Random Harvest (1942)

 

 

 

Colman and GarsonRandom Harvest was taken from the 1941 James Hilton novel.  Both Colman and his costar Greer Garson had faired well with Hilton's work in the past - Colman with Lost Horizon 5 years earlier, and Ms. Garson with her first American film, Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1939.

The film, masterfully directed by Mervyn LeRoy, retains a dignity and elegance that lifts it above its soap opera potential, giving us a love story well-paced with suspense and tension. In Greer Garson, Colman has a costar perfectly matched with him both physically and temperamentally. Her portrayal of Paula/Margaret is first one of serenity, then anguish; she draws the viewer in to experience her quiet torment along with her. Colman's Smithy/Charles, the bewildered amnesiac haunted by a sense of great loss that he cannot define, garnered him another Academy Award nomination. The film itself was immensely successful, with a nomination for Best Picture of that year, as well as setting a record length for its opening engagement at Radio City Music Hall.

 

 

Smith struggles to speak

 

The story opens with a voice-over narration (by author James Hilton) taking us to "a remote and guarded building in the English Midlands, Melbridge County Asylum - grimly proud of its new military wing which barely suffices, in this autumn of 1918, to house the shattered minds of the War that was to end war."

Psychiatrist Jonathan Benet (Philip Dorn) is treating a patient known only as Smith (Colman), a soldier who was picked out of a shellhole at Arras in 1917, remembering nothing of his past and with his speech severely impaired. Smith is brought before an older couple who is looking for their missing son and faces disappointment when the couple tearfully turns away - he is not their son; he belongs to no one.

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