At a time when it seems people are arriving at detox and rehab centers by the bus load, ”quaint” is too kind a word for the whimsical approval of alcoholism displayed in Harvey, Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of dipsomaniac Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) and his invisible six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch rabbit. The movie suggests there’s nothing wrong with drinking a gallon or two of martinis and palling around with a large, imaginary animal of your choice. It’s too bad Ray Milland’s Don Birnam from The Lost Weekend never met up with a 10-foot chipmunk.
Under Henry Koster’s direction Chase’s characters are personable enough. The role of Elwood, the most benign of movie drunks (”Every day is a beautiful day”), somehow immune to hangovers, fits the molasses-voiced Stewart as snugly as a just-washed pair of woolen socks. And Josephine Hull, as his fretful sister Veta Louise (who tries to have him committed and who occasionally sees Harvey herself), tucks the show under her sleeve like a lace hankie and walks off with it (she walked off with the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, too).
In a special introduction on the tape, Stewart recalls doing Harvey on the London stage. During a matinee, a boy impatiently stood up and demanded, ”Where’s the rabbit?” I’m with the kid.