February 25, 2015

Ronald Colman, Random Harvest


After having trekked through some pretty shit movies over the last month, Random Harvest proved to be a breath of fresh air. Sure it's a bit melodramatic, and loses a lot of stream in its last act, but it's all held together wonderfully by Ronald Colman and Greer Garson (in the performance that she should have been nominated for, but I suppose this one wasn't propagandic enough.) As you may already know, I had loved him in Bulldog Drummond, so expectations were pretty high this time around. And for the most part, I'd say he delivered.

Colman is spectacular in the first act of the film. He loses that palpable charm for much of the act, instead creating such a gentle, fragile man. I enjoyed that he didn't overdo the Smithy's odd "asylum" handicap--it could have easily been a caricature but Colman's acting is such that it all came out alright. His delivery of "I'd have liked to belong to them" is so sweet and innocent and tragic--gone is that larger-than-life English charisma he vividly displays in Bulldog and Condemned, and instead I was taken by him because he's so different, so distressed and vulnerable. I loved him in that first act, as Garson is taking care of him and watching out for him, a kind of gender role reversal if you will. But then...Smithy loses his amnesia. He goes back to being Charles Rainer, wealthy Englishman (because they're always wealthy), and from then on...nothing. I had nothing. I felt nothing for him. It's all pretty standard from then on out, there's not much to require of Colman (save for one nice scene with Susan Peters) and he's pretty much just lollygagging about through everyday business without being able to show any signs of a fascinating individual at all whatsoever. It's a shame, but I understand that that is how the story is and I can't quite imagine Colman elevating the latter half of the material any more than it was. So at the end of the day the performance itself is a little lopsided--one half that's really well acted and really touching, and another half (or perhaps more than a half?) that's really unremarkable. Nevertheless:


  1. You wrote exactly what I think about the film and his performance. Great review!

  2. You wrote exactly what I think about the film and his performance. Great review!

  3. I remember it very fondly, and am due for a remedial visit with it soon. You're so right about Greer as well; when not facing down Hitler's entire war machine, the lady's much easier to take to heart.