Review: Mervyn LeRoy’s “Random Harvest,” Starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson

Greer Garson and Ronald Colman in
Greer Garson and Ronald Colman in "Random Harvest"

MGM scored another massive box office hit by casting their Mrs. Miniver star Greer Garson in an adaptation of James Hilton’s novel Random Harvest. That old, tired device of amnesia conjures up the melodrama for Mervyn LeRoy’s film, with Ronald Colman as a shell-shocked WWI veteran that Garson falls for and marries. He can’t remember anything prior to the war—until an accident brings back the memory of his old life, while simultaneously causing him to forget Garson and his new one (this is how amnesia works, apparently). When she finally manages to track him down over a decade later, Garson does everything in her power to trigger him into remembering their love to reunite them before he marries again. It’s terribly drawn out at over two hours, with a whole first hour spent with the two before Colman even has his accident, and the stars playing characters clearly much younger than they are. While the second hour finds them playing closer to their own ages, it’s just as painfully slow and forced as before—it makes the heavily patriotic Mrs. Miniver look subtle and restrained in comparison. In his review, James Agee recommended it for “those who can stay interested in Ronald Colman’s amnesia for two hours.”1 Seemingly that recommendation was taken by general audiences as well as the industry; nonsensically it wound up with seven Oscar nominations alongside a worldwide gross of over $8 million.2 The leads are charming together, but there’s only so much of Colman straining to remember his past and Garson gazing at him longingly that a viewer can take.

Where to Watch

Buy it on DVD

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For More on Random Harvest

Read the review in The New York Times

Read the review in Variety

Watch the Trailer

References   [ + ]

1. R. Dixon Smith, Ronald Colman: Gentleman of the Cinema (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1991), 254.
2. Mark H. Glancy, “MGM Film Grosses, 1924–1948: The Eddie Mannix Ledger.” Historical Journal Of Film, Radio And Television 12, no. 2 (1992): 127-44.