So here’s an important question for ya – have you figured out what to do for the big Chocolate Appreciation Day? Well, to celebrate this Wednesday (aka Valentine’s Day) I thought it was time to give some major attention to some forgotten romantic adventures in cinema. Sure, there’s Funny Face, Casablanca, and all the other lovely usual suspects – but what about the unspoken champions of all things Valentines from film’s past? Here’s a movie you might want to discover this week while you enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and someone to snuggle with (even if that is your Clark Gable shaped pillow.)
Random Harvest was one of the Grandparent Approved movies of my childhood. Whenever anyone had the bright idea to pop it into the VHS player, it usually resulted in french bread pizza’s being made in the oven, and a bottle of grape juice being poured for yours truly. It was a movie I never really understood during my youngest years, but regardless, I appreciated every bit of the mush it had to offer.
The film stars Robert Colman as a British officer (known to the audience as John Smith) who (during battle) is gassed and eventually becomes shell shocked – losing his memory to a very large degree. This results in him being marked as an unidentified man, and being the new resident of an asylum. One night he sneaks away from his confines, and ends up in running into the woman that will change his life – Paula (played by the enchanting Greer Garson.)
Paula’s profession revolves around theatricals – she sings and entertains many happy individuals as she tours with her theater group. But after her company gets involved in some rough events, Paula and “Smithy” run away to a remote cottage in the country side, where they fall madly in love and marry. “But that can’t be the whole story” you are likely saying – oh no dear friends, it definitely isn’t even close.
You see, the fact that John doesn’t remember his identity is a very large part of this tale, and to dive anymore into the rest of the story would be spoiling the best parts of Random Harvest. Because what makes this one a classic amongst its more famous cinematic romances is the element of surprise – the audience never knows when or if John will remember his past life and what that would do to his relationship with Paula. Could it be disaster? Could it be fate? You never know, and the skilled direction of Mervyn LeRoy always keeps you on your toes.
Random Harvest would go onto become a hit in 1942 amongst fans, but not so much critics. Yet during the Academy Awards that year, the film would be nominated for seven awards – including Best Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, and Best Picture. Garson was also considered, but was unfortunately not allowed to be nominated twice, since she had already been so for her performance in Mrs. Miniver.
Though Random Harvest might have not been the ideal programming of most nine year olds, I always wanted to return to its story for the mystery of Smithy, but also to see Paula. She’s a fantastic heroine, whose optimism is infectious, and Greer brings so much magic to what is written on the page. The fact that she falls for this stranger and takes him into her fold might seem a bit out of sorts in 2018 (especially if say this happened online) – but there’s this bit of innocence to the tale that makes it unabashedly charming.
Personally, I’m not sure I could (in my modern state) go out with a guy who doesn’t have any memory and can barely communicate – but Random Harvest exists in a time that was much more fantastical about love and where to find it. Maybe that isn’t for everyone, but on such a day as Valentine’s Day, it is always rewarding to see that true love can concur anything – even bombs and poisonous gas! (:::confetti:::)
If you’re looking for more Valentine’s Day content, be sure to watch out for most posts in the coming days! Until then, see you at the movies!