Tracy Lord (Hepburn)’s ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a tabloid reported (James Stewart) turn up a few days before her second wedding, making her question what type of woman she is and what type of man she should marry.
Fantastic cast and director George Cukor (My Fair Lady, A Star is Born) aside, the script is a masterpiece which won Donald Ogden Stewart an Oscar for best script. Stewart won Leading Actor.
It was remade in to musical High Society (1956), but it doesn’t compare to the original.
Starring James Stewart (reason 1 to watch it all year round) as kind-hearted George Bailey, who finds himself out of money and luck, unable to support his family through the festive season. Thinking they would be better off without him, George tries to take his life (reason 2 – not exactly festive). Stopped by an angel called Clarence (Henry Travers), George is shown exactly what the world would be like if he had not been born. As a result, 80% of the film is not set at Christmas (reason3).
Without wanting to give too much away, Frank Capra’s award winning film (reason 4 – it was nominated for 5 Oscars, reason 5 – it’s number 26 in the top 250 films on IMDb) walks us through one man’s life and the ways in which his small acts of kindness rippled across everyone he met.
Released after the Second World War, it unsurprisingly features a lot of patriotism and army references (reason 6). George feels helpless for not being able to fight for his country, but is reassured that his work at home in small town America has held everything together. He is as important as the people who died fighting.
This is not a film about Christmas. This is about the aftermath of the Second World War, the people who were lost during it whose lives were not spent in vain and those who were left behind trying to find meaning after so much devastation.
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.
Elwood P Dowd
I love Jimmy Stewart. I should get that out of the way to start.
So, it came as a surprise when I stumbled over this feature a couple of years ago that I hadn’t seen it sooner. Since first watching it, I have bought it for at least three separate friends and family members and am compiling a list of others I think need to see it.
Mr Stewart plays Elwood P Dowd, a well-liked man in a small town who happens to be best friends with Harvey, an invisible six-foot rabbit. Elwood describes Harvey as a Pooka, a creature from Celtic myth. Chaos ensues as Elwood’s eccentric sister worries about the affect of his actions on her daughter’s marriage prospects. His sanity is questioned and what follows is a farcical romp of a tale, with Elwood at it’s cool, calm centre.
Stewart is delightful in this role: being charming and introducing baffled family and friends to an acquaintance only he can see seems to be the part he was born to play. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but was robbed by José Ferrer.
In 2008, this film was ranked number 8 in the American Film Institutes top ten list of fantasy films. Honestly, despite its stiff competition, I’m only surprised it didn’t come higher. This film is sublime.