Random Harvest Movie Review

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).

Like many films from Hollywood's classic era, the abundance of talent rescues the material. Colman and Garson (both English, though neither one has an accent) contribute strong performances, adding elements of psychodrama to what would otherwise have been a standard romance. Garson's mix of ethereal beauty and down-to-earth presence is perfect for the role (she won an Academy Award the same year for the excellent WWII drama Mrs. Miniver). Colman was never better than in this movie. The role probably was easy for the actor, a WWI veteran who was wounded in combat.


Comments

Random Harvest Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 1942

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