One of the first movies I reviewed this year was the 1950 film, Harvey. Since publishing my review back in January, that movie has become the most disappointing one I’ve seen this year, so far. Jillian, from The Classic Film Connection, recommended I give this story a second chance by checking out the 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Since this title is a remake and since I’m participating in The “Take Two!” Blogathon (which focuses on remakes), I found the perfect opportunity to watch this movie! When I reviewed 1950’s Harvey, I questioned what the point of the story was. This is because I was confused by what the movie’s creative team was trying to say through their project. Will I be less confused by the 1972 adaptation? Keep reading if you want to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
Changes from the original film: As I said in my review of the 1950 film, there were things about Harvey I didn’t like. One of them was the medical negligence Veta experiences at Chumley’s Rest. In the 1972 version, that specific scene plays out differently. When Veta is being interviewed by Dr. Lyman Sanderson, he notices how distressed Veta appears. Her body language, tone of voice, and tears are noted by the doctor as he listens to what Veta has to say. This leads Dr. Lyman to admit Veta into the hospital for her well-being. The mix-up is presented as an example of good intentions leading to bad results. The film’s dramatic tone also helps elaborate how terrifying Veta’s experience would be.
A sense of magical realism: An element I thought was lacking in the 1950 version of Harvey was a sense of ‘magical realism’. Because the story featured a 6 foot 3 ½ inch, invisible white rabbit, I thought that aforementioned element would be automatically included in the film. In the 1972 adaptation, there was a stronger sense of ‘magical realism’ within the overall story. At the hospital, a hat with two holes on top is found in Dr. Lyman Sanderson’s office. The staff question who this hat could possibly belong to. Since the holes on the hat would allow rabbit ears to stick out, the hat itself implies Harvey does exist. This along with other strange occurrences in the story show how the film’s creative team put more effort into including ‘magical realism’.
The acting: When I reviewed the 1950 version of Harvey, I talked about James Stewart’s portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd, saying it was “laid-back” and “somewhat philosophical”. Reprising this role in the 1972 version of the story, James brought these same elements to his performance. But this time, his portrayal of Elwood reminded me of Mister Rogers from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. What I mean by this is Elwood came across as the type of man you’d want to spend hours having a conversation with. Elwood’s approachable and pleasant persona make him such a fascinating individual. If Elwood P. Dowd existed in the real world, I’d like to think he’d come up with an interesting TED Talk!
Despite appearing in the film for a limited period of time, I liked Madeline Kahn’s portrayal of Nurse Ruth Kelly! Her pleasant on-screen personality allowed her to stand out and give a memorable performance! Her interactions with the other characters also came across as realistic. After Veta was admitted to the hospital, Dr. Lyman has difficulty finding her. In a state of panic, he thinks Veta escaped. Sensing Dr. Lyman’s panic, Ruth becomes concerned. Her face has fallen from the smile she usually carries and her tone of voice contains a sense of dread. There’s even an ounce of timidness to her overall demeanor. Scenes like this one make me wish Madeline was given more on-screen appearances.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Most of the story being rehashed: When creating a remake of a pre-established story, it’s important to do two things: respect the source material that came before your project and bring your own voice to the table. In the case of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s version of Harvey, more emphasis was placed on respecting the original film. While this idea isn’t a bad one, the 1972 movie’s creative team didn’t allow themselves to create a unique identity for their project. The sets in this film looked almost exactly like they did in the 1950 film. The story, more often than not, followed the 1950 movie’s narrative, making very few deviations. While watching the 1972 version of Harvey, I wondered, at times, why this remake exists?
A televised version of a play: In my review of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire, I talked about how that title felt more like a televised play. This is because the 1987 film contained a smaller cast and a condensed story. The 1972 adaptation of Harvey also felt like a televised version of a play. Fewer locations are a reason why. In the 1950 version, Elwood is shown taking Harvey to Charlie’s Pub. Elwood simply recalls this experience in the 1972 version. What’s also important to note is how the 1972 story takes place in either the hospital or the Dowd family home.
The underutilization of Betty Chumley: At one point in the 1972 story, Elwood makes plans with Dr. Chumley’s wife, Betty, to meet at Charlie’s Pub and share drinks. But because this trip was never shown on-screen, Betty received one less on-screen appearance. Within the story, she only appeared in two scenes. Personally, I think Betty should have had a stronger significance in the film.
My overall impression:
After publishing my review of the 1950 version of Harvey, Jillian, from The Classic Film Connection, explained how the story’s point was “about the right to be uniquely yourself and live life on your own terms”. Now that I’ve seen the 1972 version of this story, I think the Hallmark Hall of Fame film did a better job at executing this idea. What worked in the movie’s favor was how the story was just a drama instead of trying to be both a drama and comedy. Scenes like Veta’s hospital admittance elaborated how terrifying her situation would be. There was also a sense of ‘magical realism’, something I thought was lacking in the 1950 film. However, the majority of the 1972 movie was a copy of the 1950 movie. In 1993, Hallmark Hall of Fame released the film, To Dance With the White Dog. Based on what I know about the story, it sounds like a version of Harvey. But this time, a man sees a white dog only he can see. Maybe I’ll write about that movie in a future review.
Overall score: 6.1 out of 10
Have you seen any version of Harvey? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame movies you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!