Harvey

Harvey

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.

“Main Title”

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.

  1. I had the good fortune of playing Elwood P Dowd (Stewart’s character) in a production of Harvey at my college. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a production, and the most enjoyable character I’ve ever played.

    I have a real soft spot for this story and the original film. I’m not sure it’s necessary or wise for Spielberg to remake it, and it certainly could turn out horribly (if he goes through with it). Still, I’m rather optimistic at the prospect. The story’s a great one, and Spielberg has the power to work magic. He just needs to find the sweet spot between dark, world-weary cynicism (Munich) and overripe, embarrassing juvenility (Crystal Skull).

    1. Do you think the story speaks to today’s audiences? Will they overhaul it so much that it loses its charm? I must say, Spielberg is the last person I would associate with this project. Then again, it’ll give us a new Williams score so I won’t complain about that. :)

  2. Hi Jim,

    Can you please tell me what the music is when Elwood P Dowd is in the alley outside of the bar? A bit of it plays from 33 seconds into the youtube clip above. I think it features a clarinet. It is not credited separately in the movie. Would it just be Frank Skinner music? I’d like to get the full version of this music or be directed towards some music like it. That is my favourite scene from the movie and the music sets a mood that really makes the scene work.

    Fabs

    1. Hi Fabs,

      I talked to a few people, including one who has the cue sheet for the score, and it is a Frank Skinner original tune. No sheet music for it that I know of, which is typical for stuff like this. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

      Jim

  3. It seems the song playing in the background of the bar scene is a version of the old standard “Time on My Hands” but I’ve been unable to guess who the artist is. The clarinet sounds like Pete Fountain, but to my knowledge he never recorded it.

  4. WHERE CAN I GET THE LYRICS TO MY LOVE WRITTEN BY FRANK SKINNER IN HARVEY?

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