Though Pulitzer Prizes have usually gone to weightier subject matter, there once was a time when comedies were awarded the Drama prize. The first Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1918—Jesse Lynch Williams’s WHY MARRY?—was a comedy, as were later winners such as YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU and THE TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON.
In 1945, Mary Chase won the Pulitzer for her comedy HARVEY. The play was directed by Antoinette Perry (for whom the Tony Awards are named) and ran for 1,775 performances. The 1950 film stars James Stewart as the affable Elwood P. Dowd, whose friendship with a six-foot invisible white rabbit has his relatives (and everyone else, for that matter) questioning his sanity. While the slight story certainly belies its stage roots, Stewart’s gentle performance remains a delight, as does Josephine Hull’s Oscar-winning support as the sister who wants to have him committed to a mental institution.
Frank Skinner‘s charming score consists of two main themes. The first is a four-note motif on vibraphone for Harvey, which perfectly captures the hallucinatory aspect of the rabbit. These four notes also form the basis for the delightful comedic chase music used at various points throughout the film, as if everyone is chasing after an illusion. The second theme is a light-hearted string melody underscored by chirping, staccato woodwinds representing Elwood’s carefree attitude.
While Skinner’s score didn’t make the Academy’s final cut, it underscores the comedy and emotion of the story without heavy-handed Mickey Mousing or drawing attention to itself. A delightful, if brief, score.