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USA 1942
Directed by
Mervyn LeRoy
125 minutes
Rated G

3 stars

Random Harvest

This was one of MGM's marquee releases of 1942, gaining seven Oscar nominations, but winning none. Based on a novel by James Hilton, who wrote Lost Horizon and Goodbye Mr Chips it starts off unpromisingly with a too-old (51 at the time) Ronald Colman awkwardly purporting to be a soldier who has lost his memory on the battlefields of France and is now incarcerated, identity-less, in an asylum. He escapes and ends up under the protection of Paula (Greer Garson), a vaudeville singer. The inevitable happens and they set up house in a dinky white-fenced cottage on no visible means of support. All this is quite dire but the film does start to engage once an interesting if rather imnprobable plot twist kicks in, shifting the story to the world of glittering wealth (in which Colman is much more at ease) and from there it, sometimes convincing, sometimes not, leads to the full box-of-tissues resolution suited to the romantic melodrama. Greer Garson who won Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Mrs. Miniver the same year, is radiant as the picture-perfect heroine (possessed of a classical beauty very atypical of Hollywood and more characteristic of Europeans like Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, she also has an unusual and less becoming scene in which she entertains the troops on Armistice Night 1918, togged out in a kilt, doing a tidy impression of Harry Lauder performing She’s Ma Daisy), but exactly what about the extremely dull Coleman that inspires her saintly devotion to him is far from evident. Psychological realism this is not but as an example Hollywood's highly romanticized idea of true love it is a classic statement from the era and insofar as it is largely works on the maternal instinct, a crafty contribution to the "woman's picture" catalogue  BH




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