Random Harvest

Ah, has any movie based on a book by James Hilton been anything less than magic?  We revisited this 1942 movie as it was mentioned in “The Movie Palace Mysteries” and we were in the mood for some sweet sentimentality.   The movie stars Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson – one can swoon just listening to their gorgeous voices – as potentially star-crossed lovers.   The plot was apparently not a hit with reviewers at the time, but who cares?   If you have ever read a James Hilton book or seen a movie based on one (think “Lost Horizon” or “Good-bye, Mr. Chips”) then you know what to expect.   While the movie isn’t 100% faithful to the surprise turn the book takes for obvious reasons (you need to see the actors on the screen), the story is the same.  Coleman plays a World War I airman with amnesia, who is saved from being returned to the asylum by Garson’s character Paula.   She calls him Smithy, as he has no idea who he really is, and of course they fall in love and are soon married with a small cottage to call home.  She supports them with secretarial jobs as Smithy tries his hand at writing.  Soon he has what appears to be a burgeoning career as a paid author.  They have a baby, and all appears blissful after Smithy receives an offer to interview for a full-time job at a publication in Liverpool.   Off he goes with his house key in his pocket and a ticket to the big city, and the second and longer part of the story commences.  Smithy has an unfortunate accident that (of course) restores his memory and obliterates the last two years of his life with Paula.     Lo and behold, “Smithy” is actually wealthy Charles Ranier who returns to his somewhat unpleasant family and assumes management of the family business.  The only token of where he’s been is a key, but to what he cannot remember.   We are led to believe that years go by, Paula never stops looking for Smithy, Charles has ensured that the family business is thriving, and he is supported by an invaluable assistant named Margaret who you don’t see for a good block of time until…….   While you can probably guess the plot twist even if you’ve never read the book, no spoilers here.  Suffice it to say, they lived happily ever after.   If you’re a James Hilton fan, this is definitely Top in Genre, but even if you’re just in need of a gauzy, lovely movie then you should Grab It If It’s Leaving. 

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