Thursday, January 7, 2010

Random Harvest (1942)

Random Harvest is over-blown, terribly long, hokey and strangled by an over-wrought score of high-pitched violins that kick in whenever anything even remotely important is about to happen. So yeah, you know, I loved it!

Greer Garson and Ronald Colman could literally read the phone book for two hours and a half and I would be into it. I just switched my critical faculties off after the first twenty minutes and coasted on pure star power. I'm pretty sure that was what MGM was counting on when put this turkey together. Based on a novel by James Hilton (Good-bye Mr. Chips), the story follows the life of an amnesiac who meets a show girl, gets married, has a baby and then get's hit on the head and forgets everything that happened since the "reset" button got hit last, but remembers his original life. He returns home, inherits a fortune, become an MP, hires his wife as his secretary without recognizing her (like ya do) and almost marries a much younger woman. To which I say, I don't care how bad you've got amnesia, you don't forget Greer Garson in a mini kilt.

The film begins promisingly enough with a moody atmosphere. I wouldn't be surprised if Hitchcock had seen this and decided to build Spellbound around the premise of a beautiful, vulnerable woman who falls in love with a psychologically damaged man. The first third of the film has a nice taught quality of which even Hitchcock would be proud, and it's not really until the hero's second amnesia that I began to loose patience with the premise. "Just whack him over the head with a big old mallet to restore his memory. Have you not seen Looney Toons? Sheesh."

Coleman won best actor for his performance as the man with the double life and had Greer Garson not won that year for Mrs. Miniver, she probably would have been at least nominated for her performance as well. Both are excellent. It's great to see Coleman, normally so suave and be-ascoted reduced to stuttering, and disheveled paranoia. It's totally plausible that he might meet someone as composed, caring and gorgeous as Garson and not only fall in love but more or less cure himself as an act of seduction. Spellbound is about a woman looking at a man and trying to figure him out (which makes it unique and even radical for its day) and Random Harvest is about a man looking at a woman and trying to remember what it is about her that he loves. It is also unique and radical because it proposes the idea that love might go deeper than attraction, or even sentiment and be related to a capacity for joy. Break that capacity for joy and you could put the same girl in front of you and not feel a thing. While I'm not sure I buy this psychological mumbo jumbo any more than I buy Salvidore Dali's overly obvious dream sequence in Spellbound, I still was greatly entertained watching both these actors marking through these emotions and felt all the relief and warmth you could hope for when they finally worked it out. Still, though, really, a mallet would have been quicker!


AbbyNormal said...

It amazed me that you posted this when you did because just recently I finally decided to watch this. Much to my horrow, the disc didn't play in my player. I will get that fixed soon, watch it, and then make a proper comment here.

Just proved to me that yet again, we are on a similar wavelength. :-)

Nancy "Beaky" Bruce said...

I think it was this movie -- that cemented my love for Greer Garson. Did anyone really hold a candle to her?

I taped this off TCM and it ended while they were walking past the factory gates..... OMG.

Ernestine was watching with me.... we screamed and immediately drove to the nearest Best Buy in my van so I could buy the newly released DVD and batteries for the remote and she and I watched the rest of the movie in the back of my van in the Best Buy parking lot.

good times. I wonder if Ernestine has a photo of the Best Buy restroom....

I love a movie that doesn't end too soon, and runs a bit longer than you think it should, but the pay off is totally worth it.

Colman... you velvet voiced devil... yes, I'd marry you in a platonic relationship if it were the only way to have you.... :)

Jennythenipper said...

Great story Beaky. LOLZ about Ernestine taking a picture of the bathroom. Ha! Good times. Inside warbride joke there, peeps.

Also this comment is made of win: "Colman... you velvet voiced devil... yes, I'd marry you in a platonic relationship if it were the only way to have you.... :)" :)!

This is a long movie. I can't imagine I'd be too happy if my copy pooped out at the end. (That has happened to me with GWTW and Dr. Zhivago, both over 3 hours!)

Abby: What is it with this movie and cursed DVDs. Mine wouldn't play in my computer, but luckily it played in the DVD player.

I think KDA once said in the comments that Random Harvest is the movie that cemeted him as a GG fan as well. Must be somethin about that mini kilt!