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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
James Hilton's contribution to the movies was enormous. His novels have
ended up as films that made great impact, as is the case with this film.
Mervyn LeRoy must be given credit for bringing it to the screen in a movie
that has all the ingredients to keep the viewer glued to his
The film is a tribute to a form of entertainment that alas, has just but disappeared from the present Hollywood. Nothing like this film will be done in the near future because of today's tastes dictates the big, if mindless, spectacles full of special effects, favored by today's movie makers.
There are things in the film that wouldn't make any sense in our high tech world, but the charm of the many twists and turns make for a charming voyage, as we get lost into this tale of love given so honestly by Paula to the amnesiac Smithy. The biggest challenge to logic is the reemergence of Paula as Ms Hansen, Charles Rainier's secretary. But that's the magic of the film, we put up with every twist and turn because we figure these two will find one another in the end.
To have Greer Garson play the role of Paula/Margaret, was a stroke of genius. This actress, with her unusual beauty, made us believe she is that woman whose love for her man is everything. If that object of love was Ronald Colman, one of the most talented leading men of the era, it was well worth the price of admission. Ms Garson was one of the most accomplished actress of the time.
Ronald Colman on the other hand, plays his dual characters with a panache and conviction that only actors of that period had. Mr. Colman makes us believe he is Smithy, the amnesiac soldier, as well as the business magnate that he was prior to losing his mind in the war. He made these two men credible as he transformed himself from one to the other with an ease that was uncanny.
Susan Peters had a small part playing Kitty, who falls in love with Charles, even though she knows it's an impossible undertaking.
This is a film to be cherished by lovers of old American films.
Along with NOW, VOYAGER and CASABLANCA, RANDOM HARVEST is one of the
three most emotionally satisfying movies to ever come out of
Hollywood's classic period, and a great example of the best that MGM
had to offer in the '40s. Beautifully accomplished in every department
from writing to art direction to cinematography to scoring, you have
only to watch the first scene (so like REBECCA's) to be drawn in by it
and then consistently surprised and entertained. And reading the 28
other comments here, I am struck by the unanimity of opinion -- because
what makes the contrived plot believable scene by scene, and what
causes the picture as a whole to live so warmly in the memory, is the
unbeatable work from Ronald Colman and Greer Garson.
More than MRS. MINIVER, this is the archetypal Garson performance: her tact, gentle humor and intelligent restraint are in perfect service to her character and the story. If she seems too starry and aristocratic to be a lowly music hall performer, she is right in every other respect, particularly as an efficient secretary, society hostess and perfect helpmate. And this is Ronald Colman's best work ever. He should have won his Oscar for this lovely, subtle performance rather than for the strained work he did in A DOUBLE LIFE. Full of wistfulness as the amnesiac early in the film, there is real heartbreak in the way he says the line "I would have liked to have belonged to them" about the couple he hopes will turn out to be his parents. But he is just as convincing later as the confident, energetic 'Industrial Prince of England.'
Colman and Garson are the perfect grownup romantic couple: they make intelligence and maturity seem impossibly glamorous, and they embody the idea that friendship, loyalty and mutual respect must be at the center of every enduring love.
I've seen Random Harvest a number of times, but recently I watched it twice as part of TCM's Essentials series hosted by Sidney Pollack. This time I was inspired to read the James Hilton novel, Random Harvest, which I recommend to all lovers of the film. If you know the film, you won't get the little surprise at the end of the book -- you will know it already -- but it's still a most enjoyable and heartwarming read. You will see that Smithy/Charles Rainier is quite a young man at the beginning -- however, I did not find Ronald Colman too old in the role, he overcomes the age difference with his splendid performance. And he doesn't seem too old to play Charles Rainier, the prince of industry. I can't imagine another pair who could play the two romantic leads, Greer Garson is so radiant. And all of us who watch old films know that people did look more mature back then -- they looked like real adults! This is such a romantic film, everyone should see it. And Sidney Pollack was right not to remake it -- let well enough alone!
Thank heaven Sydney Pollack did not have amnesia when choosing this
year's Essentials for TCM. I had long heard of "Random Harvest,"
primarily from relatives who saw it on first release, but never had the
chance to see it for myself until this year.
What a wonderful movie. It's never overly sentimental, it's wistful and suspenseful at times, and buoyed by supreme performances from Ronald Colman and Greer Garson.
And who knew Greer could sing and dance like Marlene Dietrich! Colman was so versatile; one of the few actors who was just as successful in talkies as he had been in silents. He was by turns dashing, heroic, dignified, playful and romantic. Here he gets to be all of them. And Greer is his equal. This movie (and "Valley of Decision") made me a fan of hers, plus we have the same birthday.
Sydney Pollack was right in abandoning his long-held plans to remake "Random Harvest." It simply couldn't be done again. Mervyn LeRoy, the James Hilton story and that wonderful company of actors can't be bested.
One of the most irretrievably romantic films ever made, Random Harvest is an absolute must for romantics of all ages. I'd agree that Ronald Colman is a bit too old for the early parts of the story, but that didn't stop him from giving a magnificent performance. And Greer Garson is every bit his match in a perfect role. However, if you possibly can, read James Hilton's amazing book first; the movie totally negates the important plot twist that makes the last page of the book such an incredibly emotional experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The novels of James Hilton were very popular in America as well as in
the United Kingdom. Mr. Hilton created British heroes that resonated
with the American public and cerebral actors like Robert Donat and
Ronald Colman seem born to play. I do remember as a lad being given a
book with Lost Horrizon, Goodbye Mr. Chips and Random Harvest by my
mother to read and the stories fascinated me.
Random Harvest concerns Charles Rainer who sustained a head injury during World War I and woke up in a hospital in his native country with no memory of who he is. On Armistice Day in 1918 Rainer walks out of the hospital and takes up with another drifting soul, an entertainer named Paula.
When you're Ronald Colman, goodness oozes out of you from every pore, so small wonder that Greer Garson accepts him at face value with no idea who he could be. They live together for two years and then one day in Liverpool, Colman is hit by a taxi. He regains his memory when he regains consciousness. He remembers he's Charles Rainer, oldest son of a title and a wealthy fellow at that. But no memory of his life with Garson.
The chemistry between Colman and Garson is a thing of beauty. She wants so much to tell him who she is and he was for three years, but she's advised by psychiatrist Philip Dorn not to do so. And Colman becomes even richer and more successful, but with something missing. Memories just out of his reach and Colman exudes a sadness that the most hardened heart will find touching.
One highlight for me is Greer Garson performing one Harry Lauder's great music hall numbers, She's Ma Daisy with appropriate Scot's costume.
This was the career year for James Hilton. In addition to this film, Hilton did the screenplay for the Oscar winning Mrs. Miniver in 1942 and won a personal Oscar there. In fact Random Harvest ran second to Mrs. Miniver in a lot of categories. Mrs. Miniver was the Best Picture of 1942, Ronald Colman for Random Harvest and Walter Pigeon for Mrs. Miniver both lost to James Cagney for Yankee Doodle Dandy for Best Actor. And Susan Peters as Colman's step-niece lost to Teresa Wright for Mrs. Miniver as Best Supporting Actress.
The film brought Susan Peters her first recognition. But her's was another career cut short due to a hunting accident that left her a paraplegic.
Random Harvest as a book and as a film is how the British see themselves and how they like being portrayed on the screen. When you have players the caliber of Ronald Colman and Greer Garson doing it with the help Hollywood's English colony, the results are outstanding.
Due to being overjoyed in January 2005 at being finally able to own a
copy of this masterpiece on DVD, I am re-editing my previous comments
dating from 2001 slightly. Since that time, I have noticed a marked
increase in the number of comments upon this film, and, furthermore,
nearly all of the comments are highly positive. That just goes to show
what a masterpiece this film is !
Indeed, I have my own personal list of top ten best films and this is one of them together with "Waterloo Bridge" !. It is a beautifully romantic (they just don't mak'em like that any more !!) and satisfying film to watch, and I just love the tune "O Perfect Love" which recurs on several occasions through the movie. I just wonder whether there is someone else in the world who loves this movie as much as me. Greer Garson is incredibly beautiful and sexy in this film and I would dearly loved to be "picked up" by her like Smithy was !! The overall plot is fantastic and is like a dream and the actors are beautiful. I may add that the quality of the DVD recording is excellent and in several languages/subtitles so there is no excuse for anyone being disappointed ! You need a large supply of hankies or Kleenex to make it right to the end without being flooded out. I did ! Let's hope that "Waterloo Bridge" will be given the same treatment in the coming months ..............
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film touches you on every level possible. The roles are cast to perfection, and even though it has differences to the book, it manages to capture the magic completely. I only have to hear a squeaky gate and the moment and magic comes back to me. I saw the film many years ago, and for a long time it has been a favourite with me. The romance and deep feelings/loyalty shown by Greer Garson to Ronald Colman are what most women idealise in a romance they would aspire to having themselves. The film brings a feeling of love overcoming all obstacles, and a deep warmth to those who know and love the story so well. Cynics may accuse the film of being too sugary sweet and sentimental, but I challenge them to watch the film with an open mind, and not be touched a little by it's beauty. This love story touches me deeply every time I see it. A must see for every romantic out there.
Period.Even more so than "Casablanca."
The only movie that comes close to "Random Harvest" in sheer heart-wrenching romanticism is"Golden Earrings," with Ray Milland and Marlene Dietrich. Now THOSE were movies!! Yes,I'm stuck in the 40's,and very happy to be there! I cannot get enough of Ronald Colman's voice,especially in this movie.He has the most beautiful inflections of any actor I've heard,on par with Orson Welles,I think,but in a different way. I won't give away any plot twists,but suffice it to say there is one heart-grabbing scene that knocks you out.This movie is not to be missed by sentimental saps who loves black and white movies from the 40's.This is one of the very best.
In every respect, especially its co-stars Greer Garson and Ronald
Coleman, 'Random Harvest' is, and will forever remain, THE
unsurpassable romantic nonpareil that it is.
Attempting to remake this masterpiece would be the criminal, sad equivalent of graffiti vandals overspraying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. There has since been no film remotely as riveting, emotionally suspenseful profound and, ultimately, redeeming and breathtakingly glorious; and, I'm not at all sad to say, we will never see its equal or better.
Throughout raptly watching the superb DVD transfer of 'Random Harvest' I lost count of how many times, and I could not measure how uncontrollably, my breath bated and my heart raced, arrested, throbbed, broke, pined, and rejoiced. Oh, what an eternal story! Oh, what a magnificent, unsurpassable film!
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