Jim Parsons (Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory”) was just on Letterman talking about his appearance in a Broadway revival of “Harvey.” Frank Fay originated the role of Elwood P. Dowd on Broadway, but for most of us, of course, Elwood is synonymous with Jimmy Stewart, who starred in both a 1950 movie adaptation and a 1972 TV movie adaptation!
My brother Michael played the part in Plano, Texas, with opening night on his birthday, and my parents, my sister and I drove down to surprise him.
There was also a little-seen TV movie adaptation with Harry Anderson of “Night Court,” and featuring Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Chumley. It wasn’t bad, and was an obvious labor of love for Anderson, but it had a sort of uneven tone – as if Nielsen, who by that time had been typecast in Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker style parody, wasn’t sure whether to play the part as Frank Drebin or as the authority figures he used to play prior to “Airplane!”
I’m having trouble imagining exactly what Parsons would be like in the role. But he’s a brilliant comic actor, as any viewer of “Big Bang Theory” can attest. I liked his answer when Letterman questioned him about the exact nature of Dowd’s condition. Parsons said that he plays the role as if Dowd has no “condition” – Dowd, as far as Parsons is concerned, simply has an invisible six-foot-tall rabbit for a best friend. From an acting standpoint, that’s exactly the right answer. Since I doubt I’ll make it to the Big Apple this summer, I look forward to seeing some clips. Meanwhile, I need to see if I can track down a DVD or Turner Classic Movies airing of “Harvey.”