Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Elwood P. Dowd
Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.
Sometimes a character from a book or film puts an arm around you and offers a long friendship. There's something about him with which you deeply identify. Something about that character that moves you and brings a smile to the face. That's how I feel about Dowd. Elwood P. Dowd. If you haven't seen the film "Harvey", released in 1950, give it a quick rental. Or if you haven't seen it in many years and forget much of it, take a second look.
"Harvey" for those who don't know, is the story of an eccentric middle age man (possibly an alcoholic) who has made a break from reality...maybe. He would disagree, of course. A delightful, friendly man, he stumbles through the world in the company of a six foot white rabbit named Harvey. Of course, Dowd would be quick to tell you Harvey isn't really a rabbit, he's a pooka.
Unfortunately, Harvey is an embarassment to Elwood's sister and so she trying to do that which she feels she should have done years ago---have Elwood committed.
A gentle film, with a big smile and a bigger heart. Maybe Elwood can explain it better himself:
"I'd just put Ed Hickey into a taxi. Ed had been mixing his rye with his gin, and I just felt that he needed conveying. Well, anyway, I was walking down along the street and I heard this voice saying, "Good evening, Mr. Dowd." Well, I turned around and here was this big six-foot rabbit leaning up against a lamp-post. Well, I thought nothing of that because when you've lived in a town as long as I've lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name. And naturally I went over to chat with him. And he said to me... he said, "Ed Hickey was a little spiffed this evening, or could I be mistaken?" Well, of course, he was not mistaken. I think the world and all of Ed, but he was spiffed. Well, we talked like that for awhile and then I said to him, I said, "You have the advantage on me. You know my name and I don't know yours." And, and right back at me he said, "What name do you like?" Well, I didn't even have to think twice about that. Harvey's always been my favorite name. So I said to him, I said, "Harvey." And, uh, this is the interesting thing about the whole thing: He said, "What a coincidence. My name happens to be Harvey."
And then there's Elwood's philosophy of life: "Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.
And then there's Elwood's explanation of how he spends his afternoons:
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. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back; but that's envy, my dear. There's a little bit of envy in the best of us.