Empty Two Shot: To keep Harvey in-frame.
- Hair-Raising Hare: Harvey, to Dr. Chumley.
- Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Dr. Sanderson quizzes Elwood on his extended family in the hopes of getting him to admit that Harvey was based on and named after one of them as a sort of coping mechanism; Elwood noticeably hesitates before he replies each time. But Harvey turns out to be real anyway.
- It could also be interpreted as simply being bemused at the sudden and (to him) inexplicable change of topic.
- Hospital Hottie: Miss Kelly
- Humans Are Bastards: Discussed by the cab driver when Elwood is about to receive his injection, and how said injection "transforms" pleasant, amiable human beings into irritable things who cannot be satisfied.
"After this he'll be a perfectly normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are!"
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: If you don’t count some things like the Ghost Butler or The Tape Knew You Would Say That, all the things that happens in the movie can be explained by mundane means and by believing Elwood is crazy, as Veta show us here, but the thought that Harvey is a real supernatural pooka makes it more… logical?
Wilson: Is he alone?
Mr. Cracker, the Bartender: Well, there's two schools of thought, sir.
- My Card: Anyone, anyone, Elwood meets, he gives them his card, telling them which number to call him at.
- Nice Guy: Elwood is pretty much the nicest, friendliest guy in the world.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Harvey.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Well, at least if you're a perfectly normal human being.
The Taxi Driver: ...I've been driving this route for 15 years. I've brought 'em out here to get that stuff, and I've drove 'em home after they had it. It changes them... On the way out here, they sit back and enjoy the ride. They talk to me; sometimes we stop and watch the sunsets, and look at the birds flyin'. Sometimes we stop and watch the birds when there ain't no birds. And look at the sunsets when its raining. We have a swell time. And I always get a big tip. But afterwards, oh oh...
Veta Louise Simmons: "Afterwards, oh oh"? What do you mean, "afterwards, oh oh"?
The Taxi Driver: "They crab, crab, crab. They yell at me. Watch the lights. Watch the brakes, Watch the intersections. They scream at me to hurry. They got no faith in me, or my buggy. Yet, it's the same cab, the same driver. and we're going back over the very same road. It's no fun. And no tips... After this he'll be a perfectly normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are!"
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Elwood, but he's a friendly Rich Idiot with No Day Job, and it isn't brought up much.
- In fact, his sister and niece can be seen as this as well.
- Running Gag: Elwood offering his "Card" to people who simply ignore it.
- Sanity Slippage: Veta progressively becomes more unbalanced as the story progressive, as if she's losing contact with reality and cannot make up her mind if Harvey is real or not. She gets better at the end, in that she can accept Harvey so long as Elwood stays as nice as he always is.
Dr. Chumley: "I want to observe his face as he talks to the rabbit. He does talk to it, doesn't he?"
Veta: "Yes, they discuss all things together."
Dr. Chumley: "What?"
Veta: (without changing her expression or tone from her last line) "I said yes, he does talk to it."
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The reason Harvey stayed with Elwood instead of the Asylum Director at the end, seems implied to be that he was turned off by the Director's fetish wish.
- Shipper on Deck: Elwood is so completely on board the Dr. Sanderson/Ms. Kelly train that he even believes they're together when he's first meeting them when they insist they're just coworkers. Once Wilson and Myrtle Mae are seen together, he's endorsing their pairing, too.
- A Simple Plan: Early on it's established Elwood sees a 6 foot rabbit no one else can see and his sister and niece decide to send him to the insane asylum. Given Elwood's behaviour and accepting demeanor you'd think nothing could go wrong with that strategy... and you'd be mistaken. Minor subversion is that there's an indication that Harvey himself might have something to do with things not quite going to plan.
- The rabbit's only 6' in the play, in the movie it was changed to 7' because Jimmy Stewart was too tall to look up to a 6' bunny the way he needed to.
- Six feet three and a half inches, now let's stick to the facts.
- Spooky Painting: Played for Laughs in this case. Somehow, the painter who did Elwood's portrait also saw Harvey and included him in the picture, too. It's used as a joke when Veta gives Dr. Chumley a lecture about paintings showing the reality of life, her being unaware Harvey's painting is standing where her mother's painting was.
Veta: (points at painting of Harvey) "Doctor, that is NOT my mother!"
Dr. Chumley: "Yes, well, I'm very glad to hear that."
- It could be a self-portrait, the movie never mentioned if Elwood could in fact paint, he may be very good and painted himself and Harvey. After all the movie outright admitted Elwood has a lot of free time on his hands.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: The movie shows an example with a book. Justified if you want to believe Harvey is real:
[reading from an encyclopedia] "P O O K A - Pooka - from old Celtic mythology - a fairy spirit in animal form - always very large. The pooka appears here and there - now and then - to this one and that one - a benign but mischievous creature - very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?" Beat
. 'How are you, Mr. Wilson?' Who in the encyclopedia wants to know?
- Took a Level in Kindness: Spelled out in the scene between Elwood and Dr. Chumley. The page quote sums it up nicely.
- Also Veta throughout the play, as she learns to stop fussing about her social status and being "respectable" and try to make people happy.
- Urban Fantasy
- We Want Our Jerk Back: Veta wants his brother as he is, even she had to tolerate Harvey.
- White Bunny: Harvey. If you can see him, that is.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Mr. Dowd
"You don't believe that story about the doctor sitting here, talking to a big white rabbit, do ya?"