Random Harvest


2h 4m 1942
Random Harvest

Brief Synopsis

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

Photos & Videos

Random Harvest - Publicity Still Series
Random Harvest - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Random Harvest - Susan Peters Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1942
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Dec 1942
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Random Harvest by James Hilton (Boston, 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11,364 or 11,505ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

On 11 Nov 1918, "Smith," an amnesiac, shell-shocked officer, who has lived in a county asylum in Melbridge, England for many months, wanders into town for the first time, attracted by the sounds of celebration at the end of World War I. In a tobacconist's shop, Smith's hesitating speech alerts the owner that he is from the asylum, but a kindly entertainer, known as Paula Ridgeway, whispers that he should leave, then takes him to a local pub. Paula invites him to her show and gently draws him out. Because "Smithy," as Paula calls him, has come down with the influenza, she and her friend, barkeep "Biffer," take him in and nurse him back to health. Smithy thrives under Paula's care and she obtains a job for him with her troupe. When an asylum caretaker reveals that they are still looking for a missing inmate, though, Paula runs away with Smithy and takes him to a small town in Devon. They stay at a local inn, and soon she gets a job as a typist, while a thriving Smithy begins to write. When he sells his first article to the Liverpool Mercury , Smithy tells Paula that he loves her and proposes. After their marriage they move into a small cottage, and in November 1920, Paula gives birth to a baby boy. A few days later, Smithy receives a telegram from the Mercury asking him to come to Liverpoool to discuss a permanent position on the paper. Because Paula is still recovering from a difficult birth, he reluctantly travels alone, planning to return the following night. After checking into his hotel, Smithy walks toward the Mercury office but is hit by a car and knocked unconscious. When he comes to, he has no memory of the past three years and recalls only his life as aristocrat Charles Rainier. Although confused, Charles returns home, where he finds that his father has died and his siblings are anticipating their inheritance. He also meets Kitty, the teenaged daughter of his sister's new husband. By 1932, Charles has become known as "the industrial prince of England" for vastly increasing his family's fortunes, but is haunted by the missing past that is tied to a latchkey he found in his vest pocket after the accident. He has been loyally served for two years by his private secretary, Margaret Hanson, whom Charles does not recognize as Paula. One day, while dining with Kitty in a London restaurant, Charles hears the voice of Melbridge psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Benet and is briefly reminded of something in his past, but, as always, the memory passes before he can capture it. That same day, Charles tells Kitty, who has always loved him, that he returns her feelings and later announces to Margaret that he is going to marry Kitty. Margaret, whose son died in infancy, struggles to maintain her composure and that night begs Benet, who has become a good friend, to let her tell Charles everything. Benet makes her realize that Charles has to find memories of "Smithy" on his own. On the day that Kitty and Charles are selecting music for their wedding, one melody inexplicably reminds him of his past and he momentarily looks at Kitty as if she were a stranger. Seeing her cry brings him back to the present, but she tells him that they cannot go through with the wedding because he can never return feelings for her that belong to someone from his past. After Charles goes to Liverpool for clues to his past, Margaret follows him to say that the Liberal party has requested that he stand for election to a newly vacated seat in Parliament. While in Liverpool, Margaret tries gently to lead him to clues about his lost life, but even finding "Smithy's" suitcase does not jar his memory. Charles is soon elected to Parliament and confesses to Margaret that from time to time he has had the feeling that he knew her in the past. He then proposes that they marry in a kind of "merger" in which she would help him in his political life and says that he can offer only sincere friendship. She discusses the proposal with Benet, who loves Magaret himself, and disregards his admonition that she will be hurt. After Margaret and Charles marry, she becomes his greatest asset and dearest friend. Charles is soon knighted and on their third anniversary Charles gives her an expensive necklace. Despite Charles' affection and friendship, Margaret yearns for the love she shared with Smithy and decides that she needs to go away for a few weeks. As Charles uneasily sees her off on the train, he receives word that there is labor unrest in his cableworks in Melbridge. He soon settles the dispute, and as he goes through the town, he surprises his assistant, Harrison, by going right to the tobacconist's shop, even though he had just said that he had never been in Melbridge before. The next day, Margaret, who had been staying at the old Devon inn, learns from the proprietress that a man has just been by asking for the former owner and inquiring about a nearby cottage. Margaret then rushes to her old home. At the cottage, Charles's memories begin to flood back as his latchkey opens the front door. When Margaret arrives and calls him "Smithy," he finally recognizes that Margaret is Paula and the two happily embrace.

Cast

Ronald Colman

Charles Rainier [also known as Smithy]

Greer Garson

Paula [Ridgeway, also known as Margaret Hanson]

Philip Dorn

Dr. Jonathan Benet

Susan Peters

Kitty

Henry Travers

Dr. Sims

Reginald Owen

"Biffer"

Bramwell Fletcher

Harrison

Rhys Williams

Sam

Una O'connor

Tobacconist

Aubrey Mather

Sheldon

Margaret Wycherly

Mrs. Deventer

Arthur Margetson

Chetwynd

Melville Cooper

George

Alan Napier

Julian

Jill Esmond

Lydia

Marta Linden

Jill

Ann Richards

Bridget

Norma Varden

Julia

David Cavendish

Henry Chilcet

Ivan Simpson

The Vicar

Marie De Becker

Vicar's wife

Charles Waldron

Mr. Lloyd

Elisabeth Risdon

Mrs. Lloyd

John Burton

Pearson

Alec Craig

Comedian

Henry Daniell

Heavy man

Helena Phillips Evans

Ella, charwoman

Mrs. Gardner Crane

Mrs. Sims

Montague Shaw

Julia's husband

Lumsden Hare

Sir John

Frederic Worlock

Paula's lawyer

Wallis Clark

Jones

Harry J. Shannon

Badgeley

Hilda Plowright

Nurse

Rita Page

Nurse

Arthur Space

Trempitt

Jimmy Aubrey

Attendant

Bob Stevenson

Attendant

Gil Perkins

Attendant

Arthur Gould-porter

Attendant

Bill James

Workman

Colin Kenny

Workman

Pat Moriarty

Workman

Bobbie Hale

Workman

Stanley Mann

Workman

Tommy Hughes

Workman

Henry King

Workman

Bill Nind

Workman

Captain John Van Eyck

Workman

Hugh Harrison

Workman

John Power

Workman

Frank Benson

Workman

Sid D'albrook

Workman

Al Ferguson

Workman

Dan Maxwell

Workman

Leslie Sketchley

Workman

Harold Debecker

Milkman

Ian Wolfe

Registrar

Keith Hitchcock

Commissionaire

Forrester Harvey

Cabby

David Clyde

Lodge keeper

Pax Walker

Sheila

Reginald Sheffield

Judge

Clement May

Beddoes

Arthur Shields

Chemist

Boyd Irwin

Party whip

Kay Medford

Wife

Clifford Severn

Albert

Harry Allen

Bartender

Matthew Boulton

Policeman

Cyril Mclaglen

Policeman

Walter Tetley

Call boy

Yorke Sherwood

Cockney workman

Harry Adams

Businessman

Hooper Atchley

Businessman

Donald Stuart

Taxi driver

Lilyan Irene

Waitress

Leonard Mudie

Old man

Major Sam Harris

Member of House of Commons

Herbert Evans

Member of House of Commons

Eric Wilton

Member of House of Commons

Ernest Hilliard

Member of House of Commons

Al Hill

Member of House of Commons

George Kirby

Conductor

Charles Bennett

Porter

Robert Cory

Waiter

Lowden Adams

Clerk

Peter Lawford

Soldier

Terry Kilburn

Newspaperboy

St. Luke's Choristers

Winifred Harris

Gwendolen Logan

Elizabeth Williams

Olive Blakeney

Cyril Thornton

Photo Collections

Random Harvest - Publicity Still Series
Here is a series of publicity stills taken for MGM's Random Harvest (1942), starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Random Harvest - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several behind-the-scenes photos taken during production of MGM's Random Harvest (1942), starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson, and directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
Random Harvest - Susan Peters Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several behind-the-scenes photos taken of Susan Peters during production of MGM's Random Harvest (1942), directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
Random Harvest - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for MGM's Random Harvest (1942). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Random Harvest (1942) - Down This Shadowed Path Director Mervyn Leroy’s opening, narration by James Hilton, author of the novel, we meet psychiatrist Dr. Benet (Philip Dorn), Arthur Space as patient Trempitt, and Ronald Colman as Smith, surely the handsomest amnesiac on the ward, in MGM’s Random Harvest, 1942, also starring Greer Garson.
Random Harvest (1942) - You Are From The Asylum! In a fictional English town on the day of the armistice ending the the First World War, amnesiac soldier Ronald Colman has wandered free from the local psychiatric hospital, meeting shopkeeper Una O’Connor, then friendly co-star Greer Garson, her first scene, in MGM’s Random Harvest, 1942.
Random Harvest (1942) - My Life Began With You Enjoying life in the English countryside, ex-showgirl Paula (Greer Garson) brings news to the amnesiac-soldier husband she calls “Smithy” (Ronald Colman) of his first payment for his experiments in journalism, Mervyn LeRoy directing from the James Hilton novel, in Random Harvest, 1942.
Random Harvest (1942) - She's Ma Daisy Situating Ronald Colman, the amnesiac hospital escapee-soldier she’s adopted on the day of the armistice ending World War One, Irish Greer Garson as showgirl Paula, in an immodest tartan outfit, with a bawdy Scottish song for rowdy English soldiers, in MGM’s Random Harvest, 1942.
Random Harvest (1942) - I Don't Suppose Keats Was Very Dressy Still an amnesiac due to World War One injuries, but now a father and headed to Liverpool to accept a newspaper job, “Smithy” (Ronald Colman) reassures wife Paula (Greer Garson) that he’ll be okay, then an accident transpires, the plot swirling again, in MGM’s Random Harvest, 1942.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Promo

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1942
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Dec 1942
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Random Harvest by James Hilton (Boston, 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11,364 or 11,505ft (12 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1942
Ronald Colman

Best Art Direction

1942

Best Director

1942
Mervyn Leroy

Best Music, Original or Comedy Series

1943

Best Picture

1942

Best Supporting Actress

1942
Susan Peters

Best Writing, Screenplay

1943

Articles

The Essentials - Random Harvest


SYNOPSIS

Amnesia costs the heir to a manufacturing fortune his family -- twice -- until true love finally brings him back the happiness he had lost. Charles Rainier's first bout of amnesia follows his shelling during World War I, bringing him to an asylum in the English countryside. When he escapes, a beautiful music hall performer, Paula, takes him under her protection, calling him "Smithy" in the absence of his real name. The two fall in love and marry. On a business trip to Liverpool, Smithy is struck by a cab and regains his memory, only to forget his life since the war. Paula and Smithy are eventually reunited when she gets a job as his secretary, now calling herself "Margaret." But she dare not reveal their true relationship for fear of triggering a complete mental breakdown. Then Rainier, who can't commit emotionally to any woman as long as he has a three-year gap in his memory, proposes a marriage of convenience to Margaret so he can enter politics with the perfect wife by his side. The stage is set for a reconciliation if only his wife can find the right trigger to help him regain his memory on his own.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Producer: Sidney Franklin
Screenplay: Claudine West, George Froeschel, Arthur Wimperis
Based on the Novel by James Hilton
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Editing: Harold F. Kress
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Ronald Colman (Charles Rainier/John "Smithy" Smith), Greer Garson (Paula/Margaret), Philip Dorn (Dr. Jonathan Benet), Susan Peters (Kitty), Reginald Owen ("Biffer"), Edward Fielding (Prime Minister), Henry Travers (Dr. Sims), Margaret Wycherly (Mrs. Deventer), Alan Napier (Julian), Norma Varden (Julia), Rhys Williams (Sam), Henry Daniell (Heavy Man), Arthur Shields (Chemist), Peter Lawford (Soldier), Una O'Connor (Tobacconist), Aubrey Mather (Sheldon)
BW-125m.

Why Random Harvest is Essential

Random Harvest is often cited as one of Hollywood's all-time greatest tearjerkers. It's also considered the definitive treatment of amnesia in a romantic film.

Spurred by the success of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, MGM bought the rights to Hilton's Random Harvest in 1940, as soon as the book appeared. Initially, however, it was planned as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When producer Sidney Franklin and director Mervyn LeRoy learned that Ronald Colman was available, however, they jumped at the chance to sign him for the picture. His image of British sincerity was perfect for the role of a shell-shocked World War I veteran who marries while suffering from amnesia, then recovers his memory only to forget the wife he adores. With two bona fide Brits in the cast, LeRoy could boast that "the English Language was never spoken more beautifully on film."

With the success of Random Harvest, Ronald Colman proved he could still play a romantic hero, even at the age of 51. The film ensured his continuing popularity through the rest of the decade, climaxed by his Oscar® win for Best Actor in 1947's A Double Life.

With this film and Mrs. Miniver, 1942 was definitely "The Year of Greer," as some industry insiders dubbed it. Not only did she win the Oscar® for Best Actress for the latter, but the combined success of both films made her the top female star on the MGM lot, a position she would hold through the '40s.

Like most Hollywood films of the '40s, Random Harvest was shot entirely at the studio, where technicians turned MGM's stock English village into a facsimile for Medbury, the small town where Colman and Garson build their life together after he's first lost his memory. They also had to make some minor script changes to please the Production Code Administration, Hollywood's self-censorship organization. In particular, they had to avoid any suggestion that Colman and Garson were intimate before their marriage and eliminate his character's first wife, which would have made him a bigamist. Despite the changes, however, Hilton was so thrilled with the film that he agreed to record the opening narration himself.

Random Harvest was a major box-office hit, bringing in $4.5 million on a $2 million investment, and breaking attendance records at the Radio City Music Hall, where it premiered. Audiences during the desperate first days of World War II were drawn to its story of the effects of war on the home front and its affirmation of the importance of love and family life.

by Frank Miller
The Essentials - Random Harvest

The Essentials - Random Harvest

SYNOPSIS Amnesia costs the heir to a manufacturing fortune his family -- twice -- until true love finally brings him back the happiness he had lost. Charles Rainier's first bout of amnesia follows his shelling during World War I, bringing him to an asylum in the English countryside. When he escapes, a beautiful music hall performer, Paula, takes him under her protection, calling him "Smithy" in the absence of his real name. The two fall in love and marry. On a business trip to Liverpool, Smithy is struck by a cab and regains his memory, only to forget his life since the war. Paula and Smithy are eventually reunited when she gets a job as his secretary, now calling herself "Margaret." But she dare not reveal their true relationship for fear of triggering a complete mental breakdown. Then Rainier, who can't commit emotionally to any woman as long as he has a three-year gap in his memory, proposes a marriage of convenience to Margaret so he can enter politics with the perfect wife by his side. The stage is set for a reconciliation if only his wife can find the right trigger to help him regain his memory on his own. Director: Mervyn LeRoy Producer: Sidney Franklin Screenplay: Claudine West, George Froeschel, Arthur Wimperis Based on the Novel by James Hilton Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg Editing: Harold F. Kress Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Herbert Stothart Cast: Ronald Colman (Charles Rainier/John "Smithy" Smith), Greer Garson (Paula/Margaret), Philip Dorn (Dr. Jonathan Benet), Susan Peters (Kitty), Reginald Owen ("Biffer"), Edward Fielding (Prime Minister), Henry Travers (Dr. Sims), Margaret Wycherly (Mrs. Deventer), Alan Napier (Julian), Norma Varden (Julia), Rhys Williams (Sam), Henry Daniell (Heavy Man), Arthur Shields (Chemist), Peter Lawford (Soldier), Una O'Connor (Tobacconist), Aubrey Mather (Sheldon) BW-125m. Why Random Harvest is Essential Random Harvest is often cited as one of Hollywood's all-time greatest tearjerkers. It's also considered the definitive treatment of amnesia in a romantic film. Spurred by the success of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, MGM bought the rights to Hilton's Random Harvest in 1940, as soon as the book appeared. Initially, however, it was planned as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When producer Sidney Franklin and director Mervyn LeRoy learned that Ronald Colman was available, however, they jumped at the chance to sign him for the picture. His image of British sincerity was perfect for the role of a shell-shocked World War I veteran who marries while suffering from amnesia, then recovers his memory only to forget the wife he adores. With two bona fide Brits in the cast, LeRoy could boast that "the English Language was never spoken more beautifully on film." With the success of Random Harvest, Ronald Colman proved he could still play a romantic hero, even at the age of 51. The film ensured his continuing popularity through the rest of the decade, climaxed by his Oscar® win for Best Actor in 1947's A Double Life. With this film and Mrs. Miniver, 1942 was definitely "The Year of Greer," as some industry insiders dubbed it. Not only did she win the Oscar® for Best Actress for the latter, but the combined success of both films made her the top female star on the MGM lot, a position she would hold through the '40s. Like most Hollywood films of the '40s, Random Harvest was shot entirely at the studio, where technicians turned MGM's stock English village into a facsimile for Medbury, the small town where Colman and Garson build their life together after he's first lost his memory. They also had to make some minor script changes to please the Production Code Administration, Hollywood's self-censorship organization. In particular, they had to avoid any suggestion that Colman and Garson were intimate before their marriage and eliminate his character's first wife, which would have made him a bigamist. Despite the changes, however, Hilton was so thrilled with the film that he agreed to record the opening narration himself. Random Harvest was a major box-office hit, bringing in $4.5 million on a $2 million investment, and breaking attendance records at the Radio City Music Hall, where it premiered. Audiences during the desperate first days of World War II were drawn to its story of the effects of war on the home front and its affirmation of the importance of love and family life. by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - Random Harvest


Made during the first full year in which the U.S. was involved in World War II, Random Harvest achieved success partly because its depiction of a shell-shocked veteran adjusting to peacetime life captured the anxieties and post-war mood of its era.

With its record-setting success, Random Harvest was prominently featured in MGM promotional materials. Among them were two short films: "Partners" (1943), which spotlighted such rising stars as Susan Peters, and "Some of the Best" (1944), a 20th anniversary salute to the studio narrated by Lionel Barrymore.

In Chapter 19 of J.D. Salinger's modern classic The Catcher in the Rye the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, sees Random Harvest at the Radio City Music Hall.

Other films using amnesia as the catalyst for a romantic story include Terence Fisher's Song of Tomorrow (1948), in which a man with amnesia falls in love with an opera singer whose voice is the only thing he remembers from his lost past, and Sergio Rubini and Dominick Tambasco's La Bionda (1992), in which Nastassia Kinski forgets her life of crime and falls in love with a disabled man (Sergio Rubini).

Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman took the roles created by Garson and Colman, respectively, for a spoof of the film on The Carol Burnett Show. Film critic Pauline Kael, never a big fan of Garson or MGM's more serious films, preferred the take-off to the original. "At least it was shorter," she wrote in 5,001 Nights at the Movies.

by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - Random Harvest

Made during the first full year in which the U.S. was involved in World War II, Random Harvest achieved success partly because its depiction of a shell-shocked veteran adjusting to peacetime life captured the anxieties and post-war mood of its era. With its record-setting success, Random Harvest was prominently featured in MGM promotional materials. Among them were two short films: "Partners" (1943), which spotlighted such rising stars as Susan Peters, and "Some of the Best" (1944), a 20th anniversary salute to the studio narrated by Lionel Barrymore. In Chapter 19 of J.D. Salinger's modern classic The Catcher in the Rye the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, sees Random Harvest at the Radio City Music Hall. Other films using amnesia as the catalyst for a romantic story include Terence Fisher's Song of Tomorrow (1948), in which a man with amnesia falls in love with an opera singer whose voice is the only thing he remembers from his lost past, and Sergio Rubini and Dominick Tambasco's La Bionda (1992), in which Nastassia Kinski forgets her life of crime and falls in love with a disabled man (Sergio Rubini). Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman took the roles created by Garson and Colman, respectively, for a spoof of the film on The Carol Burnett Show. Film critic Pauline Kael, never a big fan of Garson or MGM's more serious films, preferred the take-off to the original. "At least it was shorter," she wrote in 5,001 Nights at the Movies. by Frank Miller

Trivia - Random Harvest - Trivia & Fun Facts About RANDOM HARVEST


The film's wartime spirit came naturally to Ronald Colman. Off-screen, he was heavily involved in the war effort, lending his voice to government radio broadcasts, serving on the Hollywood Victory Committee, working for The American Red Cross and selling bonds on extensive cross-country trips. He also served as president of British War Relief in Los Angeles, organizing the film capital's British colony in support of their homeland.

In his autobiography, Mervyn LeRoy: Take One, the director said of the stars of Random Harvest that "between the two of them, the English language was never spoken more beautifully on film."

When Garson's musical number scored a hit in screenings, a stocking manufacturer claimed that he recognized the stockings she was wearing as a special therapeutic model he had designed. He tried to generate publicity for his brand by giving interviews to various gossip columnists, but couldn't remember, from interview to interview, whether she was wearing stockings designed to camouflage knocked knees or bow legs. Garson responded with a poem: "Say I'm dreary, say I'm sad/Say my acting doesn't please/Say my films are awfully bad,/But don't knock my knees."

Colman was so pleased with the film what when he finished remodeling his Hollywood home that year, he dubbed it "Random House."

Critics carped about Colman's on-screen engagement to co-star Susan Peters because, at 51, he seemed too old for the 21-year-old actress (off screen, Colman's wife, Benita Hume, was 15 years younger than he). They did not complain about his playing husband to Greer Garson, who was 13 years younger, but later that year, gossip columnists had a field day when Garson married actor Richard Ney, nine years her junior. It didn't help that Ney had just played her adult son in Mrs. Miniver.

FUN QUOTES FROM RANDOM HARVEST (1942)

"I don't even know who I am."
"Well, I know who you are. You're someone awfully nice." -- Ronald Colman, who has taken the name John Smith, confesses his plight to Greer Garson as Paula.

"Look here, Smithy. You don't mind if I call you Smithy, do you? Now, how are you ever going to get better if you're not happy?" -- Garson as Paula, counseling Colman as John Smith.

"I'm -- all right. It's my speech. I can't -- remember. I'm not like the others. I'm not like them. I'm all right. But I -- I can't go back. I -- I'll never come out; I'll -- I'll be like the others." -- Colman as John Smith, finally facing the truth of his situation as an amnesiac.

"Paula, it's -- it's a lot of nerve, but -- I'm -- I've fallen in love with you. I'm asking you to marry me, on a -- on a check for two guineas."
"Smithy, don't ask me, please. I might take you up on it. I'm just that shameless. I've run after you from the very beginning; you know I have. I've never let you out of my sight since I first saw you in that little shop." -- Colman as Smithy, proposing to Greer Garson as Paula.

"Never leave me out of your sight -- never again. My life began with you. I can't imagine the future without you." -- Colman completing his proposal.

"1920. Three years gone. Three years. France -- I remember distinctly. But after that -- what after that? Liverpool -- what am I doing here? Where have I been? Better go home. Yes -- may clear things up. Better go home -- ." -- Colman getting back the memory that he's Charles Rainier, but forgetting the wife and child he had as Smithy.

"Sometimes, especially when we've been closest, I've had the curious feeling that I remind you of someone else - someone you once knew...someone you loved as you'll never love me. I am nearly the one, Charles. But nearly isn't enough for a lifetime." -- Susan Peters as Kitty, breaking her engagement with Colman.

"You and I are in the same boat, Miss Hanson; we're both -- ghost-ridden....We are prisoners of our past. What if we were to pool our loneliness, and give each other what little we have to give -- support, friendship? I'm proposing marriage, Miss Hanson, or -- should I call it a merger? A Member of Parliament should have a wife, Margaret; so I'm told on all sides. He needs a clever hostess; you have exceptional gifts. Would it interest you to have a wider field for them? You need have no fear that -- I would make any -- emotional demands upon you. I have only -- sincere friendship -- to offer. I won't ask any more from you." -- Colman as Rainier, proposing to Garson, now calling herself Margaret, not realizing they're already married.

"Isn't there something morbid in burying one's heart with the dead?"
"That's a strange thing for you to say. Your capacity for loving, your joy in living, is buried in a little space of time you've forgotten."
"In some vague way, I still have -- "
"-- hope?"
"Yes, I suppose that's it."
"Have you, Charles? Do you feel that there -- really is someone? That someday you may find her? You may have -- come so near her, may even have brushed her on the street....You might even have met her, Charles. Met her and not known her. It might be someone you know, Charles. It might -- it might even be me." -- Colman and Garson, considering their links to the past.

Compiled by Frank Miller

Trivia - Random Harvest - Trivia & Fun Facts About RANDOM HARVEST

The film's wartime spirit came naturally to Ronald Colman. Off-screen, he was heavily involved in the war effort, lending his voice to government radio broadcasts, serving on the Hollywood Victory Committee, working for The American Red Cross and selling bonds on extensive cross-country trips. He also served as president of British War Relief in Los Angeles, organizing the film capital's British colony in support of their homeland. In his autobiography, Mervyn LeRoy: Take One, the director said of the stars of Random Harvest that "between the two of them, the English language was never spoken more beautifully on film." When Garson's musical number scored a hit in screenings, a stocking manufacturer claimed that he recognized the stockings she was wearing as a special therapeutic model he had designed. He tried to generate publicity for his brand by giving interviews to various gossip columnists, but couldn't remember, from interview to interview, whether she was wearing stockings designed to camouflage knocked knees or bow legs. Garson responded with a poem: "Say I'm dreary, say I'm sad/Say my acting doesn't please/Say my films are awfully bad,/But don't knock my knees." Colman was so pleased with the film what when he finished remodeling his Hollywood home that year, he dubbed it "Random House." Critics carped about Colman's on-screen engagement to co-star Susan Peters because, at 51, he seemed too old for the 21-year-old actress (off screen, Colman's wife, Benita Hume, was 15 years younger than he). They did not complain about his playing husband to Greer Garson, who was 13 years younger, but later that year, gossip columnists had a field day when Garson married actor Richard Ney, nine years her junior. It didn't help that Ney had just played her adult son in Mrs. Miniver. FUN QUOTES FROM RANDOM HARVEST (1942) "I don't even know who I am." "Well, I know who you are. You're someone awfully nice." -- Ronald Colman, who has taken the name John Smith, confesses his plight to Greer Garson as Paula. "Look here, Smithy. You don't mind if I call you Smithy, do you? Now, how are you ever going to get better if you're not happy?" -- Garson as Paula, counseling Colman as John Smith. "I'm -- all right. It's my speech. I can't -- remember. I'm not like the others. I'm not like them. I'm all right. But I -- I can't go back. I -- I'll never come out; I'll -- I'll be like the others." -- Colman as John Smith, finally facing the truth of his situation as an amnesiac. "Paula, it's -- it's a lot of nerve, but -- I'm -- I've fallen in love with you. I'm asking you to marry me, on a -- on a check for two guineas." "Smithy, don't ask me, please. I might take you up on it. I'm just that shameless. I've run after you from the very beginning; you know I have. I've never let you out of my sight since I first saw you in that little shop." -- Colman as Smithy, proposing to Greer Garson as Paula. "Never leave me out of your sight -- never again. My life began with you. I can't imagine the future without you." -- Colman completing his proposal. "1920. Three years gone. Three years. France -- I remember distinctly. But after that -- what after that? Liverpool -- what am I doing here? Where have I been? Better go home. Yes -- may clear things up. Better go home -- ." -- Colman getting back the memory that he's Charles Rainier, but forgetting the wife and child he had as Smithy. "Sometimes, especially when we've been closest, I've had the curious feeling that I remind you of someone else - someone you once knew...someone you loved as you'll never love me. I am nearly the one, Charles. But nearly isn't enough for a lifetime." -- Susan Peters as Kitty, breaking her engagement with Colman. "You and I are in the same boat, Miss Hanson; we're both -- ghost-ridden....We are prisoners of our past. What if we were to pool our loneliness, and give each other what little we have to give -- support, friendship? I'm proposing marriage, Miss Hanson, or -- should I call it a merger? A Member of Parliament should have a wife, Margaret; so I'm told on all sides. He needs a clever hostess; you have exceptional gifts. Would it interest you to have a wider field for them? You need have no fear that -- I would make any -- emotional demands upon you. I have only -- sincere friendship -- to offer. I won't ask any more from you." -- Colman as Rainier, proposing to Garson, now calling herself Margaret, not realizing they're already married. "Isn't there something morbid in burying one's heart with the dead?" "That's a strange thing for you to say. Your capacity for loving, your joy in living, is buried in a little space of time you've forgotten." "In some vague way, I still have -- " "-- hope?" "Yes, I suppose that's it." "Have you, Charles? Do you feel that there -- really is someone? That someday you may find her? You may have -- come so near her, may even have brushed her on the street....You might even have met her, Charles. Met her and not known her. It might be someone you know, Charles. It might -- it might even be me." -- Colman and Garson, considering their links to the past. Compiled by Frank Miller

The Big Idea - Random Harvest


James Hilton published Random Harvest in 1941. Like his earlier books Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Lost Horizon, it became a runaway best seller.

Hilton took the title from a British war report: "According to a British Official Report, bombs fell at random." He motivated the connection by naming the protagonist's family manor Random Hall.

MGM bought the rights to Hilton's novel for $50,000 the year it came out, thinking it might be a good vehicle for contract star Spencer Tracy.

After notable hits in the '30s -- including the first Bulldog Drummond film (1929), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Lost Horizon (1937) and The Light That Failed (1939) -- Ronald Colman's career had faltered when his first two films of the '40s, Lucky Partners (1940) and My Life With Caroline (1941), fared poorly with fans and critics. Now in his '50s, Colman feared his career was drawing to a close until he scored a hit with George Stevens' The Talk of the Town (1942). The film put him back on the radar and encouraged MGM to cast him in his most popular film of the decade, Random Harvest. It was his first MGM film since A Tale of Two Cities seven years earlier.

When Colman's services became available after the success of Talk of the Town, MGM dropped plans to star Tracy in Random Harvest and rushed to sign Colman instead.

Colman's life paralleled the character's in many ways. Both had grown up in the same part of England. Both had served in World War I and been released with medical discharges (Rainier, a shellshock victim; Colman with a shattered ankle). Both had faced postwar life with a degree of alienation and a sense of loss and had overcome those feelings through artistic work: Charles as a writer; Colman as an actor. Colman had been one of Greer Garson's idols when she was a young girl. She was delighted with the chance to finally work with him.

Both Colman and Garson had scored hits in earlier adaptations of Hilton's works: Colman in Lost Horizon (1937) and Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), which made her an overnight sensation in her first American film.

The other plum role in the film was Colman's fianc¿ Kitty. LeRoy cast young Susan Peters, hoping he could mentor her to stardom as he had done with Loretta Young, Ginger Rogers and, most notably, Lana Turner. Although she would turn in a fine performance and win an Oscar® nomination, her career would be cut short a few years later when she was paralyzed in a hunting accident. She played a few roles in a wheelchair -- including the title heroine of Miss Susan (1951), a television series about a lawyer detective that preceded Raymond Burr's wheelchair-bound Ironside by almost two decades. -- before she died in 1952 at the age of 31. Some observers suggested she had died of a broken heart.

Shortly after Franklin signed Peters for the role, MGM hired a young Australian actress named Ann Richards, who looked enough like Garson to have been her younger sister. Since Kitty's resemblance to Paula was a key plot point, Franklin told Richards that he should have waited and cast her, but he wasn't going to go back on his agreement with Peters. Instead, he cast Richards as another family member. She and Colman felt like family anyway; she had gone to school in Australia with his brother, Eric's, children.

The Production Code Administration demanded certain changes in the novel to make it acceptable for filming. In particular, they demanded that Rainier's first wife be omitted so the character would not be a bigamist, however unwittingly, and that there be no indication that he and Paula had intimate relations before their first marriage.

by Frank Miller

The Big Idea - Random Harvest

James Hilton published Random Harvest in 1941. Like his earlier books Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Lost Horizon, it became a runaway best seller. Hilton took the title from a British war report: "According to a British Official Report, bombs fell at random." He motivated the connection by naming the protagonist's family manor Random Hall. MGM bought the rights to Hilton's novel for $50,000 the year it came out, thinking it might be a good vehicle for contract star Spencer Tracy. After notable hits in the '30s -- including the first Bulldog Drummond film (1929), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Lost Horizon (1937) and The Light That Failed (1939) -- Ronald Colman's career had faltered when his first two films of the '40s, Lucky Partners (1940) and My Life With Caroline (1941), fared poorly with fans and critics. Now in his '50s, Colman feared his career was drawing to a close until he scored a hit with George Stevens' The Talk of the Town (1942). The film put him back on the radar and encouraged MGM to cast him in his most popular film of the decade, Random Harvest. It was his first MGM film since A Tale of Two Cities seven years earlier. When Colman's services became available after the success of Talk of the Town, MGM dropped plans to star Tracy in Random Harvest and rushed to sign Colman instead. Colman's life paralleled the character's in many ways. Both had grown up in the same part of England. Both had served in World War I and been released with medical discharges (Rainier, a shellshock victim; Colman with a shattered ankle). Both had faced postwar life with a degree of alienation and a sense of loss and had overcome those feelings through artistic work: Charles as a writer; Colman as an actor. Colman had been one of Greer Garson's idols when she was a young girl. She was delighted with the chance to finally work with him. Both Colman and Garson had scored hits in earlier adaptations of Hilton's works: Colman in Lost Horizon (1937) and Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), which made her an overnight sensation in her first American film. The other plum role in the film was Colman's fianc¿ Kitty. LeRoy cast young Susan Peters, hoping he could mentor her to stardom as he had done with Loretta Young, Ginger Rogers and, most notably, Lana Turner. Although she would turn in a fine performance and win an Oscar® nomination, her career would be cut short a few years later when she was paralyzed in a hunting accident. She played a few roles in a wheelchair -- including the title heroine of Miss Susan (1951), a television series about a lawyer detective that preceded Raymond Burr's wheelchair-bound Ironside by almost two decades. -- before she died in 1952 at the age of 31. Some observers suggested she had died of a broken heart. Shortly after Franklin signed Peters for the role, MGM hired a young Australian actress named Ann Richards, who looked enough like Garson to have been her younger sister. Since Kitty's resemblance to Paula was a key plot point, Franklin told Richards that he should have waited and cast her, but he wasn't going to go back on his agreement with Peters. Instead, he cast Richards as another family member. She and Colman felt like family anyway; she had gone to school in Australia with his brother, Eric's, children. The Production Code Administration demanded certain changes in the novel to make it acceptable for filming. In particular, they demanded that Rainier's first wife be omitted so the character would not be a bigamist, however unwittingly, and that there be no indication that he and Paula had intimate relations before their first marriage. by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - Random Harvest - Behind The Camera on RANDOM HARVEST


Random Harvest went into production on April 21, 1942.

Like most Hollywood films of the era, it was shot entirely on a studio backlot, where designers and technicians created their own versions of the streets of Liverpool, London's Waterloo Station and the cottage where Paula and Smith found happiness.

For the picnic scene in which Smithy proposes to Paula, Garson wanted to ride her own bicycle, but for authenticity's sake, the art department found her a vintage 1918 vehicle. When production finished LeRoy gave her a new bike, which she gleefully rode through the streets of Beverly Hills to the astonishment of tourists.

Both Colman and Garson made suggestions on improving the script, though they never did so on set. Instead, they would either meet privately with LeRoy or send notes to him and Franklin. Garson's notes were so extensive and helpful, the producer jokingly offered her an office in the writers' building.

When the writers had trouble coming up with a scene to show Paula on stage (the book only mentioned the title of a patriotic play she was performing in), Garson suggested singing the Harry Lauder standard "She M' Daisy" in a short kilt. Franklin and studio head Louis B. Mayer hesitated, concerned that the show of leg would hurt her image as the perfect lady. They even tried kilts in three different lengths, finally choosing a medium-length one that wouldn't show too much leg.

Garson rehearsed the number with choreographers Ernst and Marie Matray for three weeks before shooting it on April 27, 1942, in front of an audience of 200 extras. She was nervous until the extras started whistling at her legs. That put her at ease, and she performed like a seasoned vaudeville trooper. At the end of the number, the extras burst into a spontaneous chorus of "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow." Studio acting coach Lillian Burns, who witnessed the performance, said that it was the kind of work Garson had always wanted to do. The dramatic star would have been much happier, Burns said, doing musicals. Franklin sent her a telegram reading, "I was simply delighted with our Scottish number and your performance was beyond what I thought possible. I think it will add great color to the picture and great warmth will be given to the character of Paula."

Despite their fondness for director Mervyn LeRoy and each other, Garson and Colman did little socializing on the set. They spent time between shots in their dressing rooms, working on the script or just relaxing.

The person Garson spent the most time with on set was cameraman Joseph Ruttenberg, who was her favorite photographer. She appreciated his using a woman's stocking over the lens to soften and glamorize her features. In addition, he quickly realized that she looked best shot from the right and made sure the sets were constructed so he could favor that side.

Production finished on May 8, 1942, with the film's final scene at the cottage gate where Charles finally remembers his lost years with Paula. When they finished shooting, the usually reticent Colman said, "This is one picture I hate to finish!"

James Hilton was so impressed with the film that he offered to record the opening narration.

The film's final budget was $2 million, large for a film at that time, but every penny of it shows up on screen.

The film's tag line: "He had found love -- lost it -- and now had found it again!"

Random Harvest was a hit from the moment it premiered on December 17, 1942. With a 12-week continuous run, it set a house record as the Radio City Music Hall's longest-running film to date. Demand for tickets was so great, they had to open the box office at 7:45 a.m. each morning. The theatre's manager told LeRoy it could easily have played another 12 weeks, but MGM's parent company -- Loew's, Inc. -- pulled it to play in their own theatres.

Random Harvest was the fifth in an amazing string of seven hits Mervyn LeRoy had directed since returning to the director's chair after a two-year hiatus to produce. His other hits from the period include Blossoms in the Dust (1941) and Madame Curie (1943), both with Garson, Johnny Eager (1942), and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944).

by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - Random Harvest - Behind The Camera on RANDOM HARVEST

Random Harvest went into production on April 21, 1942. Like most Hollywood films of the era, it was shot entirely on a studio backlot, where designers and technicians created their own versions of the streets of Liverpool, London's Waterloo Station and the cottage where Paula and Smith found happiness. For the picnic scene in which Smithy proposes to Paula, Garson wanted to ride her own bicycle, but for authenticity's sake, the art department found her a vintage 1918 vehicle. When production finished LeRoy gave her a new bike, which she gleefully rode through the streets of Beverly Hills to the astonishment of tourists. Both Colman and Garson made suggestions on improving the script, though they never did so on set. Instead, they would either meet privately with LeRoy or send notes to him and Franklin. Garson's notes were so extensive and helpful, the producer jokingly offered her an office in the writers' building. When the writers had trouble coming up with a scene to show Paula on stage (the book only mentioned the title of a patriotic play she was performing in), Garson suggested singing the Harry Lauder standard "She M' Daisy" in a short kilt. Franklin and studio head Louis B. Mayer hesitated, concerned that the show of leg would hurt her image as the perfect lady. They even tried kilts in three different lengths, finally choosing a medium-length one that wouldn't show too much leg. Garson rehearsed the number with choreographers Ernst and Marie Matray for three weeks before shooting it on April 27, 1942, in front of an audience of 200 extras. She was nervous until the extras started whistling at her legs. That put her at ease, and she performed like a seasoned vaudeville trooper. At the end of the number, the extras burst into a spontaneous chorus of "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow." Studio acting coach Lillian Burns, who witnessed the performance, said that it was the kind of work Garson had always wanted to do. The dramatic star would have been much happier, Burns said, doing musicals. Franklin sent her a telegram reading, "I was simply delighted with our Scottish number and your performance was beyond what I thought possible. I think it will add great color to the picture and great warmth will be given to the character of Paula." Despite their fondness for director Mervyn LeRoy and each other, Garson and Colman did little socializing on the set. They spent time between shots in their dressing rooms, working on the script or just relaxing. The person Garson spent the most time with on set was cameraman Joseph Ruttenberg, who was her favorite photographer. She appreciated his using a woman's stocking over the lens to soften and glamorize her features. In addition, he quickly realized that she looked best shot from the right and made sure the sets were constructed so he could favor that side. Production finished on May 8, 1942, with the film's final scene at the cottage gate where Charles finally remembers his lost years with Paula. When they finished shooting, the usually reticent Colman said, "This is one picture I hate to finish!" James Hilton was so impressed with the film that he offered to record the opening narration. The film's final budget was $2 million, large for a film at that time, but every penny of it shows up on screen. The film's tag line: "He had found love -- lost it -- and now had found it again!" Random Harvest was a hit from the moment it premiered on December 17, 1942. With a 12-week continuous run, it set a house record as the Radio City Music Hall's longest-running film to date. Demand for tickets was so great, they had to open the box office at 7:45 a.m. each morning. The theatre's manager told LeRoy it could easily have played another 12 weeks, but MGM's parent company -- Loew's, Inc. -- pulled it to play in their own theatres. Random Harvest was the fifth in an amazing string of seven hits Mervyn LeRoy had directed since returning to the director's chair after a two-year hiatus to produce. His other hits from the period include Blossoms in the Dust (1941) and Madame Curie (1943), both with Garson, Johnny Eager (1942), and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944). by Frank Miller

The Critics Corner - Random Harvest - The Critics' Corner on RANDOM HARVEST


Awards and Honors

Random Harvest brought in $4.5 million on its initial release, a profit of $2.5 million for MGM. It ranked fifth among the year's top moneymakers, behind Bambi, Mrs. Miniver, Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy.

The National Board of Review named Greer Garson (for Random Harvest and Mrs. Miniver) and Susan Peters among the best actors of the year. At the time, they did not give competitive acting awards.

Random Harvest was nominated for seven Academy Awards®:, though it failed to win anything. Its main competition was another MGM hit, Mrs. Miniver, which beat it for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. In addition, Susan Peters lost Best Supporting Actress to that film's Teresa Wright. Colman lost Best Actor to James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, while the film lost Best Art Direction to another wartime drama, This Above All, and Best Score to Now, Voyager.

In the screenwriting category, the writers of Random Harvest were running against themselves. Claudine West, George Froeschel and Arthur Wimperis were also nominated for Mrs. Miniver, along with Random Harvest author James Hilton.

Sidney Franklin won the Irving G. Thalberg for his work as producer on both of his 1942 releases, this film and Mrs. Miniver.

Garson's failure to receive an Oscar® nomination for her acclaimed performance in Random Harvest would have created an uproar in any other year, but in 1942 her performance was overshadowed by her work in the pro-British flag-waver Mrs. Miniver, which brought her the Oscar® as Best Actress.

Director Mervyn LeRoy never won a competitive Oscar®. In fact, Random Harvest brought him his only nomination for Best Director. He would win the Academy®'s honorary Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1976.

The Critics' Corner on RANDOM HARVEST

"One of the truly fine motion pictures of this or any other year...an emotional experience of rare quality. Rave press notices cannot fail to greet the excellence of its production, direction, performances and craftsmanship, for there can be no fault to find with any phase of the great, enduring love story it stirringly brings to life." -- The Hollywood Reporter.

"Miss Garson, more charming and seductive than ever, is an important mainstay of the picture. Essaying a highly sympathetic role, she overshadows Colman and places the film in the laps of the women together with their moist handkerchiefs." - Variety.

Random Harvest...is distinguished by (1) a moving love story, (2) the unveiling of Miss Garson's interesting legs." - Time.

"I would like also to recommend Random Harvest to those who can stay interested in Ronald Colman's amnesia for two hours and who could with pleasure eat a bowl of Yardley's shaving cream for breakfast...." -- James Agee, The Nation.

"Given Metro's usual glossy treatment and packed with familiar faces in supporting roles, Random Harvest offers many delightful surprises (Garson dancing in a miniskirt, for one) and fantastic plot twists while providing enough hanky action to break even the meanest cynic." - Luisa F. Ribeiro, Baltimore City Paper.

"The only reason to see this twaddle is the better to savor the memory of the Carol Burnett-Harvey Korman parody, which also was shorter. Mervyn LeRoy, who directed many a big clinker, also gets the blame for this one." - Pauline Kael (5001 Nights at the Movies).

Compiled by Frank Miller

The Critics Corner - Random Harvest - The Critics' Corner on RANDOM HARVEST

Awards and Honors Random Harvest brought in $4.5 million on its initial release, a profit of $2.5 million for MGM. It ranked fifth among the year's top moneymakers, behind Bambi, Mrs. Miniver, Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy. The National Board of Review named Greer Garson (for Random Harvest and Mrs. Miniver) and Susan Peters among the best actors of the year. At the time, they did not give competitive acting awards. Random Harvest was nominated for seven Academy Awards®:, though it failed to win anything. Its main competition was another MGM hit, Mrs. Miniver, which beat it for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. In addition, Susan Peters lost Best Supporting Actress to that film's Teresa Wright. Colman lost Best Actor to James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, while the film lost Best Art Direction to another wartime drama, This Above All, and Best Score to Now, Voyager. In the screenwriting category, the writers of Random Harvest were running against themselves. Claudine West, George Froeschel and Arthur Wimperis were also nominated for Mrs. Miniver, along with Random Harvest author James Hilton. Sidney Franklin won the Irving G. Thalberg for his work as producer on both of his 1942 releases, this film and Mrs. Miniver. Garson's failure to receive an Oscar® nomination for her acclaimed performance in Random Harvest would have created an uproar in any other year, but in 1942 her performance was overshadowed by her work in the pro-British flag-waver Mrs. Miniver, which brought her the Oscar® as Best Actress. Director Mervyn LeRoy never won a competitive Oscar®. In fact, Random Harvest brought him his only nomination for Best Director. He would win the Academy®'s honorary Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1976. The Critics' Corner on RANDOM HARVEST "One of the truly fine motion pictures of this or any other year...an emotional experience of rare quality. Rave press notices cannot fail to greet the excellence of its production, direction, performances and craftsmanship, for there can be no fault to find with any phase of the great, enduring love story it stirringly brings to life." -- The Hollywood Reporter. "Miss Garson, more charming and seductive than ever, is an important mainstay of the picture. Essaying a highly sympathetic role, she overshadows Colman and places the film in the laps of the women together with their moist handkerchiefs." - Variety. Random Harvest...is distinguished by (1) a moving love story, (2) the unveiling of Miss Garson's interesting legs." - Time. "I would like also to recommend Random Harvest to those who can stay interested in Ronald Colman's amnesia for two hours and who could with pleasure eat a bowl of Yardley's shaving cream for breakfast...." -- James Agee, The Nation. "Given Metro's usual glossy treatment and packed with familiar faces in supporting roles, Random Harvest offers many delightful surprises (Garson dancing in a miniskirt, for one) and fantastic plot twists while providing enough hanky action to break even the meanest cynic." - Luisa F. Ribeiro, Baltimore City Paper. "The only reason to see this twaddle is the better to savor the memory of the Carol Burnett-Harvey Korman parody, which also was shorter. Mervyn LeRoy, who directed many a big clinker, also gets the blame for this one." - Pauline Kael (5001 Nights at the Movies). Compiled by Frank Miller

Random Harvest


In Random Harvest (1942), MGM's top female star, Greer Garson, continued two important partnerships. It marked her second film adapted from a James Hilton novel after she made her U.S. film debut in the screen version of his Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1939. And it was also the second of ten films she would make with cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg. She was so impressed with his work on the same year's Mrs. Miniver - for which both won Academy Awards - that she insisted he photograph all of her subsequent films at MGM. In her opinion, he was the only cameraman on the lot who shot her to maximum effect. Throughout filming of Random Harvest, they shared a subtle sign language, as he coached her to lift her head to just the right angle for the camera. Clearly it worked, as Garson is at her most ravishing as the musical-hall singer who sacrifices everything for her husband.

Spurred by the success of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, MGM bought the rights to Hilton's Random Harvest in 1940, as soon as the book appeared. Initially, however, it was planned as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When producer Sidney Franklin and director Mervyn LeRoy learned that Ronald Colman was available, however, they jumped at the chance to sign him for the picture. His image of British sincerity was perfect for the role of a shell-shocked World War I veteran who marries while suffering from amnesia, then recovers his memory only to forget the wife he adores. With two bona fide Brits in the cast, LeRoy could boast that "the English Language was never spoken more beautifully on film."

The film marked a major career boost for Colman, who had been in the doldrums after two early '40s films, Lucky Partners (1940) and My Life with Caroline (1941), had languished at the box office. He had just starred in the popular comedy, The Talk of the Town (1942), with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, and Random Harvest cemented his comeback with what critics were hailing as his best performance ever.

Also scoring mightily in the film was young Susan Peters, an MGM starlet cast as the distant relative who almost marries Colman after his memory returns. Her scene when she realizes there was another woman in his life during his lost years, won raves. Sadly, she lost the chance to build on her success when a hunting accident severed her spinal cord, putting her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Eventually she found a few roles, including the wheelchair-bound TV sleuth Miss Susan (1951), in a series that aired almost two decades before Raymond Burr starred as Ironside.

Like most Hollywood films of the '40s, Random Harvest was shot entirely at the studio, where technicians turned MGM's stock English village into a facsimile for Medbury, the small town where Colman and Garson build their life together after he's first lost his memory. They also had to make some minor script changes to please the Production Code Administration, Hollywood's self-censorship organization. In particular, they had to avoid any suggestion that Colman and Garson were intimate before their marriage and eliminate his character's first wife, which would have made him a bigamist. Despite the changes, however, Hilton was so thrilled with the film that he agreed to record the opening narration himself.

Random Harvest was a major box-office hit, bringing in $4.5 million on a $2 million investment, and breaking attendance records at the Radio City Music Hall, where it premiered. Audiences during the desperate first days of World War II were drawn to its story of the effects of war on the home front and its affirmation of the importance of love and family life. The picture scored seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colman) and Best Supporting Actress (Peters). Although it didn't win anything on Oscar night (Garson's earlier release, Mrs. Miniver, was the big winner that year), it remains one of the screen's most glowingly romantic films.

Producer: Sidney Franklin
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: Claudine West, George Froeschel & Arthur Wimperis
Based on the novel by James Hilton
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons.
Music: Herbert Stothart
Principal Cast: Ronald Colman (Charles Ranier), Greer Garson (Paula), Philip Dorn (Dr. Jonathan Benet), Susan Peters (Kitty), Reginald Owen ("Biffer"), Edmund Gwenn (Prime Minister), Henry Travers (Dr. Sims), Margaret Wycherly (Mrs. Deventer.
BW-127m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller

Random Harvest

In Random Harvest (1942), MGM's top female star, Greer Garson, continued two important partnerships. It marked her second film adapted from a James Hilton novel after she made her U.S. film debut in the screen version of his Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1939. And it was also the second of ten films she would make with cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg. She was so impressed with his work on the same year's Mrs. Miniver - for which both won Academy Awards - that she insisted he photograph all of her subsequent films at MGM. In her opinion, he was the only cameraman on the lot who shot her to maximum effect. Throughout filming of Random Harvest, they shared a subtle sign language, as he coached her to lift her head to just the right angle for the camera. Clearly it worked, as Garson is at her most ravishing as the musical-hall singer who sacrifices everything for her husband. Spurred by the success of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, MGM bought the rights to Hilton's Random Harvest in 1940, as soon as the book appeared. Initially, however, it was planned as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When producer Sidney Franklin and director Mervyn LeRoy learned that Ronald Colman was available, however, they jumped at the chance to sign him for the picture. His image of British sincerity was perfect for the role of a shell-shocked World War I veteran who marries while suffering from amnesia, then recovers his memory only to forget the wife he adores. With two bona fide Brits in the cast, LeRoy could boast that "the English Language was never spoken more beautifully on film." The film marked a major career boost for Colman, who had been in the doldrums after two early '40s films, Lucky Partners (1940) and My Life with Caroline (1941), had languished at the box office. He had just starred in the popular comedy, The Talk of the Town (1942), with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, and Random Harvest cemented his comeback with what critics were hailing as his best performance ever. Also scoring mightily in the film was young Susan Peters, an MGM starlet cast as the distant relative who almost marries Colman after his memory returns. Her scene when she realizes there was another woman in his life during his lost years, won raves. Sadly, she lost the chance to build on her success when a hunting accident severed her spinal cord, putting her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Eventually she found a few roles, including the wheelchair-bound TV sleuth Miss Susan (1951), in a series that aired almost two decades before Raymond Burr starred as Ironside. Like most Hollywood films of the '40s, Random Harvest was shot entirely at the studio, where technicians turned MGM's stock English village into a facsimile for Medbury, the small town where Colman and Garson build their life together after he's first lost his memory. They also had to make some minor script changes to please the Production Code Administration, Hollywood's self-censorship organization. In particular, they had to avoid any suggestion that Colman and Garson were intimate before their marriage and eliminate his character's first wife, which would have made him a bigamist. Despite the changes, however, Hilton was so thrilled with the film that he agreed to record the opening narration himself. Random Harvest was a major box-office hit, bringing in $4.5 million on a $2 million investment, and breaking attendance records at the Radio City Music Hall, where it premiered. Audiences during the desperate first days of World War II were drawn to its story of the effects of war on the home front and its affirmation of the importance of love and family life. The picture scored seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colman) and Best Supporting Actress (Peters). Although it didn't win anything on Oscar night (Garson's earlier release, Mrs. Miniver, was the big winner that year), it remains one of the screen's most glowingly romantic films. Producer: Sidney Franklin Director: Mervyn LeRoy Screenplay: Claudine West, George Froeschel & Arthur Wimperis Based on the novel by James Hilton Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons. Music: Herbert Stothart Principal Cast: Ronald Colman (Charles Ranier), Greer Garson (Paula), Philip Dorn (Dr. Jonathan Benet), Susan Peters (Kitty), Reginald Owen ("Biffer"), Edmund Gwenn (Prime Minister), Henry Travers (Dr. Sims), Margaret Wycherly (Mrs. Deventer. BW-127m. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Random Harvest on DVD


In Random Harvest (1942), MGM's top female star, Greer Garson, continued two important partnerships. It marked her second film adapted from a James Hilton novel after she made her U.S. film debut in the screen version of his Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1939. And it was also the second of ten films she would make with cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg. She was so impressed with his work on the same year's Mrs. Miniver - for which both won Academy Awards - that she insisted he photograph all of her subsequent films at MGM. In her opinion, he was the only cameraman on the lot who shot her to maximum effect. Throughout filming of Random Harvest, they shared a subtle sign language, as he coached her to lift her head to just the right angle for the camera. Clearly it worked, as Garson is at her most ravishing as the musical-hall singer who sacrifices everything for her husband.

Spurred by the success of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, MGM bought the rights to Hilton's Random Harvest in 1940, as soon as the book appeared. Initially, however, it was planned as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When producer Sidney Franklin and director Mervyn LeRoy learned that Ronald Colman was available, however, they jumped at the chance to sign him for the picture. His image of British sincerity was perfect for the role of a shell-shocked World War I veteran who marries while suffering from amnesia, then recovers his memory only to forget the wife he adores. With two bona fide Brits in the cast, LeRoy could boast that "the English Language was never spoken more beautifully on film."

The film - now on DVD from Warner Video - marked a major career boost for Colman, who had been in the doldrums after two early '40s films, Lucky Partners (1940) and My Life with Caroline (1941), had languished at the box office. He had just starred in the popular comedy, The Talk of the Town (1942), with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, and Random Harvest cemented his comeback with what critics were hailing as his best performance ever.

Also scoring mightily in the film was young Susan Peters, an MGM starlet cast as the distant relative who almost marries Colman after his memory returns. Her scene when she realizes there was another woman in his life during his lost years, won raves. Sadly, she lost the chance to build on her success when a hunting accident severed her spinal cord, putting her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Eventually she found a few roles, including the wheelchair-bound TV sleuth Miss Susan (1951), in a series that aired almost two decades before Raymond Burr starred as Ironside.

Like most Hollywood films of the '40s, Random Harvest was shot entirely at the studio, where technicians turned MGM's stock English village into a facsimile for Medbury, the small town where Colman and Garson build their life together after he's first lost his memory. They also had to make some minor script changes to please the Production Code Administration, Hollywood's self-censorship organization. In particular, they had to avoid any suggestion that Colman and Garson were intimate before their marriage and eliminate his character's first wife, which would have made him a bigamist. Despite the changes, however, Hilton was so thrilled with the film that he agreed to record the opening narration himself.

Random Harvest was a major box-office hit, bringing in $4.5 million on a $2 million investment, and breaking attendance records at the Radio City Music Hall, where it premiered. Audiences during the desperate first days of World War II were drawn to its story of the effects of war on the home front and its affirmation of the importance of love and family life. The picture scored seven Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colman) and Best Supporting Actress (Peters). Although it didn't win anything on Oscar night (Garson's earlier release, Mrs. Miniver, was the big winner that year), it remains one of the screen's most glowingly romantic films.

The Warner DVD of Random Harvest reflects the company's usual high standards and features a crisp black and white transfer with exceptionally clear audio. The extras, with one exception, are not really about Random Harvest but more reflective of the era in which the film was made. These include "Marines in the Making," a combat training film narrated by Pete Smith, and "Don't Talk," an entry from the short subject series "Crime Does Not Pay" which focuses on Nazi spies in our midst. There is also a Greer Garson trailer gallery. Easily the best extra is the Lux Radio Theatre version (audio only, of course) of Random Harvest with Colman and Garson repeating their film roles.

For more information about Random Harvest, visit Warner Video. To order Random Harvest, go to TCM Shopping.

by Frank Miller

Random Harvest on DVD

In Random Harvest (1942), MGM's top female star, Greer Garson, continued two important partnerships. It marked her second film adapted from a James Hilton novel after she made her U.S. film debut in the screen version of his Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1939. And it was also the second of ten films she would make with cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg. She was so impressed with his work on the same year's Mrs. Miniver - for which both won Academy Awards - that she insisted he photograph all of her subsequent films at MGM. In her opinion, he was the only cameraman on the lot who shot her to maximum effect. Throughout filming of Random Harvest, they shared a subtle sign language, as he coached her to lift her head to just the right angle for the camera. Clearly it worked, as Garson is at her most ravishing as the musical-hall singer who sacrifices everything for her husband. Spurred by the success of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, MGM bought the rights to Hilton's Random Harvest in 1940, as soon as the book appeared. Initially, however, it was planned as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When producer Sidney Franklin and director Mervyn LeRoy learned that Ronald Colman was available, however, they jumped at the chance to sign him for the picture. His image of British sincerity was perfect for the role of a shell-shocked World War I veteran who marries while suffering from amnesia, then recovers his memory only to forget the wife he adores. With two bona fide Brits in the cast, LeRoy could boast that "the English Language was never spoken more beautifully on film." The film - now on DVD from Warner Video - marked a major career boost for Colman, who had been in the doldrums after two early '40s films, Lucky Partners (1940) and My Life with Caroline (1941), had languished at the box office. He had just starred in the popular comedy, The Talk of the Town (1942), with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, and Random Harvest cemented his comeback with what critics were hailing as his best performance ever. Also scoring mightily in the film was young Susan Peters, an MGM starlet cast as the distant relative who almost marries Colman after his memory returns. Her scene when she realizes there was another woman in his life during his lost years, won raves. Sadly, she lost the chance to build on her success when a hunting accident severed her spinal cord, putting her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Eventually she found a few roles, including the wheelchair-bound TV sleuth Miss Susan (1951), in a series that aired almost two decades before Raymond Burr starred as Ironside. Like most Hollywood films of the '40s, Random Harvest was shot entirely at the studio, where technicians turned MGM's stock English village into a facsimile for Medbury, the small town where Colman and Garson build their life together after he's first lost his memory. They also had to make some minor script changes to please the Production Code Administration, Hollywood's self-censorship organization. In particular, they had to avoid any suggestion that Colman and Garson were intimate before their marriage and eliminate his character's first wife, which would have made him a bigamist. Despite the changes, however, Hilton was so thrilled with the film that he agreed to record the opening narration himself. Random Harvest was a major box-office hit, bringing in $4.5 million on a $2 million investment, and breaking attendance records at the Radio City Music Hall, where it premiered. Audiences during the desperate first days of World War II were drawn to its story of the effects of war on the home front and its affirmation of the importance of love and family life. The picture scored seven Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colman) and Best Supporting Actress (Peters). Although it didn't win anything on Oscar night (Garson's earlier release, Mrs. Miniver, was the big winner that year), it remains one of the screen's most glowingly romantic films. The Warner DVD of Random Harvest reflects the company's usual high standards and features a crisp black and white transfer with exceptionally clear audio. The extras, with one exception, are not really about Random Harvest but more reflective of the era in which the film was made. These include "Marines in the Making," a combat training film narrated by Pete Smith, and "Don't Talk," an entry from the short subject series "Crime Does Not Pay" which focuses on Nazi spies in our midst. There is also a Greer Garson trailer gallery. Easily the best extra is the Lux Radio Theatre version (audio only, of course) of Random Harvest with Colman and Garson repeating their film roles. For more information about Random Harvest, visit Warner Video. To order Random Harvest, go to TCM Shopping. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Oh Smithy, You're ruining my makeup.
- Paula
Smithy, do I always have to take the initiative? You're supposed to kiss me.
- Paula

Trivia

Has been identified as the film Holden Caulfield sees at Radio City in chapter 18 of "The Catcher in the Rye".

Reported to be Greer Garson's favorite of all her movies.

Notes

According to the frontispiece on James Hilton's novel Random Harvest, the title comes from a German Official Report: "bombs fell at random." According to various news items, Hilton's novel was purchased in galley form by M-G-M. Although the film generally follows the storyline of the novel, there are significant differences in the disclosing of events between the novel and the film. The events of the novel evolve through the narration of "Harrison" (a minor character in the film), who meets "Charles Rainier" on a train on Armistice Day, November 11, 1937. Kitty, a prominent character in the film, is not in the novel. The novel ends at the start of World War II, whereas the film ends in the mid-1930s.
       Hollywood Reporter news items in September and October 1941 noted that director Clarence Brown was about to sail for England to film the story there, with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. Following America's entry into World War II, a decision was made to shoot the film on the M-G-M lot in Culver City, CA, and in early 1942, Mervyn LeRoy was assigned to direct the picture. Actors Donna Reed and Edmund Gwenn were at one time cast in the film. Reed was to have played Kitty, a role taken over by Susan Peters, and Gwenn was cast as the Prime Minister, a role not in the released film. Richard Ney and Charles Ray were both mentioned in news items as being cast, but they were not in the released film. Hollywood Reporter news items also include George Broughton in the cast, but his appearance has not been confirmed. An item in Los Angeles Examiner on September 1942 noted that producer Sidney Franklin, who frequently appeared in background shots in his films, was not seen in Random Harvest, but sang with the choir that provided background music to one scene. The song, "She Is Ma Daisy," (called "She's Ma Daisy" in the onscreen credits) performed by Garson in the film, was popularized by well-known Scottish music hall star Sir Harry Lauder, whom Garson briefly imitates. Although Random Harvest was completed in July 1942, it did not have its premiere until mid-Dec. According to news items, M-G-M delayed the release of the picture to avoid competition with another very popular Garson film, Mrs. Miniver.
       Random Harvest received seven Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colman), Best Supporting Actress (Peters), Art Direction, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and Adapted Screenplay. Screenwriters Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel and Claudine West did win the Oscar in that category (along with Random Harvest novelist James Hilton), but for their work on Mrs. Miniver. According to M-G-M studio records at the AMPAS Library, the picture's negative cost was $1,210,000. Its gross was $8,147,000, yielding a profit of $4,384,000 and making it one of M-G-M's biggest hits of the decade. Colman and Garson recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, broadcast on January 3, 1944. Another version, which also starred Colman and Garson, was broadcast on April 1, 1948.