Random Harvest (1942)

Random Harvest (1942)

“Never leave me out of your sight — never again. My life began with you. I can’t imagine the future without you.”

A shell-shocked, amnesiac WWI veteran (Ronald Colman) escapes from his asylum and is taken under the wing of a compassionate dance hall singer (Greer Garson), who he eventually marries. After a tragic accident, Colman and Garson’s future together remains uncertain: is their love destined to last?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Amnesia
  • Do-Gooders
  • Greer Garson Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Mervyn LeRoy Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Ronald Colman Films
  • Star-Crossed Lovers
  • Veterans

This enormously popular adaptation of James Hilton’s best-selling novel offered Greer Garson a suitably noble follow-up role after her Oscar-winning turn in Mrs. Miniver (1942); Colman a come-back role at the age of 51; and both stars an opportunity to once again enact Hilton’s characters (Garson co-starred in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, while Colman was lead in Lost Horizon). The amnesia-driven storyline of Random Harvest is pure melodrama all the way, though handled well enough not to wear out its welcome. DVD Savant argues on behalf of this flick as “an intelligent and emotionally rewarding” soaper, noting, “We care deeply about what happens to these people and their situation becomes something of intense personal importance for the audience”; later in his review, he points out that “the movie has no malice and no villain.” Indeed, those in the mood for exactly this type of feel-good flick likely won’t be disappointed, though I find it overly tame for my tastes: Garson’s character is almost too “pure” to be true, and Colman wanders around in a semi-daze for much of the film. Meanwhile, a likable supporting character (Susan Peters) poses an unenviable and unavoidable conflict of interests. (Check out IMDb for more on Oscar-nominated Peters’ tragically short life.)

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Joseph Ruttenberg’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a one-time look.


One thought on “Random Harvest (1942)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see but will hold interest for Colman and Garson fans. As per my post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “That happens to me sometimes. Sort of… wisp of memory that can’t be caught before it fades away.”

    ‘Random Harvest’ (1942) [on FilmStruck]: I’ll say up front that I’m not really the audience for this film (I hadn’t seen it before) but I know that quite a few now hold it in high regard as a classic romance. When it was first released it was a huge hit but most critics seemed to disregard it as OTT… an opinion I don’t particularly share. It’s not so much to my taste because there’s a sentimental strain in it – which also marks writer James Hilton’s ‘Lost Horizon’ and ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips’ – that doesn’t do a whole lot for me personally. That said… this story of an amnesia victim becomes particularly compelling in its second (and, to me, better) half, mainly because of the complicated and realistic way in which the amnesia is handled. As fantastic as the plot is, the second half takes it completely seriously – and that makes it work. I should note that I’m not a fan of Ronald Colman’s work; I tend to find his performances too showy and too actor-y. However, this may be the first film I’ve seen him in in which he does *not* bother me. Perhaps director Mervyn LeRoy kept a good watch on Colman so that his performance would be believably measured. Greer Garson is allowed to shine much more in the second half because her role becomes richer. This is a film with a plot that could easily have been *very* sappy, yet that’s avoided. The emotion in it is nicely earned. …With 7 Oscar nods, the film was not awarded any. However, Garson made ‘Mrs. Miniver’ the same year – and for that she won the Oscar.

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