The Critical Eye: Random Harvest (1942)

Random Harvest, dir. Mervyn LeRoy
Starring Greer Garson and Ronald Colman
Recommended | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED | Must-See

Random Harvest

(Image via ronaldcolman.com)

Charles “Smithy” Rainier is a veteran of the first World War, inflicted with a bout of amnesia. He doesn’t remember his pre-war life at all, so he breaks free from the hospital where he’s being observed and starts anew, eventually marrying music hall actress Paula. They build a life together, even having a child. But when Charles is struck with amnesia again, will their marriage survive?

Ronald Colman plays the role of Smithy and Greer Garson is his devoted wife in 1942’s Random Harvest.

When I watched Random Harvest for the first time in 2012, I found it equal measures heartbreaking and heart-warming — a sentimental but well-made film with a fantastic performance by its leading lady, Greer Garson.

But were the critics of the ’40s as touched by Random Harvest as I was?

Modern Screen, for one, did recommend the film, rating it four stars — meaning “very good,” and the highest possible rating of their “Movie Scoreboard” feature.

Screenland featured the film in a two-page photo spread, declaring “Greer Garson proves she wasn’t born with a bustle!” A full review praised the film’s “exquisite” acting and said that Random Harvest matched Goodbye, Mr. Chips “in interest and importance.” The mag also noted that preview screenings garnered rave reviews.

(Captured from archive.org/Media History Digital Library)

(Captured from archive.org/Media History Digital Library)

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times even enjoyed the film. “The almost impossible problem of finding an equally popular role for the lovely and charming Greer Garson after her tour de force in Mrs. Miniver has been challenged by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in a manner most likely to succeed,” he wrote, giving props to Random Harvest‘s poignant emotions and charming stars, but weaseling in one gripe about the fact that “they never seem real.” (I happen to disagree! While the situation they’re living in is perhaps quite far from ordinary, the performances sold it for me.)

Variety referred to Greer Garson as “an important mainstay of the picture.” The review states that she “overshadows Colman,” but that the film on the whole “achieves much more than average importance.”

With generally great reviews and a strong recommendation from TMP, Random Harvest is not one to be missed if you love sentimental dramas.

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