Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Random Harvest (1942)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Random Harvest (1942)

In director Mervyn LeRoy's romantic drama adapted from James Hilton's 1941 novel - MGM's sentimental, moving melodramatic romance with an implausible and contrived plot about an amnesia victim who forgot the woman he loved and married:

  • in the opening scene (voice-over): "Our story takes you down this shadowed path to a remote and guarded building in the English Midlands, Melbridge County Asylum. Grimly proud of its new military wing, which barely suffices in this autumn of 1918 to house the shattered minds of the war that was to end war"
  • in 1917, a British soldier (later revealed to be wealthy British aristocrat Charles Rainier (Ronald Colman)) sustained a shell-shocked head injury during WWI: ("When he returned to consciousness in a German hospital, he could remember nothing at all of his past life. He had no name, he had no family with whom he could correspond"); the mute amnesiac was institutionalized at the Melbridge County Asylum and re-named John 'Smith' (or "Smithy"); during the celebration of the Armistice in November of 1918, he walked out unnoticed from the county asylum

Opening Prologue

"Smith" (Ronald Colman) at Melbridge County Asylum

Walking Out of Asylum Unnoticed
  • in a shop in Melbridge, he met show-girl singer/performer Paula Ridgeway (Greer Garson) (her stage name) who realized he was a military hero from the asylum, but disoriented, semi-mute and in need of help; she led him to a local pub, the Melbridge Arms, and then to a local theater where her troupe was performing; she adopted the nickname "Smithy" for him; she was stunned when he told her: "I don't even know who I am"; as he sat in her dressing room, she was called to the stage and sang "Daisy" while wearing a kilt
  • after her show when he appeared ill, Paula took him to a rented room above the town's pub; she was forced to suggest that "Smithy" return to the asylum: "You need care, and you need doctors that understand your case. I feel dreadful about it, but it's for your sake", but then she had a change of heart and vowed to take him to a "country place" in the west country of Devon to recuperate: "We'll find some quiet place where you can rest and get fit"; when they arrived, she exclaimed: "It's the end of the world. Lonely and lovely"; by pretending that they were an engaged couple, Paula rented two adjoining rooms for them in a country inn managed by Mrs. Deventer (Margaret Wycherly)
  • "Smithy" and Paula became engaged when he proposed to her during a picnic in the countryside; eventually, he found the courage to ask her to marry him in an idyllic scene under a tree where they shared a picnic: Smithy: "Paula, it's a lot of nerve, but, I'm - I've fallen in love with you." Paula: "No you haven't. You're just being a gentleman." Smithy: "No, I'm nothing of the sort. I'm asking you to marry me on a check for two guineas." Paula: "Oh, Smithy, don't ask me, please. I might take you up on it. I'm just that shameless...I've run after you from the very beginning and now I, I've never let you out of - "Smithy: "Never do it, Paula...Never leave me out of your sight. Never again." Paula: (uncertain) "Smithy, you do mean it? You do want it? Really?" Smithy: (assuring) "More than anything else in the world. My life began with you. I can't imagine the future without you." Paula: (joking) "Oh, I better say 'yes' quickly, before you change your mind. It's yes, darling." He relaxed back onto the ground with his arms outstretched: "Oh, oh, now, now, I can relax!", but she reminded him that they should properly seal their engagement with a kiss: "Smithy...But, darling, you proposed to me, and I've accepted you...Smithy, do I always have to take the initiative? You're supposed to kiss me, darling." He took her in his arms: "Oh, my..."
  • after Paula was happily married to amnesiac Smith (or "Smithy"), they moved into a small rented cottage (with a white picket fence with a squeaky front gate) in Devon where he took up writing as a profession; they lived together for about three years and had a baby son in November of 1920
  • almost immediately after the birth, before a short overnight trip to Liverpool to apply and interview for a permanent job at the Mercury newspaper, Smithy left Paula with a gift - a glass-bead necklace ("the color of her eyes")
  • a sudden and jarring shock came to Smithy's head from a taxi-cab accident as he crossed the street and slipped in the mud; the incident caused him to regain his former memory/life from three years earlier as Charles Rainier, and to entirely forget Paula and their life together; it was his second case of amnesia in just a few years
  • after the accident, Charles confusedly returned by train to his former home (an estate at Random Hall, North Random, Surrey), where he learned that his father had just died (and the funeral was held that day) and his siblings were all in attendance and expecting their inheritance; he was regarded as a "bad penny" for his inopportune and unexpected appearance after three years - without any recollection ("Those three years are a complete blank to me. I don't know what I've done, where I've been. I found a little money in my pocket and this key")
  • 15 year-old teenaged Kitty Chilcet (Susan Peters) - Charles' step-niece (the daughter of his sister Jill's (Marta Linden) new husband Henry Chilcet (David Cavendish)) was particularly impressed and infatuated by Charles, and immediately made her intentions known that she would marry Charles some day after she came of age; after graduating from college (the transition of time was conveyed through changing pictures), the young Kitty continued to pursue Charles for matrimony
Returning to His Life as Charles Rainier
Regaining Identity as Charles - Forgetting His Life as Smithy
  • Charles inherited the house and began to run the family business, and soon became famous as "the Industrial Prince of England" in his family's industrial factory
  • in the meantime, Paula had tracked him down and re-entered his life as Margaret Hanson (her real name) - and became his devoted secretary; it was a memorable scene of her first entrance into his office, but he did not give any indication that he had known her in his past; she had applied for the job two years earlier when she saw his picture in a magazine with the title "Industrial Prince of England"; she attempted to jog his memory about Melbridge, but to no avail
Astonishing Revelation: Paula Was Charles' Private Secretary
  • they shared a brief scene discussing her past (that she had been married before and had a little child who died) - without Paula revealing her identity of their past life together as a married couple
  • when Paula sought the advice of Dr. Jonathan Benet (Philip Dorn), she begged: "I want him as he was. I want his love"; she was strongly urged to keep their past lives a secret: ("You can risk it, if you wish. I hope you won't...If the sight of you did nothing to restore his memory, what can words do?...the impetus must come from within. It can't be forced on him from outside....I can only offer you that frail hope that someday the miracle will happen and he'll come back to you, not as Charles Rainier, but as...Smithy"); Paula persistently but patiently attempted to rekindle their relationship which he couldn't remember - she was hoping for the day he would unlock his memory, but it didn't seem imminent
  • in a revelatory sequence, Charles and his fiancee Kitty, who were about to be married in just a few days, met in the chapel to pick out a hymn for their ceremony; Charles' past was triggered by his partial and distant memory of the hymn ‘O Perfect Love’ being considered - it was the same hymn played at Smithy's wedding three years earlier; when he became dreamy, Kitty sensed that he was distant and loved someone else, she called off their wedding: ("I've been uncertain. Almost from the beginning. Now I'm sure. It's no use, is it? I've always known it. Really. I was grasping selfishly at my own happiness. Because you could make me perfectly happy. If I were selfish enough not to care or stupid enough not to know....That I'm not the one. Let's be honest about it....Charles, you looked at me just now as if I were a stranger. An intrusive stranger. Trying to take the place of someone else....I know it sounds absurd, but let me say it. Sometimes, especially when we've been closest, I've had a curious feeling that I remind you of someone else. Someone you once knew"); she immediately left to travel the world (Luxor Egypt) with her mother
  • depressed by his cancelled marriage, Charles abruptly packed a bag and left for Liverpool to try to find clues to his past (for the three-year period of time from the war until he woke up in Liverpool); his only possession from the night of the cab accident was his long-treasured latch-key from his pocket: ("It was from Liverpool he came that night, that he came back from the dead, as you might say"); Paula traveled to Liverpool to speak to Charles, who admitted his search was again futile: "I came back here at that time [12 years earlier] hoping to stumble on the trail of my past, but I failed then and I've failed now"; she attempted to jog his memory by suggesting elements of his past life, but nothing turned out to be familiar; he called himself: "A psychological defective"
  • after being elected to a high position in Parliament, he turned to Paula and asked her for marriage "in friendship" - a love-less business "merger" in name only; he proposed: ("I need your help in my parliamentary life....You and I are in the same boat, Miss Hanson. We're both ghost-ridden. That sounds a bit dramatic, but I think it expresses it. We are prisoners of our past....What if we were to pool our loneliness and give each other what little we have to give: Support, friendship? I'm proposing marriage, Miss Hanson. Or should I call it a merger?...You need have no fear that I would make any emotional demands upon you. I have only sincere friendship to offer. I won't ask any more from you"); after some brief thought, she agreed, but felt unfulfilled after three years of marriage to him
  • in the final memorable revelatory scene set in Melbridge, Charles was attending to a strike at the Melbridge Cable Works; afterwards, he retraced his steps, revisiting places he was semi-familiar with -- the Melbridge Arms pub, a tobacconist shop, and the asylum's entrance; he also approached a familiar-looking old cottage (his old rented home) after going through the squeaky gate and blossoming bough - he used his latch-key to open the front door; behind him at the gate, his devoted and faithful secretary Margaret Hanson/Paula (with tear-stained cheeks), who was on holiday in Devon and preparing to leave on a cruise, softly called out to him at the door: ("Smithy? Oh, Smithy! Oh, darling"); he unraveled the clue and recognized her voice - he was jarred into remembering his former life being married to her - he turned around, softly responded "Paula!" to his long-lost love, and they came together to embrace and kiss as the music built to a crescendo -- and a fade to black as the film ended
Regaining His Memory about Paula

'Paula Ridgeway'
(Greer Garson)

Paula Performing "Daisy"

Devon Picnic Marriage Proposal Scene - Smithy and Paula

Bride Paula

Newlyweds in Front of a Small Cottage in Devon

Accident in Liverpool - Causing a 2nd Case of Amnesia

Kitty Chilcet (Susan Peters) - Charles' Adoring Step-Niece

Kitty - In Love with Charles

Kitty - Charles' Fiancee

A Distant Memory (of His Previous Marriage) Triggered by a Hymn

Kitty - The Marriage Called Off

A Proposed Marriage "Merger" with Paula

At the Front Gate

Opening Front Door with Latch-Key

"Smithy? Oh, Smithy! Oh, Darling" - Paula Observing From Behind


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