It is easy to understand why Harvey is such a classic it, for one, stars James Stewart whose presence is almost mandatory for an American classic of this era. Moreover, it stands up in favour of a sedately lazy way of life and the good old American right to be eccentric. Harvey is a rather charming film and by the end becomes a wholly likeable one. What starts in the first half as a shrill comedy of errors much running around and cases of mistaken identity evens out into a plea for an extraordinarily gentle and placid way of life. James Stewart gets a marvellous little soliloquy about how he and Harvey sit in the bar and people come to them summed up by his simple philosophy of I always have a fine time wherever I am, whoever I am with.
By the end, not only do we sympathise with James Stewart, but the worldview of the psychiatric patients is made to seem a far more appealing one than the everyday world. The speech by the mysterious taxi driver about how he and the patients he brings out to the asylum sit and watch sunsets, sometimes even when it is raining, but how on the way back from the asylum the cured patients shout and demand just like ordinary people, is a wonderful piece that seems to make non-conformism the most appealing way of life imaginable. Coming at the time it did, Harvey represents an upbeat post-War mentality the desire for a giddy gayness, the abandoning of reason and society, and a celebration of eccentric individuality. Equally, it is amazing that the films message, which stands up in favour of drinking, managed to get past the Hays Code.
The humour in the film comes with marvellously dry understatement. There is the wonderfully charming scene in the bar where a drunken patron goggles at James Stewart having a conversation with his invisible companion then turns to the barman and says the one on the ends paying for it. The film only gives the subtlest of indications about the reality of Harveys existence a hat with two earholes through it; the miraculous taxi driver; the encyclopaedia that has a message in it written specifically for Wilson; while at the most overt point, a door that invisibly opens but at the end, the film leaves one with the unmistakable conviction of Harveys existence.
The film was remade for several times:- in 1958 with Art Carney in an episode of The DuPont Show of the Month (1957-61); with James Stewart repeating the role in a 1972 broadcast for The Hallmark Hall of Fame (1951 ); and as the tv movie Harvey (1995) starring Harry Anderson as Elwood.
Full film available online here:-