AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Random Harvest
Director: Mervyn LeRoy (Dir)
Release Date:   1942
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 17 Dec 1942
Production Date:   27 Apr--8 Jul 1942; addl scenes began 23 Jul 1942
Duration (in mins):   128
Duration (in feet):   11,364 or 11,505
Duration (in reels):   12
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Ronald Colman (Charles Rainier [also known as Smithy])  
    Greer Garson (Paula [Ridgeway, also known as Margaret Hanson])  
    Philip Dorn (Dr. Jonathan Benet)  
    Susan Peters (Kitty)  
    Henry Travers (Dr. Sims)  
    Reginald Owen ("Biffer")  
    Bramwell Fletcher (Harrison)  
    Rhys Williams (Sam)  
    Una O'Connor (Tobacconist)  
    Aubrey Mather (Sheldon)  
    Margaret Wycherly (Mrs. Deventer)  
    Arthur Margetson (Chetwynd)  
    Melville Cooper (George)  
    Alan Napier (Julian)  
    Jill Esmond (Lydia)  
    Marta Linden (Jill)  
    Ann Richards (Bridget)  
    Norma Varden (Julia)  
    David Cavendish (Henry Chilcet)  
    Ivan Simpson (The vicar)  
    Marie de Becker (Vicar's wife)  
    Charles Waldron (Mr. Lloyd)  
    Elisabeth Risdon (Mrs. Lloyd)  
    John Burton (Pearson)  
    Alec Craig (Comedian)  
    Henry Daniel (Heavy man)  
    Helena Phillips Evans (Ella, charwoman)  
    Mrs. Gardner Crane (Mrs. Sims)  
    Aubrey Mather (Sheldon)  
    Montague Shaw (Julia's husband)  
    Lumsden Hare (Sir John)  
    Frederic Worlock (Paula's lawyer)  
    Wallis Clark (Jones)  
    Harry J. Shannon (Badgeley)  
    Hilda Plowright (Nurse)  
    Rita Page (Nurse)  
    Arthur Space (Trempitt)  
    Jimmy Aubrey (Attendant)  
    Bob Stevenson (Attendant)  
    Gil Perkins (Attendant)  
    Arthur Gould-Porter (Attendant)  
    Bill James (Workman)  
    Colin Kenny (Workman)  
    Pat Moriarty (Workman)  
    Bobbie Hale (Workman)  
    Stanley Mann (Workman)  
    Tommy Hughes (Workman)  
    Henry King (Workman)  
    Bill Nind (Workman)  
    Captain John Van Eyck (Workman)  
    Hugh Harrison (Workman)  
    John Power (Workman)  
    Frank Benson (Workman)  
    Sid D'Albrook (Workman)  
    Al Ferguson (Workman)  
    Dan Maxwell (Workman)  
    Leslie Sketchley (Workman)  
    Harold DeBecker (Milkman)  
    Ian Wolfe (Registrar)  
    Keith Hitchcock (Commissionaire)  
    Forrester Harvey (Cabby)  
    David Clyde (Lodge keeper)  
    Pax Walker (Sheila )  
    Reginald Sheffield (Judge)  
    Clement May (Beddoes)  
    Arthur Shields (Chemist)  
    Boyd Irwin (Party whip)  
    Kay Medford (Wife)  
    Clifford Severn (Albert)  
    Harry Allen (Bartender)  
    Matthew Boulton (Policeman)  
    Cyril McLaglen (Policeman)  
    Walter Tetley (Call boy)  
    Yorke Sherwood (Cockney workman)  
    Harry Adams (Businessman)  
    Hooper Atchley (Businessman)  
    Donald Stuart (Taxi driver)  
    Lilyan Irene (Waitress)  
    Leonard Mudie (Old man)  
    Major Sam Harris (Member of House of Commons)  
    Herbert Evans (Member of House of Commons)  
    Eric Wilton (Member of House of Commons)  
    Ernest Hilliard (Member of House of Commons)  
    Al Hill (Member of House of Commons)  
    George Kirby (Conductor)  
    Charles Bennett (Porter)  
    Robert Cory (Waiter)  
    Lowden Adams (Clerk)  
    Peter Lawford (Soldier)  
    Terry Kilburn (Newspaperboy)  
    St. Luke's Choristers    
    Winifred Harris    
    Gwendolen Logan    
    Elizabeth Williams    
    Olive Blakeney    
    Cyril Thornton    

Summary: On 11 Nov 1918, "Smith," an amnesiac, shell-shocked officer, who has lived in a county asylum in Melbridge, England for many months, wanders into town for the first time, attracted by the sounds of celebration at the end of World War I. In a tobacconist's shop, Smith's hesitating speech alerts the owner that he is from the asylum, but a kindly entertainer, known as Paula Ridgeway, whispers that he should leave, then takes him to a local pub. Paula invites him to her show and gently draws him out. Because "Smithy," as Paula calls him, has come down with the influenza, she and her friend, barkeep "Biffer," take him in and nurse him back to health. Smithy thrives under Paula's care and she obtains a job for him with her troupe. When an asylum caretaker reveals that they are still looking for a missing inmate, though, Paula runs away with Smithy and takes him to a small town in Devon. They stay at a local inn, and soon she gets a job as a typist, while a thriving Smithy begins to write. When he sells his first article to the Liverpool Mercury , Smithy tells Paula that he loves her and proposes. After their marriage they move into a small cottage, and in November 1920, Paula gives birth to a baby boy. A few days later, Smithy receives a telegram from the Mercury asking him to come to Liverpoool to discuss a permanent position on the paper. Because Paula is still recovering from a difficult birth, he reluctantly travels alone, planning to return the following night. After checking into his hotel, Smithy walks toward the Mercury office but is hit by a car and knocked unconscious. When he comes to, he has no memory of the past three years and recalls only his life as aristocrat Charles Rainier. Although confused, Charles returns home, where he finds that his father has died and his siblings are anticipating their inheritance. He also meets Kitty, the teenaged daughter of his sister's new husband. By 1932, Charles has become known as "the industrial prince of England" for vastly increasing his family's fortunes, but is haunted by the missing past that is tied to a latchkey he found in his vest pocket after the accident. He has been loyally served for two years by his private secretary, Margaret Hanson, whom Charles does not recognize as Paula. One day, while dining with Kitty in a London restaurant, Charles hears the voice of Melbridge psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Benet and is briefly reminded of something in his past, but, as always, the memory passes before he can capture it. That same day, Charles tells Kitty, who has always loved him, that he returns her feelings and later announces to Margaret that he is going to marry Kitty. Margaret, whose son died in infancy, struggles to maintain her composure and that night begs Benet, who has become a good friend, to let her tell Charles everything. Benet makes her realize that Charles has to find memories of "Smithy" on his own. On the day that Kitty and Charles are selecting music for their wedding, one melody inexplicably reminds him of his past and he momentarily looks at Kitty as if she were a stranger. Seeing her cry brings him back to the present, but she tells him that they cannot go through with the wedding because he can never return feelings for her that belong to someone from his past. After Charles goes to Liverpool for clues to his past, Margaret follows him to say that the Liberal party has requested that he stand for election to a newly vacated seat in Parliament. While in Liverpool, Margaret tries gently to lead him to clues about his lost life, but even finding "Smithy's" suitcase does not jar his memory. Charles is soon elected to Parliament and confesses to Margaret that from time to time he has had the feeling that he knew her in the past. He then proposes that they marry in a kind of "merger" in which she would help him in his political life and says that he can offer only sincere friendship. She discusses the proposal with Benet, who loves Magaret himself, and disregards his admonition that she will be hurt. After Margaret and Charles marry, she becomes his greatest asset and dearest friend. Charles is soon knighted and on their third anniversary Charles gives her an expensive necklace. Despite Charles' affection and friendship, Margaret yearns for the love she shared with Smithy and decides that she needs to go away for a few weeks. As Charles uneasily sees her off on the train, he receives word that there is labor unrest in his cableworks in Melbridge. He soon settles the dispute, and as he goes through the town, he surprises his assistant, Harrison, by going right to the tobacconist's shop, even though he had just said that he had never been in Melbridge before. The next day, Margaret, who had been staying at the old Devon inn, learns from the proprietress that a man has just been by asking for the former owner and inquiring about a nearby cottage. Margaret then rushes to her old home. At the cottage, Charles's memories begin to flood back as his latchkey opens the front door. When Margaret arrives and calls him "Smithy," he finally recognizes that Margaret is Paula and the two happily embrace. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Production Text: A Mervyn LeRoy Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Mervyn LeRoy (Dir)
  Al Shenberg (Asst dir)
  Hugh Boswell (Asst dir)
Producer: Sidney Franklin (Prod)
Writer: Claudine West (Scr)
  George Froeschel (Scr)
  Arthur Wimperis (Scr)
Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Randall Duell (Assoc)
  Ernst Matray ("She's Ma Daisy" staged by)
Film Editor: Harold F. Kress (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Jack Moore (Assoc)
Costumes: Kalloch (Gowns)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hairstyles by)
  Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: 7Jonah Ruddy (Tech adv)
  William H. Cannon (Prod mgr)
Country: United States

Songs: "She Is Ma Daisy," music and lyrics by Sir Harry Lauder and J. D. Harper
Composer: J. D. Harper
  Sir Harry Lauder
Source Text: Based on the novel Random Harvest by James Hilton (Boston, 1941).
Authors: James Hilton

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 6/10/1942 dd/mm/yyyy LP11666 Yes

PCA NO: 8545
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Romance
Subjects (Major): Amnesia
  Unrequited love
Subjects (Minor): Armistice Day
  Automobile accidents
  Devon (England)
  Great Britain. Parliament
  Liverpool (England)
  London (England)
  Marriage of convenience

Note: According to the frontispiece on James Hilton's novel Random Harvest , the title comes from a German Official Report: "bombs fell at random." According to various news items, Hilton's novel was purchased in galley form by M-G-M. Although the film generally follows the storyline of the novel, there are significant differences in the disclosing of events between the novel and the film. The events of the novel evolve through the narration of "Harrison" (a minor character in the film), who meets "Charles Rainier" on a train on Armistice Day, 11 Nov 1937. Kitty, a prominent character in the film, is only a minor character in the novel. The novel ends at the start of World War II, whereas the film ends in the mid-1930s.
       HR news items in Sep and Oct 1941 noted that director Clarence Brown was about to sail for England to film the story there, with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. Following America's entry into World War II, a decision was made to shoot the film on the M-G-M lot in Culver City, CA, and in early 1942, Mervyn LeRoy was assigned to direct the picture. Actors Donna Reed and Edmund Gwenn were at one time cast in the film. Reed was to have played Kitty, a role taken over by Susan Peters, and Gwenn was cast as the Prime Minister, a role not in the released film. Richard Ney and Charles Ray were both mentioned in news items as being cast, but they were not in the released film. HR news items also include George Broughton in the cast, but his appearance has not been confirmed. An item in LAEx on Sep 1942 noted that producer Sidney Franklin, who frequently appeared in background shots in his films, was not seen in Random Harvest , but sang with the choir that provided background music to one scene. The song, "She Is Ma Daisy," (called "She's Ma Daisy" in the onscreen credits) performed by Garson in the film, was popularized by well-known Scottish music hall star Sir Harry Lauder, whom Garson briefly imitates. Although Random Harvest was completed in Jul 1942, it did not have its premiere until mid-Dec. According to news items, M-G-M delayed the release of the picture to avoid competition with another very popular Garson film, Mrs. Miniver (see above).
       Random Harvest received seven Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colman), Best Supporting Actress (Peters), Art Direction, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and Adapted Screenplay. Screenwriters Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel and Claudine West did win the Oscar in that category (along with Random Harvest novelist James Hilton), but for their work on Mrs. Miniver . According to M-G-M studio records at the AMPAS Library, the picture's negative cost was $1,210,000. Its gross was $8,147,000, yielding a profit of $4,384,000 and making it one of M-G-M's biggest hits of the decade. Colman and Garson recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, broadcast on 3 Jan 1944. Another version, which also starred Colman and Garson, was broadcast on 1 Apr 1948. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   28 Nov 1942.   
Daily Variety   25 Nov 42   p. 3.
Film Daily   25 Nov 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Sep 41   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Sep 41   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Oct 41   p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Mar 42   pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Mar 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Apr 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Apr 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Apr 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Apr 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   26 May 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jul 42   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jul 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Aug 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Nov 42   p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner   7 Sep 1942.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   28 Nov 42   p. 1029.
New York Times   18 Dec 42   p. 36.
Variety   25 Nov 42   p. 16.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.