In 1950, the Academy forgot its love for dramatic performances and awarded two of my favorite comedy-performances ever: the amazing Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday and the equally fantastic Josephine Hull in Harvey. Both wins are not exactly universally loved but out of all the female performances that received Oscars for comedic performances, they are, for me at least, by far the funniest and most entertaining ones. Josephine Hull has the ability to make me laugh even the thousandth time I see her – and creating such lasting and effective comedy is, again for me at least, a great reason to make it so high n my ranking.Josephine Hull played the exhausted, eccentric, neurotic and confused sister of Elwood P. Dowd, a charming man who has one little problem – he constantly talks to his friend Harvey, an indivisible large white rabbit. In her part, Josephine Hull, like Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, walked a very thin line between creating effective comedy or appearing over-the-top and shrill – and both actresses succeeded completely. Josephine Hull’s high-pitched voice, her over-the-top mannerisms, her hilarious facial work – all works amazingly and builds a wonderful contrast to the subtle and restrained work by James Stewart.
Behind all the hilarious work, Josephine Hull also develops a nice and believable relationship with James Stewart and manages to be very touching in her later scenes when she suddenly decides that she would rather have Elwood the way he is than change him.
But still, it’s mostly the comedy that makes me love this performance so much. Basically, Josephine Hull can turn every line into gold – ‘Oh Myrtle, it’s a wonderful feeling to have your relative out of the house before the company comes!’, ‘Oh, we can go in now!’, ‘You said that name! You promised you wouldn’t say that name and you said it!’, ‘Myrtle Mae, see who the stranger is in the bathtub!’ or ‘“That is NOT my mother!’. Or when she is on the phone and then greets her guests with a high-pitched voice is also such a perfect moment but she is especially funny when she hits Mr. Wilson with her hand-bag and yells ‘Don’t you touch me, you white slaver you!’ or when she runs up the stairs, yelling ‘Knock him down, judge! Kick him, kick him!’
It’s easily one of my most favorite comedy performances ever and I am so glad that Academy recognized this incredibly talented woman!