Saturday, July 14, 2012

Film Review: Random Harvest (1942)

One of the most romantic films ever to be produced.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.en.wikipedia.org/

TCM: A woman's happiness is threatened when she discovers that her husband has been suffering from amnesia.

     I have started and stopped this film so many times that I've lost count on the attempts of me actually trying to watch it. It is with my greatest pleasure, however, that I am now able to say that I have watched it from beginning to end, though my hand twitched to pause it, walk away, and swear to myself that I would finish it another day.
     I'm glad that I didn't.
Dr. Jonathan Benet and Smith.
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     Though this is technically my second Ronald Colman picture, it is my first where he is, quite irrevocably, the leading man . . . and what a leading man! I don't know much about Ronald Colman due to my lack of watching his films, but it is with this picture and doing a little research on him that I can safely say that he deserved to be a well-loved leading man in the 1930s through the 40s. I read a quote once saying that Coleman was the one person that could make Cary Grant look pedestrian . . . while I think that might be going too far (a biased opinion), I will say that Ronald certainly does give Cary a run for his money.
Beautiful and quite haunting in my opinion.
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     As I was reading up on Ronald, I found out that he actually served in World War I, and was seriously wounded by a shrapnel to the ankle at the Battle of Messines. It is with this bit of information that makes me wonder if Ronald actually knew military men suffering from amnesia as his "Smith" character did, and if so, did he base Smith on them?
Smith: Lost in more ways than one.
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     Random Harvest, due to the subject manner and in which the way the lead actors play the roles, is a very heavy and haunting picture. The first half of the picture is photographed in such a way that it makes it feel as if everything were a dream, which works very well; and the most dreamy quality is Greer Garson herself. While Greer was a truly beautiful woman in every picture she did, she looks beyond gorgeous in Random Harvest.
Random Harvest (1942)
Meet Paula.
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     To me, Greer Garson had the appearance of a delicate beauty, but as I've learned she was a strong woman, though she had to fight tooth and nail for her strength, and, ultimately, because of that, her strength showed through her characters, too.
Paula and Smith.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/
     I've also noticed that Greer was made out to be a loving caretaker in her films, for in everyone that I've seen, even in Julia Misbehaves, she is always taking care of someone, whether they be sick, or in need of a good shoulder to cry on, or whether it's to help an amnesiac man remember his past--not once, but twice. As aforementioned, the first half of the picture, with Smith not knowing who he was, but nonetheless becoming "Smithy" to Paula, and liking his role as her husband and father, their life together is photographed in soft lights, romantic picnics by a crick, and a little cottage with a fence in need of a good oiling and a tree limb full of soft pink blossoms (I assume they're pink) with a little baby boy--the stuff that dreams are made of.
'Tis all but a dream.
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    And just as everyone is becoming accustomed to the lovely dream, all of us are rudely awakened when Smithy once more has an accident and in the process has remembered who he was, but has forgotten who he is. And this is when Paula shows her true love and devotion for her husband when she continues to stand by her man as Charles Rainier's (his real name) secretary. For years she has pined away for the man that she fell in love, and all the while, he's sitting right there by her, she remembering everything, and he remembering nothing. A cruel twist of fate.
So close, yet so far away.
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     There's something though, something in the back of his mind, lurking in the shadows, tantalizing him to remember; it's mischievous, however, and just when it seems that he's got a hold of it, it slips through the cracks of his fingers, and is gone, leaving Charles with nothing but the feeling that he's lost. With patience there comes a reward, and with the help of Paula, whom he knows as Margaret, his wife (again), he does remember, though it's almost too late.
A little sense of déjà vu.
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     As they say, love conquers all, and in the end, that is just what Random Harvest is all about. Love conquering the most trying of obstacles that tests how true one devotion and love is to the other. Many times, it kills the love. Then, there are the times that love wins, and when that moment happens, it is akin to no other feeling in the world.
Paula and Smithy together again.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.meredy.com/
     Perhaps Random Harvest is improvable, and corny, and too sentimental as I have read on some other people's reviews, but I don't really think it is. I think it's like Pandora's Box: When all else in gone in the world, hope is left. I give Random Harvest, which so far is my favorite Greer Garson picture (and coincidentally hers, too) a 4/4 stars.

2 comments:

silverscreenings said...

You've written a very thoughtful review of this movie. It's not one of my faves, but you've convinced me to give it another try. :)

azw596 said...

A wonderfully written and insightful review of a film, the message of which, as you so very well summarise,"When all else is gone in the world, hope is left." One's true identity, and finding one's way back to it, is well worth fighting for, and indeed as you mention, it often takes love to conquer all obstacles in its path. How can this "dreamlike", yet "haunting" film not rank as a serious favourite? Great stills round out a review that already also ranks as a serious favourite of mine! Many, many thanks!