This is a photo of Frank Fay as Elwood P. Dowd in the original 1944 Broadway production of "Harvey," by Mary Coyle Chase. The play was highly successful, running for 1,755 performances at New York's 48th Street Theater. (By the way, we're sorry that the photo crops out Harvey, both in the portrait in the background and in the chair next to Elwood!)
In 2008 we received the following message from Jonathan Kasso, who wrote: "I saw 'Harvey' on the movie channel last night. I remembered that my father, William O. Kasso (who passed away in 2002), once told me that he painted the original Harvey portrait used in the Broadway play. I found your site while looking for for a possible picture of it."
In a later e-mail, Mr. Kasso wrote that his parents "got to know several people who were involved the theater and he painted portraits of people like Lynn Riggs, Walter Huston, Helen Hayes and others. At the time he lived on West 10th Street in Patchin Place, west of Sixth Avenue. He did odd jobs like the portrait of Harvey, and portraits, but he really liked to paint abstract! Both of my parents were artists and both were full scholarship art majors at Syracuse University in the 1930s, and moved to NYC where they got married in 1945 after the war."
Mr. Kasso went on to say that he assumes the specific portrait that his father painted was of Frank Fay with Harvey (as shown in the image above), rather than the portrait that would have been used when Jimmy Stewart substituted for Fay. "My mother said she doesn't remember any details about it beyond what my father told me."
This is a photo of Frank Fay as Elwood P. Dowd, with Josephine Hull as Veta, Elwood's sister, in the original 1944 Broadway production of "Harvey," by Mary Chase. Hull would go on to play Veta opposite James Stewart as Elwood in the famous film version.
This is a partial cast photo from the original 1944 Broadway production of "Harvey," by Mary Coyle Chase. Jesse White at left portrayed Marvin Wilson, the sanitarium orderly, a role he would reprise in the James Stewart film version (he later became famous in televised Maytag commercials as a frustrated repairman); Frank Fay is seated, in the role of Elwood P. Dowd; Tom Seidel portrayed Dr. Sanderson; and, at right, Janet Tyler portrayed Nurse Kelly.
When James Stewart performed as Elwood P. Dowd in the 1950
film of "Harvey," it was his *third* excursion in the role!
The following information is based on an informational
sheet provided by the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA,
and is derived from information set down by Stewart
biographer Gerard Molyneaux:
"Jimmy Stewart first performed the role of Elwood P. Dowd
on Broadway in July 1947. He filled in for seven weeks for
Frank Fay who had originated the role. At the time, 'Harvey'
was in its third year on Broadway. In 1948, Mr. Stewart
again filled in for the vacationing Mr. Fay.
"Mr. Stewart dearly wanted to play the role of Elwood in
the film production of this Pulitzer Prize winning play.
For the 1950 film, he teamed up with Josephine Hull, who had
originated the role of Veta in the Broadway production,
along with Jesse White, who again played Marvin Wilson.
"Stewart received his fourth Academy Award nomination for
Best Actor, but lost to Josť Ferrer. Josephine Hull won the
Best Supporting Actress award.
"Stewart returned to Broadway in 1970, at the age of
sixty-two, with Helen Hayes cast as Elwood's sister, Veta.
He returned to Broadway again in 1972 and also brought
Elwood to television in the 'Hallmark Playhouse' production
"Stewart's final appearance as Elwood was in the 1975
London stage version of 'Harvey.'
"In 1990, MCA/Universal released a video cassette of 'Harvey'
with Jimmy Stewart doing a six-minute voice-over
introduction about the film and its production set to clips
and stills from the film. A new generation was being
introduced to Elwood P. Dowd.
"The video of 'Harvey' is the best-selling video in the
Museum Store of The Jimmy Stewart Museum. The great, tall
rabbit continues to appeal to Jimmy Stewart fans of all
Above is a photo of Mary Chase, author of "Harvey" and "Mrs. McThing." Mary McDonough Coyle Chase was born Feb. 25, 1907, in Denver, Colo., and died Oct. 20, 1981, also in Denver, where she is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.
Chase's mother was an immigrant from Ireland who used to entertain her daughter with stories of Irish folklore. The pooka was, of course, one of these characters. Chase left her work as a society reporter for the Rocky Mountain News in 1931 to become a playwright and freelance writer. In addition to her plays, she wrote short stories and children's books.
"Harvey" was brought to the Broadway stage by producer Mary Antoinette Perry, also of Denver. Chase was hailed by Dorothy Parker as "the greatest unacclaimed wit in America," received the 1944-45 Pulitzer prize for "Harvey" and was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Her Colorado roots are demonstrated in the playscript of "Harvey," which describes the community where the action takes place as a town similar to Grand Junction, Colo. Chase's former home at 532 W. 4th Ave. in Denver today is designated as a Denver Landmark.
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