RANDOM HARVEST (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942)

Although his good movies were at Warners during the thirties, Random Harvest is producer-director Mervyn LeRoy’s most accomplished film. Mining the combination of glamor, suspense and romance of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), it involves a shellshocked Great War Brit (Ronald Colman) who in turn suffers two bouts of amnesia, the first of which erases his upperclass existence as an industrialist, and the second of which erases wife and baby in a humble country cottage. (Well, what was supposed to be a humble cottage before M-G-M applied its grand production values!) Taken from James Hilton’s popular novel, the film boasts a remarkable sequence—the one in a Liverpool street where a knock from a car causes “Smithy” to forget the woman he loves and remember instead his staid life, as Charles Rainier, in an ancestral mansion.
     There are so many things to object to in this inflated, stupid movie that one hardly knows where to begin. LeRoy’s film trivializes “the war to end all wars,” failing to note, even in passing, how the vile treatment of defeated Germany after one war helped bring Hitler to power, now requiring Germany’s defeat in another war. There are more holes in the plot than in any corpse in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Indeed, the whole blissful “Smithy”-Paula union is mere set-up for later on, when, as Hanson, Paula is Charles’s executive secretary, having been some other industrialist’s executive secretary first, for aren’t these the jobs that former traveling-troupe working-class songstresses can reasonably expect? But, of course, this is the sort of movie in which striking laborers at Charles’s factory celebrate him for solving their problems! As Ethan or John Edwards might say, “That’ll be the day.”
     Greer Garson: 1943’s best actress in Film Daily’s poll of critics nationwide.

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