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February 05, 2008

Random Harvest

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Mervyn LeRoy - 1942
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

Random Harvest managed to worm its way into my heart. This in spite of the many preposterous plot points that defy even minimal common sense. Even when you know that, of course, Ronald Colman and Greer Garson are going to end up together, finally, after so many travails, the film zips ahead leaving logic far behind. Next to the more famous film from the more famous James Hilton novel, Random Harvest makes Lost Horizon seem more believable.

Instead of escaping to Shangri-La, Ronald Colman escapes into his own head. A shell shocked British World War I veteran, suffering from amnesia, Colman finds his way out of the asylum and onto the streets where he is picked up by showgirl Greer Garson. Garson whisks Colman away to the country in an attempt to cure him. The two get married, have a child, and Colman begins a career as a writer. Just when everyone is happy, a traumatic experience causes Colman to regain his memory, but temporarily lose Garson.

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If that's not enough, there is an extraordinary sub-plot involving Colman and Susan Peters. First introduced as a girl of Fifteen, Peters decides at first sight that the much older Colman is the man for her. The young girl and the older man is a favorite Hollywood staple, yet there is a patina of unhealthiness in Peters' determination. That a man like Colman would show a more active interest in Peters would not be thinkable in a 1940s MGM production, but the thought occurred to me that had the opportunity been available, Ronald Colman might have made an interesting Humbert Humbert.

At this time of discussion of Academy Award winners, past and future, Random Harvest may be seen as bolstering the argument that the losing films are often more fun to watch then the winning films. Greer Garson was essentially competing against herself, with Random Harvest losing every nomination to the more serious minded Mrs. Miniver.

Random Harvest persists in the memory due to a scene that is unnecessary, and pads the running time to over two hours. To call Garson's performance of a song called "She's Ma Daisy" as musical number may be something of a stretch. Garson's singing voice, assuming she wasn't dubbed, is passable. Whatever it is she's doing on stage can't really be called dancing even though there is some evidence that choreography was involved. Garson's performance during those few minutes is a much needed antidote to those overly dignified appearances in most of her other films. Maybe it's just the legs and that very short kilt. For those few minutes, Greer Garson gives new meaning to the idea of a highland fling.

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Posted by peter at February 5, 2008 12:27 AM

Comments

First, I'd do anything for Greer Garson. Second, this movie is certainly enjoyable but more than that, absolutely un-freakin-believable. When she doesn't tell him who she is when he starts pursuing little miss sunshine I could no longer suspend my disbelief. If I had a child with someone I loved and was married to and they lost their memory and started dating someone else I wouldn't pretend nothing was happening. It's INSANE! But it is a lot of fun to watch and for years now I've wanted to live in that little country cottage.

Posted by: Jonathan Lapper at February 8, 2008 09:04 AM