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This 1942 five hanky tearjerker garnered seven Academy Award nominations and was the number four box office hit of the year. It is a wonderful, sentimental and romantic love story that captures the heart of the viewer. Corny? Sure, but so what. The film is totally absorbing, fueled by wonderful performances by the velvet voiced Ronald Colman and the beautiful Greer Garson.
The story revolves around a shell shocked, World War I vet (Ronald Colman), who is suffering from amnesia and convalescing in a sanitorium. He simply cannot remember who he is. One day, he simply walks out of that sanatorium and runs into a dance hall entertainer (Greer Garson), who takes a shine to him. Realizing that he has been under a great strain, she looks after him and, before you know it, they fall in love and marry. Now Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, they rent a little cottage in a quaint country village, and he begins a career as a writer. They have a baby boy. All is rosy and well with their world for three years. One day, John travels to Liverpool, where he is struck by a car. The end result is that he remembers who he was before the war, but has no recollection of the last three years.
It turns out that he is wealthy industrialist Charles Rainier. He goes home and takes over the reins of his business. He ultimately engages the services of a wonderful secretary, who turns out to be his wife, though he is unaware of having had any relationship with her, and she does not disclose it to him under advice of the sanatorium psychiatrist, wonderfully played by Phillip Dorn. Steadfast, she patiently waits for the day that he will remember all that they had together.
What happens to them is memorable in this story of love lost and found. It is, no doubt, a highly sentimental and manipulative film, as its intention to tug at one's heart strings and render one immobilized by tears. It definitely succeeds in that department. It is also hugely entertaining. They certainly don't make 'em as they used to. All in all, a wonderful film. Fans of Ronald Colman and Greer Garson will love it, as will all those who love classic films.
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on August 20, 2002
Greer Garson always stated that of all the fine films she made during her heyday at MGM in the 1940's "Random Harvest" was her personal favourite. After another viewing of this grand work directed by the terrific Mervyn LeRoy it is very easy to see why. For lovers of well written, beautifully acted love stories "Random Harvest' is unsurpassed and the memory of its wonderfully moving story will stay with you for a long time.
This tale includes a vivid telling of the story of Charles Rainier (Ronald Colman in one of his best performances)a shell shocked World War 1 veteran suffering from amnesia who is befriended by , marries and then loses his great love Paula (Greer Garson in another superb performance). Although Ronald Colman is central to the action here Greer Garson really steals the film lock , stock and barrel in her depiction of the lovely dance hall performer who falls in love and marries this mysterious man with no past only to see him regain his former life and in the process forget her. Greer's self sacrifice in the scenes where she becomes the newly well Colmans' personal assistant just to remain part of his life while never revealing her true identity to him are the stuff that romantic dreams are made of. Realistic? I doubt that strongly, but Colman and Garson are so professional and committed in their playing that we the viewers believe what is happening and are in there barracking for them .
"Random Harvest" never fails to move me and ranks right up there with those other great emotional dramas of the time like "Waterloo Bridge", "Blossoms in the Dust" and "To Each His Own". It has the added benefit of a typical sterling MGM supporting cast with Henry Travers, Reginald Owen, Una O'Connor give the film that special "British" feel that MGM was so good at producing during the war years. It's obvious that cast and crew never once left the Hollywood sound stages but that doesn't matter as it is a beautifully put together production created with alot of love and care for the material. It ,in my belief deserved the multiple Oscar nominations it earned and in a way was a big comeback for Ronald Colman after a few ordinary years as a Hollywood star.
If you are a fan of Greer Garson or Ronald Colman like I am you wont fail to love the sentimental and beautifully put together film of "Random Harvest" . It is movie making in the old style at its very best and definately the type of film that Hollywood doesn't make anymore. Definite 4 hankerchief material and one that will never fail to move you with each viewing. Enjoy!
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on August 30, 2003
"Random Harvest" is NOT a "tearjerker", as some amazon friends have suggested. In fact, it may be the definitive feel good movie, if the open -minded viewer gives the chance. The two leads, Ronald Colman and Greer Garson carry the story. The fine supporting cast is virtually anonymous, more to their credit. He is a WWI vet, suffering from amnesia. She is the nice girl who nurses him back to health. The plot thickens when Colman is hit by a car- regains his original (!) memory- and forgets about the beautiful, caring Garson. What happens? This reviewer won't give away the rest of the wonderful story. Folks will just have to see this classic and find out but there IS a surprise "reappearance" involved-similar to that by Gene Tierney in "Laura". Watch that office door! (According to Tom O' Neil's "Movie Awards", RH was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay. The fact that it won NONE of the foregoing is meaningless. It was competing for Oscars with "Mrs. Miniver", which gave Miss Garson an Academy Award for Best Actress and the chance to set the dubious distinction of making the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history). The final RH scenes are golden as Colman retraces his past to the friendly pub where he first met Garson, the old tobacco shop and that little cottage. Maybe it is a bit of a tearjerker- a heartening one. Does anyone seriously believe Hollywood could remake this one? Who would play the Colman role? Tom Cruise? Please! Let's all be grateful to the persons who preserve the old classics like "Random Harvest".
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on November 18, 2001
Whenever I see all the mediocre films that are being released on DVD today, (with exceptions, of course) I cannot understand why films like these are not being released in this format. This is a wonderful movie adaptation from James Hilton's ("Lost Horizon", "Goodbye Mr. Chips") novel of the same title. The movie does not follow the progression of the book but one can easily see that filming it that way would not have been possible. I agree that Ronald Colman is a bit old for the early parts of the movie but that didn't stop him from giving a virtuoso performance. Greer Garson is once again in one of her memorable performances as a wonderful, caring and kind, dance-hall girl who took care and pity on a shell-shocked and speech-impedded amnesiac soldier from the trenches of World War I. There is nobility and sacrifice and goodness and decency in this film. It is one of those movies where the traditional and necessary clash of good and evil is conveniently left on the wayside and everybody is just charming and pleasant as can be.
It is said that this movie was one of cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg's personal favorite. And of all the films made by Greer Garson, including "Mrs. Miniver", she always said that this film was her favorite as well and was convinced that it is one of the best half-dozen love stories ever written. Director Mervyn LeRoy reputedly said that between the two stars of this movie Garson and Colman--never has the English language been spoken more beautifully on film. And few would argue with these after they've seen this movie.
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An exquisite romance, a love that survives "for better for worse, for richer for poorer", and a wartime tragedy all make this well written melodrama very engrossing, and it stars two of the most gorgeous and popular stars of their era: Ronald Colman was one of the handsomest men that ever drew breath, with a voice of liquid gold...a voice that helped him make the most successful transition from silent films to "talkies" of any actor, and this was Greer Garson's year, as "Mrs. Miniver" was also released in 1942, which won her a Best Actress Oscar.
There are many unexpected twists to the plot, saving it from being "sappy and sentimental", and it is blessed with lovely cinematography (by Joseph Ruttenberg, who also filmed and received an Oscar for "Mrs. Miniver"), an atmospheric score by Herbert Stothart, and sensitive direction by Mervyn LeRoy.
There are some numbers connected with this film: It is # 36 in the American Film Institute's "Top Romances", it was nominated for 6 Academy Awards (Best Picture and Best Director lost to "Mrs. Miniver", and others were Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress with the excellent Susan Peters as Kitty, Screenplay, and Score), and Ronald Colman was my mother's # 1 heartthrob, as he was for so many women during those golden years of the cinema. Total running time is 2 hours and 7 minutes.
Recommended additional viewing for these two marvelous actors is of course, "Mrs. Miniver", and Ronald Colman as a Shakespearean actor in the superb psychological thriller "A Double Life".
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on January 29, 2006
This is my favorite movie. It used to be on the tv all the time. That was then, this is now. I'm so glad I now own it myself. It is the story of a World War I, shell shocked man and the woman who meets and falls in love with him. When he later regains his memory, he loses his memory of her. She finds him and submerges her own persona in order to be near him. It has a happy ending, as did all movies of this era.
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on May 24, 2005
Based on a book by James Hilton, this film is a lyrical, lovely romance (and completely escapist!) about a shell-shocked soldier from World War I (Ronald Colman) who wanders from the asylum, in which he is being housed, and meets entertainer Paula Ridgeway (the beautiful Greer Garson). Ridgeway takes him under her wing (dubbing him "Smithy"), they fall in love quickly (as they always do in these films), marry, and soon he begins a new life as a writer with Paula in a little cottage with yes, a white picket fence. They even have a baby boy. But when another accident restores Smithy's memory, he forgets his three years with Paula, and resumes his former life as Charles Ranier, a wealthy business man. Seeing his photo in the paper, Paula comes to work for him as his secretary, hoping he will eventually remember, but nothing seems to trigger his memory. What might have been sentimental hogwash works because of the genuine warmth and magnetic charm of the stars, and a script that subtly conveys the tragedy of war.

I love Greer Garson with her overarched brows, red hair, combination of glamour and accessibility, and warm smile; she is very refreshing and ethereally lovely and is so good with heroic tenderness and gentility. She also is very sexy and winning in a music hall number. The quiet, debonair Ronald Colman seems at times very oblivious to the way Paula feels, which exasperated me at times, yet with his sonorous, eloquent voice (I believe Snidley Whiplash was doing a Colman impersonation in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoons) and gentlemanly manners, he merely has to "be" to inspire love; both Paula and a girl from his prior life, Kitty Chilcet (Susan Peters) are devoted admirers and clearly he is a man of honor. Colman was wounded in combat in real life as a WWI solider, so he is quite effective in portraying Smithy's bewilderment. This film has no villains and remains deliciously romantic and uplifting.

By the way, this quote from a Greer Garson interview says much about the lady herself (a class act) and this film: "I think the mirror should be tilted slightly upward when it's reflecting life -- toward the cheerful, the tender, the compassionate, the brave, the funny, the encouraging, all those things -- and not tilted down to the gutter part of the time, into the troubled vistas of conflict." "Random Harvest" definitely inspires and uplifts, a good feeling.
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on July 20, 2005
Random Harvest is the classic double-amnesia yarn, quite effective due to the immense talents of Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. Colman is one of my favorite actors from the olden days, one who could play anything from a rugged hero to an intellectual professor convincingly. It's a shame he's not known to modern audiences; in my book he's right up there with Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, and Jimmy Stewart. The few of his movies available today include Talk Of The Town, Lost Horizon, Champagne for Caesar, and Random Harvest.

Here Colman plays an English World War One veteran who escapes from an asylum with a severe case of amnesia. Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver, Madame Curie) is Paula, an entertainer who takes him in and calls him Smithy. She decides he's better off not returning to the asylum, and takes him to the country, where they start a new life together, fall in love, marry, and start a family.

After three years Smithy goes to Liverpool to answer a job offer, where he's struck by a truck in the street. The shock brings back the memory of his identity, at the cost of that of his new life, wife and all. He returns home an heir of substantial wealth and responsibility, and as years pass he takes over the family business, and eventually becomes engaged. But his three year memory gap haunts him and he breaks off the engagement, suspecting his life can never be complete, failing at every attempt to bring back memories of his lost time.

During the second half of the film the plot takes a new turn as Paula, having discovered his real identity, takes a job as his secretary. On the advice of his former doctor, played by Philip Dorn (the Papa in I Remember Mama), she can't reveal her true identity to Smithy. This becomes really engrossing. If you let yourself in on this - if you're a romantic, and let yourself be absorbed by the well-performed story - you're in for a heart-wrenching experience, an allegory for any lost love experience, as she attempts to live with him unrecognized as his former wife. But I think you will find it well worth while at the end.

The supporting cast also includes a favorite character actor, Henry Travers (It's A Wonderful Life, Ball of Fire, On Borrowed Time, etc. etc.), Susan Peters, Reginald Owen, Melville Cooper, Alan Napier, Peter Lawford and Arthur Shields (who was Barry Fitzgerald's brother).
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on July 10, 2005
This excellent romantic drama is given the full MGM treatment, handomely produced by Sidney Franklin and Directed by Mervy Leroy. Starring Greer Garson in what I think is her most luminous portrayal (I prefer her in this to Mrs. Miniver which I think is great also. But I like her character's nobility and genteelity better in this one). Ronald Colman as the suffering amnesiac gives a poignant and touching portrayal. As a matter of fact, the entire movie which comes in at 126 minutes is a great classic from the golden era of Hollywood. Understandably a huge box office success at the time of its release, this movie stands the test of time and is never artificial or "soapy"....thanks to the intelligent screenplay, acting and direction. The film also contains one of the finest ending shots of a film ever made. I won't give it away. You'll have to watch it and find out for yourself. Hint: Greer Garson's etherealness and fine acting ability is prominent! The mastering of the DVD is outstand in brilliant black and white. This is a film to be watched again and again to gain new appreciation with each viewing. Sadly, Hollywood will never make them like this again...nor will there be producers, directors or stars like the ones in this movie. The musical score is also outstanding!!
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on February 3, 2004
When I cannot sleep, and this happens quite often for my own disgrace I read or watch tv. Well, one of this sleepless nights I found out this great film, and in original version. Lucky me!
I love amnesia films, and this one is probably my favourite with Anastasia. The story has been told by other revierws, and very well. So I can only say how delightful the film is. Greer Garson is wonderful. She does a great performance. First as Paula, and actress who is sparkling and funny, but also kind. And then she changes. She is a woman with a secret, a secret she cannot reveal . And she suffers in silence being so near to her beloved, that you have to cry. Her dignity is so well performed that I cannot understand why she did not win the Academy Award for this film.
And Ronald Colman is wonderful. Fragile and strong. A lost soul and a brilliant bussiness man.
As one of the reviewers marked you do not see the supporting characters, because the two of them make the film.
If you do not know the film watch it, either you have insomnia or not. You will not regret it.
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