'Random Harvest' - Movie Review

A few days ago I somehow came across a YouTube video of Robert Osborne (the host of Turner Classic Movies) and Gene Wilder doing an introduction to 1942's "Random Harvest," a movie I wasn't familiar with. They convinced me I should watch it - happily, Toronto Public Library has copies.

Ronald Colman starred as "John Smith," a shellshocked amnesiac found in the World War I trenches, now at an asylum in England. When the war ends, the celebration leaves the gate of the asylum unguarded, and he simply walks out. In the town he meets Paula Ridgeway (Greer Garson), who finds that while he has significant speech problems, he seems a decent man. This being a movie, she decides to give up her career on the stage to help safeguard this man she's just met: people from the asylum are looking for him, and he doesn't want to go back.

You'll be unsurprised to hear that a romance blossoms between the two as "Smithy" (as she calls him) gets his speech - but not his memories of his past life - back. But a traditional romance would have left their wedding for the end of the movie, with the twists and turns happening before the wedding. But the big twist hits about half way through the film - well after their wedding.

Greer Garson is perhaps best known for "Mrs. Miniver," a movie I was indifferent to. Garson got an Academy Award for that, a thing I didn't understand as I didn't like her or her acting. Sadly, that applies here too: she's fine, but I still don't like her. Colman is effortlessly charming, and does a fairly good impression of a man with memory problems. However, most of us think of romance movies as hopeful and happy, but half of this one leaves one of our parties in misery for years: it's romantic, but in a really dark way. Not really something I'd want to watch again.