Random Harvest - 1942

Random Harvest

Ronald Colman - Random Harvest

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Random Harvest Ronald Colman 3

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Random Harvest - 1942

Ronald Colman plays a war veteran who is shell-shocked and kept at an asylum. He can barely speak and he can't remember who he is or how he got there. Frustrated and helpless as the asylum attempts (and fails) repeatedly to find family that can come and claim him, he makes a spur of the moment decision to escape from the facility. Wandering blindly, he finds himself in a nearby English city.

Greer Garson is a visiting entertainer traveling with a stage show who encounters Colman at a small British shop where he is about to be betrayed to the police by the shop's proprietor (the diminutive Una O'Conner) who is petrified when she realizes Colman is an asylum escapee. Garson takes Colman under her wing and secrets him out of town as part of the traveling troupe.

Her nursing slowly returns him to health and a kind of mental stability, but he still has amnesia, a problem tragically reversed during a trip into London when he is knocked down on the street by a vehicle.

The remainder of the tale is full of twists as Greer Garson's character (Paula) and Colman's (Ranier) are brought back together in a strange circumstance where Ranier doesn't realize who she is. A unique melodrama which won many awards at the time of its release in 1942.

The film is full of the classic, luminous black and white photography that marked that era of film. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

Greer Garson

Ronald Colman

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Random Harvest - released December 17, 1942. Directed by Melvyn LeRoy.

Amnesia plays a part in many Hollywood movies. If you needed to create a problem for the characters to ponder (and the audience) just erase part of the memory of one of the stars and complications and mystery naturally follows (or humor, as in I Love You Again, with William Powell and Myrna Loy).

Random Harvest is only slightly different in this respect because there's not only one incidence of amnesia to haunt the main character (Ronald Colman as World War 1 veteran Charles Rainier), but two episodes of vanished memory. And Greer Garson (as Paula) plays the most important part in both "halves" of Charles Ranier's post-war life. Garson figures out everything (and she does this well before the audience does, let alone Colman's character) and she has to sit patiently while the whole mess gets untangled.

A solid-gold melodrama from M-G-M with excellent production values and good performances from Ronald Colman who can shift from nonchalant optimism to dignified weariness (and mental fragility) easily. Greer Garson essentially plays the same character she performed in Goodbye Mr. Chips and Mrs. Miniver - that of an indefatigable female force for good amid human tragedy.

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Original page March 2014 | Updated Juy 2016

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