George Froeschel

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Mrs. Miniver Review


Excellent
For some reason, I've resisted seeing the acclaimed Mrs. Miniver all my life (probably due to the dull title) -- but finally I caught a showing on Turner Classic Movies and I was duly impressed. Now out on DVD, there's no excuse for anyone to miss seeing Miniver for themselves.

The titular missus is just a moderatly wealthy English lady in 1939 who's trying to keep her family together on the eve of World War II. Her son enlists in the RAF, her husband serves in the river patrol. The Germans drop bombs and, eventually, a Nazi soldier lands in the Miniver backyard. In happier times the son woos and marries the local beauty. A flower show is held. Oddly, all of this is compelling and makes perfect sense -- and it all looks gorgeous thanks to some lush black & white photography, excellent set designs, and impressive war effects.

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Random Harvest Review


Very Good
Like many Hollywood romances, Random Harvest is not great but not bad either, and more emotionally involving than the contrived premise would seem to justify. Ronald Colman plays a British soldier who suffers amnesia in WWI and is befriended by a showgirl (Greer Garson), who falls in love with him. They marry and start a family. Then, in a strange plot twist, he regains his memory of his identity but loses his recent memory, and starts another life as a wealthy tycoon and politician. Then, in an even more unpredictable plot twist, he meets Garson again and eerily revisits his past, while still remembering nothing.

The film is an adaptation of a novel by James Hilton (who wrote Lost Horizon, which Frank Capra made into one of Hollywood's greatest epics, also featuring Colman). The contrived plot of Hilton's novel is not helped by the film's condensed treatment. Neither of Colman's lives is fully fleshed out, and it's possible to imagine the plot going off in other, more plausible directions than the one it takes. And the premise is essentially a male fantasy, with Colman's protagonist getting two shots at success, happiness, and marriage (however, he is happy in only one of his lives, until both are reconciled at the end).

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