Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mrs. Miniver/Random Harvest

Mrs. Miniver
Random Harvest
seen on TV @ TCM

So according to the website Behind the Name, the name "Greer" comes from the Scottish, and is a derivation of "Gregor." It's one of those old-fashioned names you hardly ever see anymore, so perhaps it's only fitting that it's associated with one of the big movie stars of the past - namely, Greer Garson. I can't say I'm too familiar with her, but I do recall having seen her biggest hit, Mrs. Miniver, back when I was working video retail. 

At the time, I thought it was just okay. I knew it was a Best Picture winner, but I still hadn't developed a true appreciation of classic film at this point, so I suspect I must have thought it too British and stuffy or something. I'm not sure, but for whatever reason, I forgot about it after I watched it.

Obviously, time has greatly altered my outlook on classic film, and seeing it again the other night was almost like watching it for the first time again. I saw it completely differently. Knowing the history behind it helped, of course: it was the movie that made World War 2 real to Americans, that made them sympathetic to the British. Even without that, though, it's quite memorable. The scene where they're all in the bomb shelter, waiting out the battle going on above their heads; that's powerful stuff - and it must have had a tremendous impact on 1942 audiences.

It also reminds me once again how different WW2 was in comparison to the undeclared Iraq war. In the mid-to-late 00s, there were a number of fictitious films that attempted to portray the reality of the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but none of them captured the public's attention the way Miniver did for WW2. Even The Hurt Locker required critical attention and an Oscar boost before people were even aware of it. WW2 inspired so many different kinds of stories, and continues to do so, because it was so different than those that followed - Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, etc. It had an obvious bad guy and a real danger. Such circumstances are hard to imagine now, in these days where America gets into wars for, shall we say, less clear-cut reasons.

And then there's Random Harvest, a movie about the consequences of war on the individual. WW1 soldier loses his memory and sneaks out of the asylum he's kept in when the war is declared over. He meets a chick, they fall in love and get married, but then his old memories come back to him and he returns to his former life. Where does that leave the chick? This has less to do with war directly; it's more about the aftermath. The story stretches credibility at times, but because it's a Hollywood movie, you know that things will work out in the end, somehow. While I liked it, I would've preferred a more challenging resolution.

Garson shows a little more range here than in Miniver. Paula, her character, starts out as a showgirl, and it was awesome to see her sing and dance in one early scene. She doesn't get to do any more, however, once she falls in love with Ronald Coleman's character. I found it a bit disappointing that she throws away her career so quickly and easily for a dude she barely knows and who may be mentally unstable for all she knows, but that's movie romance for you.

Still, Garson strikes me as a decent actress, in the classic Hollywood mold. Very beautiful, obviously. I didn't realize until I looked up the pictures for this post that she was a redhead. Other than her song-and-dance routine in Harvest, no one element of her acting in particular stood out for me, but then, this was a time before actors were encouraged to let their Brandoesque mannerisms show.


  1. I need to watch these movies some day. Regarding the '00 movies about Iraq and Afghanistan, what other movies besides The Hurt Locker were there? I can't think of any others.

  2. "In the Valley of Elah"
    "Lions for Lambs"


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