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January 20, 2010

A Plea for Harvey: 1950’s classic film remake

Dear Powers-That-Be at 20th Century Fox Studios,

Rumours have been swirling for a while now about a possible remake of the 1950 classic film Harvey. In case you have forgotten about the original, I’ll remind you that it starred the late, great Jimmy Stewart, and is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Mary Chase. It is the beautifully simple, innocent story of Elwood P. Dowd and his friend Harvey, a 6-foot, 3 ½-inch tall white rabbit, invisible to all but Elwood. There is nothing fancy about this film. No really clever special effects (beyond the moving dictionary letters), no blue screens, no CGI, no photoshop…nothing but Jimmy Stewart and the rest of the cast, banding together to tell a wonderful story.

The initial rumour had Steven Spielberg set to direct, and thankfully, he has backed off. Several different reasons have been given for this, and I choose to think that he has simply realized that this is a terrible idea, and no longer wants to be attached to what would likely amount to a huge embarrassment. However, the rumour continue to say that your studio is going ahead with remake plans. Please, I cannot tell you enough that this would be an ENORMOUS mistake. DO NOT remake this film! Please, leave it alone, exactly the way it is. Jimmy Stewart is gone, and with him, the magic of Elwood. There is no other Elwood, and without an Elwood, there is no Harvey.

What made Harvey so magical was special to the time it was made. It was the 1950s, when a different outlook on life and society prevailed. Today’s general audiences would not be entertained by the story of a man and his possibly-imaginary rabbit friend. It would not be possible to be successful in this undertaking without changing the aspects of the film that made it the wonder it was to begin with. Harvey was a creation that existed because the right conditions existed: today’s audiences are technology snobs, who would never, ever be satisfied with such a simple, uncomplicated story. To remake this film with changes to appeal to today’s audience would be to commit the murder of Harvey.

I for one am sick to death of these remakes and reimaginings. What are you going to remake next, Casablanca? Got a spare Bogey over there at Fox Studios? How about an Ingrid Bergman? Come on folks, enough is enough. There are plenty of writers in the business itching to get their stories realized on film; make something original, and leave our beloved classics alone. Things exist in their moment, and to try to recreate it is a horrible waste of time. There are elements to each classic film; they stand the test of time for a reason. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh have both passed away; that means no remakes of Gone With the Wind, please. Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are also gone; let’s leave The Philadelphia Story alone, shall we? Without Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Greenstreet, there had better not be any new imagining of The Maltese Falcon. It’s a slap in the face to the original actors to try to remake these beautiful films. There is no next Audrey Hepburn, Claude Reins or Montgomery Clift…let their memories thrive on the silver screen and in our hearts, and let’s move on. Leave Harvey alone. It’s perfect the way it was made 59 years ago.

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