Philip Dorn

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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).

Continue reading: Random Harvest Review

I Remember Mama Review


Excellent
A sentimental but well-intentioned portrait of an immigrant family, I Remember Mama is an oddity for Hollywood -- very slow, almost entirely lacking in dramatic punch, but surprisingly realistic. Martha Hanson (Irene Dunne) is the center of a Norwegian-American family in early 20th century San Francisco. (The row houses are still standing, but no one who lives in them has to count pennies.) The story is narrated by a daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes) who worshipfully portrays her mother through her own somewhat selfish lens, but allows us to see her mother as she is: uneducated, strong, simple, forthright, and content. Like so many immigrants, Mama unsentimentally embraces her new country and raises her children as acculturated Americans, without changing herself.

The role was a stretch for Irene Dunne, usually a comedienne who teamed with Cary Grant, among others, in screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s (The Awful Truth, etc.). Unfortunately, the film signaled her retirement rather than a new beginning.

Continue reading: I Remember Mama Review

Philip Dorn

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