» » Harvey (1972)

Short summary

Elwood P. Dowd's constant companion is Harvey, a six-foot tall invisible rabbit. To his sister, his obsession with Harvey has been a thorn in her plans to marry off her daughter. However, when she decides to put Elwood in a mental institution, a mix-up occurs, and she finds herself committed instead. It's now up to Elwood and "Harvey" to straighten out the mess.

Madeline Kahn's TV debut.

Both James Stewart and Jesse White played the same roles in the original Broadway production, the 1970 Broadway revival, and the 1950 film version as well as this television production. White created the role of Duane Wilson in the Broadway premiere, while Stewart took over for Frank Fay as Elwood P. Dowd later in the run of the play.

James Stewart has said that he was more satisfied with his performance as Elwood P. Dowd in this film than he was in the more famous 1950 screen version (Harvey (1950)).

The original Broadway production of "Harvey" by Mary Chase opened on November 1, 1944 at the 48th Street Theatre, ran for 1775 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1945.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Ohatollia
    I was surprised when I found this television version of "Harvey" on YouTube. Apparently, Hallmark Hall of Fame brought this to TV...which is odd considering how famous the earlier movie version was. Unfortunately, the print online isn't very good and isn't the easiest viewing because of this.

    As for this version, it's sadly almost exactly like the 1950 film. Apart from a curse word (which you wouldn't have had in a movie in the 50s), it's the same...with Jimmy Stewart also in the lead as well as Jesse White as the orderly. I can't see how it's an improvement in any way and lacks originality. Also, while Helen Hayes was a wonderful actress, here she isn't as good as Josephine Hull (who received the Oscar for her memorable performance). Only worth seeing if you are very curious--otherwise just stick with the original.
  • comment
    • Author: Thorgaginn
    As pointed out on the other comment on this production, Jimmy Stewart enjoyed playing the role of Elwood P. Dowd long after his Broadway stint in the part, and his movie performance. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were less and less television opportunities to see classic plays with good casts. Most of these were shown on Channel 13 (like the Lillian Hellman translation of MONTSERRAT, or the production of AWAKE AND SING with Walter Matthau). One of the productions of the period was Stewart in HARVEY (with Helen Hayes in the Josephine Hutchinson role). The cast was actually quite first rate: Jesse White repeated his role (from the original production) or Wilson. In the role of Judge Gaffney was Martin Gable, the role of Dr. Sanderson was played by Richard Mulligan, Nurse Kelly was played by Madeleine Kahn, Dr. Chumley was played by John McGiver, and the philosophical taxi driver by Fred Gwynne.

    It has to be admitted that although the cast is great, and really delivers, the final production is not as strong as the film. That's because Stewart was younger in 1950, and Ms Hutchinson was younger than Ms Hayes was in 1972. But it is a decent production, and gave another opportunity for Stewart to play opposite McGiver. John McGiver had appeared opposite Stewart in two film comedies in the 1960s, including a memorable stint in MR. HOBBS TAKES A VACATION as a bird watcher dipsomaniac. This was the last time they played off each other - and did it very well.

    It was a pleasant dramatization, but nothing to compare to the film. Still it was better than most of the programing on television in 1972.
  • comment
    • Author: in waiting
    The definitive production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Harvey" is the 1950 film version, starring James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd. Stewart knew a good role; over the next two decades, he continued to play Dowd onstage in the United States and in London ... on several occasions persuading Helen Hayes to co-star as Veta Louise. Miss Hayes had previously starred on Broadway in a flop comedy-fantasy called "Mrs McThing", by the same playwright who wrote "Harvey". Hayes was less enamoured of "Harvey" than James Stewart was (possibly because her role isn't nearly as good as his), and Stewart had increasing difficulty persuading her to join him in subsequent revivals of "Harvey".

    The 1972 TV version of "Harvey" is competently done ... but, really, why bother? The film version is better. The film version successfully "opens up" the play, whilst this TV version is still painfully stagebound.

    Jesse White, an excellent character actor, who played the asylum attendant Wilson in the original Broadway cast of "Harvey" and in the film version, repeats his role here. (For some reason, Wilson's forename has been changed for this TV version.) White was a very talented actor, but by 1972 he was too old to be playing a strong-armer who subdues maniacs. The scene in which he looks up the word "pookah" in the dictionary is too slow, and not funny at all. Marian Hailey (who?) is a complete waste of space as Myrtle Mae, admittedly an uninteresting role.

    Fred Gwynne (who appeared with Helen Hayes in the Broadway cast of "Mrs McThing") is a surprising choice to play the small but pivotal role of Lofgren, the cab driver in the play's final scene. Gwynne gives an excellent performance here; it's a shame that he will be best remembered as Herman Munster rather than for his wide range of stage roles.

    The best performance in this TV version of "Harvey" is that of John McGiver, as Dr Cholmondeley. McGiver was a character actor who (with very rare exceptions) basically spent his whole career giving variations of the same performance ... but that performance is always hilarious and delightful to watch. McGiver is very good here in his few scenes.

    I've never understood the appeal of Helen Hayes. The so-called "First Lady of the American Stage" (a title which was hung on her by a Hollywood radio show) has never impressed me in any of her roles. Her performance here is much too subdued (even in the "white slaver" scene), and she definitely drags down the pace of this production of "Harvey". Even worse is Madeline Kahn's shrill, nasal performance in a small role as a nurse.

    If you've only got room in your life for ONE giant invisible white rabbit, I urge you to skip this TV version of "Harvey" and rent the movie instead.
  • comment
    • Author: Syleazahad
    I will not make references to the play since this is a film review and not a play review.

    As a movie it is first class. Stewart plays his part quite beautifully, and the supporting cast is equally adept. Just watching Helen Hayes face whilst the singer performed at her home is a delight in itself.

    Funny, touching and memorable, it tells the story of a man who, possibly is a simpleton, or possibly not. This depends on your point of view, since he appears to be a man who see's a 6ft tall invisible rabbit in his imagination. But is it his imagination, or is it just everyone else's lack of the same that stops them from seeing it.

    By the end of the film you will be convinced one way or the other, and your guaranteed to be delighted and touched in the process.

    When interviewed some many years later, Stewart would comment that of all of the movies he had ever made, this was perhaps his favourite.

    I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone, but just watch out for my favourite part of the film where a male orderly at the hospital where his sister tries to have him committed reads from the dictionary.

    This is a film I saw many many years ago when I was young, and it has stayed with me to the point where I would say it is in my top twenty enjoyable films of all time.
  • comment
    • Author: Fenius
    What a perfect casting as Jimmy Stewart knocks the character of Elwood P. Dowd out of the park. He has the childish charm and the utter bewilderment that plays into the being of someone that everyone else thinks is crazy. Rather than viewing him as an idiot, we may actually start seeing that six foot rabbit through his eyes. This is a first rate example of a screwball comedy, but it is more than that because the script is so good (remember that this was a successful stage play before making it to the movies). It has some of the interesting TV actors from 1972, such as Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) and others like Anne Francis. Nicely done and enjoyable.
  • comment
    • Author: Still In Mind
    Stewart kept returning to Elwood P. Dowd after definitively filming "Harvey," in 1950, and this 1972 Hallmark TV production, taped shortly after a Broadway revival, catches him doing his usual, competent thing, with an attractive cast around him. Minus commercials, it's about an hour fifteen, and that betrays the cuts and revisions that have been made to Mary Chase's script. The romance between Dr. Sanderson (a miscast Richard Mulligan) and Nurse Kelly (Madeline Kahn, about to become prominent thanks to "What's Up, Doc?"), is missing. Dowd's age is moved up to 57 (Stewart was 64 and looks it), and Helen Hayes is OK as Veda, though not a patch on Josephine Hull's Oscar-winning performance, and I liked Marian Hailey's Myrtle, though retaining the romance between her and Wilson (a superannuated Jesse White, who was better in 1950) is cringeworthy. All in all, it's straightforward and entertaining, but the movie, with its exteriors and additional dialogue and Henry Koster's sympathetic direction, is superior in pretty much every way.
  • Cast overview:
    Marian Hailey Marian Hailey - Myrtle Mae Simmons
    Helen Hayes Helen Hayes - Veta Louise Simmons
    James Stewart James Stewart - Elwood P. Dowd
    Dorothy Blackburn Dorothy Blackburn - Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet
    Madeline Kahn Madeline Kahn - Nurse Ruth Kelly
    Jesse White Jesse White - Duane Wilson
    Richard Mulligan Richard Mulligan - Dr. Lyman Sanderson
    John McGiver John McGiver - Dr. William R, Chumley
    Arlene Francis Arlene Francis - Betty Chumley
    Martin Gabel Martin Gabel - Judge Omar Gaffney
    Fred Gwynne Fred Gwynne - Cab Driver
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