Charles Rainier – sometimes known as “Smithy” – can’t seem to keep his memories in check. Charles is a World War I veteran who is struck by a bout of amnesia. He doesn’t remember his life before the war at all, including his parents or the people that he associated himself with.
After breaking free from the asylum where his amnesia is under watch, he ends up marrying a music hall actress named Paula. Paula is completely devoted to her husband, and from the moment she met him was more than willing to help him form a new life for himself. They build a life and have a child together.
But things don’t stay peachy for the couple for very long. Another tragedy sets Charles into yet another bout of amnesia, where his pre-war memories are recovered, but he can no longer remember his post-war life with Paula.
Greer Garson (as Paula) and Ronald Colman (as Charles/”Smithy”) star in this sentimental romantic drama known as Random Harvest, based on the novel by James Hilton and directed by Mervin LeRoy.
Both of these lead actors give marvelous performances. Garson in particular looks beautiful, has an endearing screen presence and is very believable in her role of Paula.
The role of Paula is one that the audience immediately sides with. Her obviously compassionate nature and willingness to help “Smithy” in the beginning of the film wins the viewer over instantly, leading them to want good to come to her when tragedies pop up later in the film.
The chemistry between the two leads does leave a bit to be desired, despite the fact that their performances are so stellar when evaluated separately. They make a cute enough couple for the film to work, but despite all of Paula’s devotion (and Greer’s talents at showing that devotion) they don’t come off as a 100% believable couple.
Random Harvest as a whole is sentimental, but not overly so. Fans of romantic films will eat it up, but even those who aren’t fans of romance will find something to enjoy here. Though a bit slowly paced over all, the film is full of anxious moments and little twists that keep the viewer wondering how it all will end up.
The plot is all at once heart-wrenching and heart-warming, which makes for an interesting viewing experience. The material is further elevated by the talents of the film’s cast, and Greer Garson in particular. The score: 4/5
One of my absolute favorites. James Hilton was so good at getting at the things everyone feels, but no one talks about.
Case in point: a sense of belonging. Early in the film, amnesiac Smithy is visited in the hospital by an an elderly couple who think he may be their son, MIA in the war. They realize immediately that Smithy is not their boy, and turn to go. But Smithy, desperate for some kind of connection, stretches a hand towards them as they’re leaving. It’s a very stagy bit, and probably could never work in a modern film. But it gets me every time.