AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Harvey
Director: Henry Koster (Dir)
Release Date:   13 Oct 1950
Production Date:   18 Apr--6 Jun 1950
Duration (in mins):   103-104
Duration (in feet):   9,379
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Wallace Ford (The Taxi Driver)  
    William Lynn (Judge [Omar] Gaffney)  
    Victoria Horne (Myrtle Mae Simmons)  
    Jesse White ([Marvin] Wilson)  
    Cecil Kellaway (Dr. Chumley)  
    Charles Drake (Dr. [Lyman] Sanderson)  
    Peggy Dow (Miss Kelly)  
    Josephine Hull (Veta Louise Simmons)  
    James Stewart (Elwood P. Dowd)  
    (Himself) Harvey
    Nana Bryant (Mrs. Chumley)  
    Grace Mills (Mrs. Chauvenet)  
    Clem Bevans (Herman)  
    Ida Moore (Mrs. McGiff)  
    Richard Wessel (Cracker)  
    Pat Flaherty (Policeman)  
    Norman Leavitt (Cab driver)  
    Maudie Prickett (Elvira)  
    Ed Max (Salesman)  
    Grace Hampton (Mrs. Strickleberger)  
    Minerva Urecal (Nurse Dunphy)  
    Ruth Elma Stevens (Miss LaFay)  
    Almira Sessions (Mrs. Halsey)  
    Anne O'Neal (Nurse)  
    Billy Wayne (Man in car)  
    Eula Guy (Mrs. Johnson)  
    Sam Wolfe (Minninger)  
    William Val (Chauffeur)  
    Gino Corrado (Eccentric man)  
    Polly Bailey (Mrs. Krausmeyer)  
    Don Brodie (Mailman)  
    Harry Hines (Meegles)  
    Aileen Carlyle (Mrs. Tewksbury)  
    Sally Corner (Mrs. Cummings)  
    Jack Curtis    

Summary: Mild-mannered Elwood P. Dowd leaves the house for the day with his invisible six-foot-three rabbit friend, Harvey, and is secretly watched by his sister, Veta Louise Simmons, and her daughter Myrtle Mae. As Veta is planning a party that day to launch Myrtle Mae into society, she is determined to keep her peculiar and chronically inebriated brother away from the house and, to that end, telephones her friend, Judge Omar Gaffney. Gaffney immediately dispatches an employee, who slips on a newly washed floor and is knocked unconscious. Meanwhile, Elwood arrives with Harvey at Charlie's, his favorite bar. Learning of Veta's party, Elwood returns home, and by genially introducing Harvey to the women attending the party, sends them all scurrying for the door. Myrtle Mae sees her hopes for a husband leaving with them, and in desperation, Veta decides to commit Elwood to a sanitarium. On hearing Veta's story, Miss Kelly, the nurse, assigns Elwood to a room, but when a confused and upset Veta then tries to explain Elwood's case to Dr. Lyman Sanderson, he commits her instead. Sanderson then scolds Kelly and sends her to apologize to Elwood, who unsuccessfully attempts to introduce Harvey to the preoccupied staff. As he is leaving the sanitarium, Elwood encounters Mrs. Chumley, the wife of the sanitarium head, and invites her to join him for a drink. When she declines, he asks her to send Harvey to the bar if she sees him inside and identifies his friend as a "pooka." When Mrs. Chumley later reports this conversation to her husband, the doctors realize their mistake. Consulting her dictionary, Mrs. Chumley learns that a pooka is a fairy spirit that takes the form of a very large animal. In the meantime, an extremely upset Veta returns home. While she recovers upstairs, Marvin Wilson, the sanitarium attendant, comes looking for Elwood. Myrtle Mae is immediately attracted to him, and he returns her interest. Chumley then arrives and dispatches Wilson to the train station. Just as Veta announces that she is going to sue Chumley, Elwood phones from Charlie's looking for Harvey, and Chumley hurries to the bar. Back at the sanitarium, Wilson encounters the fired Sanderson, and when they realize that Chumley is overdue, Wilson, Sanderson and Kelly all hurry to Charlie's to look for him. There, Elwood explains that after a few drinks, Harvey and Chumley left for another bar. Wilson goes after him, leaving Kelly and Sanderson with Elwood. Elwood's gentle flirting with Kelly sparks Sanderson's interest in the nurse, who has long loved him. Elwood tells them he spends his days drinking with Harvey and talking to people in bars and relates the story of how he met Harvey. Wilson returns without Chumley but with the police, who convey Elwood to the sanitarium. Later, Chumley returns to the sanitarium and asks to speak privately with Elwood. After Chumley acknowledges Harvey's existence, he tells Elwood about Veta's plan to commit him. Soon afterward, Gaffney, Myrtle Mae and Veta arrive. Chumley rehires Sanderson, who then offers Elwood a serum that will make him shoulder his responsibilities and eliminate Harvey. Elwood declines, but when Veta explains how hard it has been to live with Harvey, he agrees to take the shot. While Elwood is in the examining room with Sanderson, Veta's taxi driver comes in to ask for his payment and describes the changes in people who have taken Sanderson's injection. At the thought that Elwood might stop enjoying life and become crabby, Veta stops Sanderson. Aware that Myrtle Mae is in love with Wilson, Elwood invites him to dinner. He then leaves with Harvey, but when Chumley begs him to leave Harvey behind, Elwood reluctantly agrees. Just as he passes the sanitarium gates, however, Harvey rejoins Elwood. 

Production Company: Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Henry Koster (Dir)
  Frank Shaw (Asst dir)
Producer: John Beck (Prod)
Writer: Mary Chase (Scr)
  Oscar Brodney (Scr)
  Myles Connolly (Contr to scr)
Photography: William Daniels (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun (Art dir)
  Nathan Juran (Art dir)
Film Editor: Ralph Dawson (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Hausman (Set dec)
  Julia Heron (Set dec)
Costumes: Orry Kelly (Gowns)
Music: Frank Skinner (Mus)
Sound: Leslie I. Carey (Sd)
  Joe Lapis (Sd)
Make Up: Joan St. Oegger (Hairstylist)
  Bud Westmore (Makeup)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the play Harvey by Mary Chase, as produced by Brock Pemberton (New York, 1 Nov 1944).
Authors: Brock Pemberton
  Mary Chase

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 17/10/1950 dd/mm/yyyy LP427

PCA NO: 4694
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Fantasy
  Comedy
  Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Brothers and sisters
  Drunkenness
  Imaginary creatures
  Insanity
 
Subjects (Minor): Bars
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Judges
  Nurses
  Parties
  Psychiatrists
  Rabbits and hares
  Romance
  Sanitariums
  Taxicab drivers

Note: The opening title cards read: "Universal-International presents Harvey starring James Stewart," followed by the names of Josephine Hull and ten additional cast members, ending with Clem Bevans. In the cast of characters list at the end of the film, however, Bevans' name is not included and the order of the actors is reversed, ending with Stewart and "Harvey." The end credits run over photographs of the actors, and during "Harvey's" credit, a door is shown opening and closing, indicating the exit of the invisible rabbit. In a 1945 Cosmopolitan article about the play Harvey , theatrical producer Brock Pemberton wrote that silent film comedian Harold Lloyd was willing to appear in a film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and that Preston Sturges expressed interest in purchasing the screen rights. In Jun 1947, according to LAT , Universal paid a record-breaking one million dollars for the film rights. Author Mary Chase and Pemberton were to receive $100,000 per year for ten years against one-third of the film's profits, and the start of the film was contractually delayed until the end of the play's run. Pemberton died in Mar 1950, before the start of the production.
       Before starring in the film, Stewart had played "Elwood P. Dowd" on stage during the role's originator, Frank Fay's, vacation. Josephine Hull recreated her original stage role of Veta for the film, and Victoria Horne and Jesse White also reprised their theatrical roles. This film marked White's motion picture debut. As part of her deal with Universal, Chase had the right of final approval over any actor hired to play Elwood. Among those considered for the role were Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Rudy Vallee, Joe E. Brown (who had also played the part on stage), Gary Cooper, Jack Benny, Jack Haley and James Cagney. A 17 Apr 1950 HR news item noted that Charles Drake had replaced Alex Nichol in the part of "Dr. Sanderson" when the latter was assigned to Tomahawk .
       Contemporary sources report that Chase wanted the audience to see Harvey walking with Elwood at the fadeout, because she did not "want anybody to go out of the theater thinking Elwood is just a lush. He believes in Harvey...and I think the audience ought to believe in Harvey, too." As LAT reported on 17 Dec 1950, the studio experimented with a live Harvey, a silhouette and a rabbit tail attached to the taxi driver, but rejected them all. In the Cosmopolitan article, Pemberton recalled that a giant rabbit appeared onstage only once, during the first performance of the play in Boston, and "a chill descended on the gathering, which never quite thawed out afterwards."
       Stewart received an Academy Award nomination for his performance, and Hull won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Veta. Stewart reprised his film role for a Hallmark Hall of Fame television production of the play broadcast on the NBC network on 22 Mar 1972, which co-starred Helen Hayes as Veta. According to modern sources, although Harvey did fairly well at the box office, it failed to make enough money to recoup production costs and the high cost of the film rights, but a video of the film, with an introduction by Stewart, was MCA's biggest selling classic film in 1990. In many interviews, Stewart referred to the role of Elwood P. Dowd as his favorite.
       Although in 2000 producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein announced a new adaptation of Harvey , possibly to star John Travolta, that project was never produced. In Aug 2009, Hollywood trade papers announced that Steven Spielberg was starting preproduction on another adaptation of Chase's play, written by screenwriter Jonathan Tropper and co-financed by Twentieth Century Fox and DreamWorks. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   21 Oct 1950.   
Box Office   28 Oct 1950.   
Cosmopolitan   Jul 1945.   
Daily Variety   22 Apr 1948.   
Daily Variety   12 Oct 50   p. 3.
Film Daily   13 Oct 50   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Oct 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jan 50   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Mar 50   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 50   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Apr 50   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Apr 50   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 50   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 50   p. 3, 6
Los Angeles Times   20 Jul 1947.   
Los Angeles Times   17 Dec 1950.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   21 Oct 50   p. 538.
New York Times   14 Sep 1947.   
New York Times   28 Sep 1947.   
New York Times   19 Mar 1950.   
New York Times   9 Nov 1950.   
New York Times   22 Dec 50   p. 19.
Variety   18 Oct 50   p. 6.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
Advanced Search
AFI Membership
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.