In all the post-Oscars excitement, I forgot to link to this in my last post, so here it is now: the menu from my annual Oscars party.
The final nominee in the Best Picture contest of 1942 is...
Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, Claudine West
(based on the novel by James Hilton)
Ronald Colman, Greer Garson, Philip Dorn, Susan Peters, Henry Travers, Reginald Owen, Bramwell Fletcher
Due to shell-shock from World War I, a British soldier (Colman) is now a patient in an asylum without any memory of his past life. Known now as John Smith, he escapes the asylum and befriends Paula (Garson), who immediately takes a liking to the amnesiac, taking him under her wing. After nursing him back to mental health and encouraging him to pursue his talent for writing, the two fall in love and get married. The fairy tale is destroyed, however, when Smithy is hit by a car in Liverpool and gets his memory back. Well, almost all of it. He now draws a blank as to what he's been doing with the past three years of life since the shell-shock. No memory of the asylum, no memory of his new-found writing skills and, sadly, no memory of Paula. Nonetheless, Paula tracks him down, becomes his secretary and patiently waits for him to regain his memory of her and their happy life. You know, what any girl in love would do.
The most fascinating part of this concoction of absurd unlikelihoods is that it is truly captivating. No matter how far-fetched the plot, it is always treated seriously and the result is engaging drama. With the love story at the forefront, I challenge you to watch this film without feeling an irresistible need for the two leads to end up together.
That need is undoubtedly fueled by the immense amiability of both stars. Colman is superb in the film's opening sequences as the simpleton version of his character, earning him a Best Actor Oscar nod. Garson is likewise charming and powerful, the Academy choosing instead to give her a Best Actress nomination (and win) for Mrs. Miniver this year. (Academy rules disallow a performer to receive two nominations in the same category.) Speaking of Mrs. Miniver, Garson is not the only connection between these two films. Both MGM films, Random Harvest and Mrs. Miniver share the same writing team (including James Hilton, who co-wrote Miniver and wrote the source novel here), as well as the same producer (Sidney Franklin), and many key crew members. Along with Greer Garson, character actors Henry Travers and Reginald Owen also appear in both pictures, as do several bit players. Mrs. Miniver was the darling come Oscar time, though, winning six awards from 12 nominations, while Random Harvest didn't manage to secure one from its seven nods.