Monday, January 26, 2009


"P O O K A - Pooka - from old Celtic mythology - a fairy spirit in animal form - always very large. The pooka appears here and there - now and then - to this one and that one - a benign but mischievous creature - very fond of rumpots, crackpots..."

Elwood P. Dowd: "Oh, you can't miss him Mrs. Chumley. He's a Pooka." Mrs. Hazel Chumley: "A Pooka? Is that something new? "Elwood P. Dowd: "No. No, as I understand it, that's something very old. "

Over the weekend I saw the movie "Harvey", starring James Stewart, and I really dug it. James Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, who is both a rumpot and a crackpot, and Harvey is his pooka. They do everything together, which mostly means hanging out in the neighborhood bars. Elwood describes his typical day to a psychiatrist:

"Harvey and I sit in the bars... have a drink or two... play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people they turn toward mine and they smile. And they're saying, "We don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fella." Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We've entered as strangers - soon we have friends. And they come over... and they sit with us... and they drink with us... and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me."

The crux of the story centers on whether Elwood’s family will have him committed, or allow him to carry on his eccentric friendship with a six foot rabbit they cannot see. Or rarely see. Elwood’s sister confesses to having seen him a time or two, as does one of the psychiatrists. So the nature of reality is uncertain, and the basis for happiness called into question. Despite his unconventional lifestyle, bar-hopping with a pooka, Elwood seems far happier and more content than any of the “normal” humans spinning themselves into a frenzy around him.

I love this movie because it seems to be asking, “Who can decide for us what a good life is, and what will make us happy?"

Indeed, Elwood's happiness is as mysterious as his invisible bunny. He says, "I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I'm with. " For this reason, Elwood says he doesn't have much use for Harvey's special powers, which are considerable:

"Well, Harvey can look at your clock... and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like, with anyone you like, and stay as long as you like, and when you get back... not one minute will have ticked by. You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space, but any objections. "

The movie was originally a play, so it's chock full of witty dialogue about white slavers, sex-crazed psychiatrists, Akron, one person being a Taurus and another person being "on the cusp," and how it's our dreams that "separate us from the beasts": "I wouldn't want to go on living if I thought it was all just eating, and sleeping, and taking my clothes off, I mean putting them on."


  1. I like this post. I have known about this movie for awhile, but never saw it. Unfortunately, Harvey the rabbit (or pooka, now that I'm enlightened), has taken on a pejorative connotation in my household thanks to my family's smirky remarks about Nate's absence. I guess the jokes on them, because apparently, it is a complement!

  2. That really stinks, for them to use the whole Harvey thing in that way. Well, now you can just tell them that Nate is a pooka!

  3. I saw it a few months ago and I have to say, Jimmy Stewart has a gift - my favorite line is when he says "[we] warm ourselves in all these golden moments.".......ahhhh

  4. That is one of my favorite lines too. And the way he says it, is just so....I agree with you. Jimmy Stewart was something special.