What's new

DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Random Harvest (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). (1 Viewer)

Herb Kane

May 7, 2001

Random Harvest

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1942
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 126 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy
Audio: DD Monaural
Color/B&W: B&W
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.97
Package: Single Disc/Keepcase

The Feature:
Similar to last year’s Time Warner – AOL classics contest, last year (well the summer of 2004, to be precise) WB and TCM ran a similar contest and offered up twenty potential films from the Warner vaults of which the top five would be chosen. After the votes were tallied in August, those selected were: Ivanhoe (1952), Random Harvest (1942), The Letter (1940), King Solomon’s Mines (1950) and Ice Station Zebra (1968). Hopefully, we’ll see the remainder of those titles surface in 2005 as well as those that were not selected in last years poll.

Random Harvest is an MGM film which starred Ronald Colman and their top female star at the time, Greer Garson, in her second film adaptation of a James Hilton novel (the first was Goodbye, Mr. Chips). Ronald Colman also appeared in an adaptation of a James Hilton novel fives years earlier in Lost Horizon. The film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy who was responsible for the direction of many great films such as Little Caesar (1931), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), Quo Vadis (1951), The Bad Seed (1956) and The Green Berets (1968) among many others.

The year is 1918 and England is littered with men troubled from the aftermath of WWI. One of those victims, John 'Smithy' Smith (played to perfection by Ronald Colman) has been institutionalized in the Melbridge County Asylum, suffering from amnesia and a speech impediment due to a nervous condition, resulting from the stressors of war. After a failed attempt at reuniting Smithy with his parents, he decides to spring himself from the confines of the asylum and while in town, runs into a young local theater performer, Paula Ridgeway (played by Greer Garson) who is keen on helping the troubled man.

Paula is sure of Smithy’s sincerity and realizes his physical debilitations are nothing more than the affects of being confined to the asylum. They soon realize however, that the authorities are on the lookout for Smithy as an escapee and even the local townspeople become aware of his identity. Paula is forced to give up her theatrical position and she and Smithy flee with the hope of settling into a different community in an attempt to go unnoticed.

Both, Smithy and Paula struggle to try and recall events from his past life but they’re unsuccessful. Even though the pair is unaware of Smithy’s past life, eventually they fall in love, decide to marry and become new parents to a baby boy. Smithy, realizes his talent for writing and eventually lands a job interview in Liverpool, to write for the local newspaper, the Liverpool Mercury. Unfortunately, while enroute to the interview, Smithy is struck by a car while crossing the street, an accident which triggers off a series of recollections from his previous life and suddenly he realizes his name is actually Charles Rainier. He also realizes that he can no longer account for three years of his life while he was in the amnesic state, including no knowledge of his beloved wife and child.

When Charles finally shows up home, even his family members are suspicious since his father has just recently passed away and the remaining family is assembled together for the reading of the will. Charles goes on to assume the head of the family business and mansion, after inheriting the empire left to him from his father.

Paula is obviously now aware of Charles’ proper identity due to his status in the community and using the name Margaret Hanson, she suddenly shows up on the scene after being hired as his personal secretary, but he is unaware of who she really is. Another young woman is also now in the picture, Kitty Chilcet (played by Susan Peters) who is engaged to be married to the wealthy businessman.

Troubled with his not being able to account for the missing three years of his life, Charles is determined to investigate his past. With nothing more than a single key as his only clue, Charles sets out for Liverpool with the hope of reconnecting his past with the present.

The film was nominated for a whopping, seven Academy Awards including, Best Actor in a Leading Role - Ronald Colman, Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Susan Peters, Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White - Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell, Edwin B. Willis, and Jack D. Moore, Best Director - Mervyn LeRoy, Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture - Herbert Stothart, Best Picture - Sidney Franklin, Best Writing Screenplay - George Froeschel, Claudine West, and Arthur Wimperis but the film failed to win in any category.

The Feature: 4.5/5

The video presentation for Random Harvest looks terrific. Shown in its correct AR of 1.37:1 Academy, the overall look of the picture is velvety smooth with very few concerns to report.

Firstly, the grayscale was enormous. Blacks looked exceptionally deep and dark, while whites were contrasted nicely, always stark and clean looking. Contrast and shadow detail were just right.

Image definition was also rather impressive with many of the scenes looking very sharp and detailed with only occasional softness. Again, typical of the period, many of the female close-ups were shot soft – nothing to do with the transfer however. The was a moderate amount of fine film grain present which offered up a pleasing film-like image with an adequate amount of depth to the picture.

There were occasions of dust and dirt as well as occasional scratches and blemishes but overall, this film of 63 years, looked pretty good. The image was mostly stable with only infrequent signs of jitter and shimmer as well as light speckle, but was mostly pleasing, none the less.

Compression was handled to perfection and there was no evidence of any edge enhancing halos etc.

Very nice job.

Video: 4/5

The soundtrack is encoded in DD monaural which does a fine job.

Most importantly, the track is absolutely clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. Basically, the entire film is dialogue driven, all of which is rendered exceptionally bold and clear throughout.

There is very little to speak of in terms of dynamics, nor is there really ever an opportunity in the film for any such demonstrations.

Considering the limitations of the period, the track does an admirable job of doing what it needs to, with virtually no problems to speak of.

Audio: 4/5

Special Features:
Not a lot of special features in terms of numbers, but what has been included is indeed interesting and most of the shorts and trailers are in pretty good shape. They are:
[*] Don’t Talk is a 1942 MGM short directed by Joseph Newman starring Donald Douglas, Gloria Holden, Barry Nelson and Harry Worth. The short is part of the This Crime Does Not Pay series which focuses on an FBI investigation when a manganese plant is sabotaged during the war effort. The short emphasizes the importance of citizens and workers not discussing their work, fearful of enemy spies overhearing such discussions or comments. Great little inclusion and its in terrific shape. Duration: 21:38 minutes.
[*] Marines In The Making is another MGM short from 1942 which was directed by Herbert Polesie. This documentary focuses on the importance of physical fitness of young marines if their efforts to win the war are to be successful. Again, an interesting short and offers a reminder of the times it represents. Duration: 21:38 minutes.
[*] Up next is a Lux Radio Broadcast featuring Greer Garson and Ronald Colman which aired 1/31/1944. The show is introduced by its producer Cecil B. DeMille - very interesting. Duration: 55:16 minutes.
[*] Greer Garson Trailer Gallery which contains for the following three films:

- Random Harvest Duration: 2:14 minutes.
- Goodbye Mr. Chips Duration: 4:05 minutes.
- Mrs. Miniver Duration: 2:39 minutes.

Special Features: 4/5

**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

Final Thoughts:
Random Harvest is a heartwarming love story which retains a level of sophistication and elegance that lifts it above soap, one which is well-paced with tension and even suspense. Perfectly matched, Ronald Colman and Greer Garson turn in believable and heart-wrenching performances in Random Harvest which was masterfully directed by one of the greats, Mervyn LeRoy.

Aside from a beautifully touching film, the presentation on the WB disc is terrific and the special features are excellent. Fans of the classics shouldn’t hesitate for a moment to add this one to their collections.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)

Highly Recommended…!!

Release Date: January 11th, 2005


Senior HTF Member
Dec 11, 2000
Real Name
Steve Gonzales
Herb, thanks for the review (and for reminding me that this was coming out) - I love Ronald Colman!


Supporting Actor
Oct 29, 2004
This has always been one of my favorite movies, and has been on my Amazon wish list for a few weeks.

Another I'd love to see on DVD is Waterloo Bridge (Robert Taylor/Vivien Leigh).


Senior HTF Member
Jun 15, 2001
I've loved this film since my 1st viewing & have owned it for years on Laserdisc. The ending always brings a tear. ;)


Senior HTF Member
Dec 31, 2003
Real Name
Thank you Herb. This will be a "blind buy" for me. In fact, the only familiarity I have with this film is the hilarious spoof that Carol Burnett did on her show!


Brent Avery

Supporting Actor
Feb 19, 2002
Yes, Hollywood and the world in general have come a long way since that film was made..... sad that Ronald Colman passed away when he did ( 1958 )at age 67. He served in WW1 with the London Scottish Regionals and was awarded for valor in 1915 - adds something to the character he played in the film.I seem to remember that Greer Garson lived out the latter part of her life in Texas and passed away at age 92 in 1996. If you are not aware of it there is a site called "Find A Grave" where you can search for the final resting place of anyone famous etc. I don't mean to be morbid as I have the utmost respect for so many fine actors and actresses that have left us over the years but I came across the site simply because of trying to find out what had happened to various individuals in the entertainment industry. They usually have photographs as well - Mr. Colman's is certainly thought provoking ( the headstone ). I hope mentioning this does not offend anyone.

Gary Tooze

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 2000
Great review Herb !Not that I disagree, but you have 5 1/2 stars below "The Feature"... High praise indeed and I think you may be right!



Second Unit
Feb 20, 2004
Real Name
Thanks for the review. I been meaning to check it out and after your review, I'll definitely blind buy this.

John Hodson

Senior HTF Member
Apr 14, 2003
Bolton, Lancashire
Real Name
Just watched my copy Herb; I would have left it at 5 1/2! ;) That's an absolutely terrific transfer - another first rate job by Warners.

Now excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye...


Senior HTF Member
Jun 15, 2001
I just finished watching my copy. I agree with John Hodson. And I cried again at the end.

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Latest member
Recent bookmarks