A Fine Production of 'Harvey,' With Josephine Hull and James Stewart, at Astor
Of course, it depends a great deal upon what you have in mind in the way of entertainment by which you would be amused. But if you're for warm and gentle whimsey, for a charmingly fanciful farce and for a little touch of pathos anent the fateful evanescence of man's dreams, then the movie version of "Harvey" is definitely for you.
As a matter of fact, we'll even wager that, if you're not in a mood for all of these, an hour and three-quarters with "Harvey" will do you a world of good. And if it does not—if a visit to the Astor, where it opened yesterday, does not send you forth into the highways and the byways embracing a warm glow—then the fault will be less with "Harvey," we suspect, than it will be with you.
For, with all due respect to the people who have done the Mary Chase play or the stage (and this includes some of the people now doing it on the screen), this genial translation of the classic, which Universal-International has turned out, possesses the novelty and vigor of a fresh theatrical surprise. Indeed, so freely flowing is the screenplay which Mrs. Chase and Oscar Brodney have prepared, so vivid and droll is the direction which Henry Koster has given it and, particularly, so darling is the acting of James Stewart, Josephine Hull and all the rest that a virtually brand new experience is still in store for even those who saw the play.
Perhaps you were one of the latter. Well, even if you weren't you certainly know that "Harvey" is a yarn about a boozer who has a giant invisible rabbit as a pal—a six-foot three and one-half inch rabbit that has become as intimate in American lore as Mary's lamb. And, of course, the matter of the story is simply what happens when the boozer's family, reduced to despair by his behavior, try to clap him into the looneybin.
That, as we say, is the matter. And out of it has been spun by Mrs. Chase and her loyal translators a skein of delicious comedy. The stupendous complications which occur when the boozer is released and his sister locked up in the nut-house are full of spirit and sport. And the ultimate agitation of various and sundry minds, so that several folks think they see the rabbit, is conducive to howling farce.
But the real virtue of this picture, as derived from Mrs. Chase's play, is its wonderfully warm and sympathetic presentation of character and its wistfully sweet appreciation of the innocence of a benevolent lush. As Elwood P. Dowd, the rabbit fancier—Harvey's companion in killing time—Mr. Stewart is utterly beguiling and disarming of all annoyance. A faint touch of seeming imbecility, which is somewhat distasteful at the start, is quickly dispelled as Mr. Stewart makes Elwood a man to be admired.
And Josephine Hull plays Elwood's sister with such hilarious confusion and daft concern that she brings quite as much to the picture as does Mr. Stewart—or his pal To be sure, Miss Hull has known Elwood—and Harvey—almost as long as has Mrs. Chase, having been in the original stage company from its uncertain start. And it would be an unhappy screen version that did not contain her rotund frame, her scatter-brained fussing and fluttering and her angelic gentleness of soul.
Victoria Horne, also from the stage play, is perfect as Elwood's timorous niece and Jesse White, another stage alumnus, is a smash as the looney-bin guard. Cecil Kellaway as an addled doctor, William Lynn as the family counselor, and Peggy Dow and Charles Drake as young attendants do their jobs cheerfully and well.
And that goes for everybody. The producers, like Harvey, have overcome not only time and space but any objections. Who could ask for anything more?
Bosley Crowther, NY Times, December 22, 1950
PS: Grande, mas mesmo grande interpretação de James Stewart (mais uma).