Jeff Hartnett: I seem to have offended your light of love by using a polysyllabic word.
Johnny Eager: You’re drunk.
Jeff Hartnett: Now, Eager. . .that’s. . .obvious. Very obvious. Don’t be obvious. You’re out of character when you’re obvious. Adroitness is your racket. Hard, clever and. . .adroit. That’s your description.
Johnny Eager: Oh, now not again, Jeff.
Jeff Hartnett: Just because I’ve said it before, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Eager, you’re. . .a man. . .you shouldn’t be obvious. Observed, analyzed and recorded for history because you’re unique. Absolutely unique!
Johnny Eager: Here we go again, kids.
I first saw this movie a few years back on TCM and it destroyed me. I saw it recently at the Castro Theatre and I guess I had forgotten a few things about it because there were whole plot twists I didn’t remember and it destroyed me all over again. If you haven’t seen this film before, beware I will be discussing some of the film’s major plot twists. Random Harvest came out the same year as arguably Greer Garson’s most famous film – Mrs. Miniver – as such, she was nominated (an won) Best Actress for playing the titular role in that film, and was ineligible to be nominated for her performance in this film. Regardless, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, though it failed to win any: Best Score, Best B&W Art Direction, Best Writing Screenplay (this was a third category, and is not analogous to the Best Original or Best Adapted Screenplay categories we have now), Best Supporting Actress Susan Peters, Best Actor Ronald Coleman, Best Director Mervyn LeRoy and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were 49th Parallel, Kings Row, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Pied Piper, The Pride of the Yankees, The Talk of the Town, Wake Island, Yankee Doodle Dandy and winner Mrs. Miniver.
Helen: Jim! Why haven’t you come before?
James Allen: I couldn’t; I was afraid to.
Helen: You could have written! It’s been almost a year since you escaped!
James Allen: But I haven’t escaped. They’re still after me. They’ll always be after me. I’ve had jobs, but I can’t keep them. Something happens. Someone turns up. I hide in rooms all day, travel by night. No friends, no rest, no peace.
Helen: Oh, Jim!
James Allen: Keep moving; that’s all that’s left for me. Forgive me, Helen, I. . .I had to take a chance to see you tonight, just to say goodbye.
Helen: Oh, Jim, it was all going to be so different.
James Allen: It is different. They’ve made it different. I’ve got to go!
Helen: I can’t let you go like this!
James Allen: I have to.
Helen: Can’t you tell me where you’re going?! Will you write? Do you need any money? But you must, Jim! How do you live?!
James Allen: I steal.
I saw this film for the first time last November, when I was in the midst of Noirvember. While I would argue that this is more of a precursor to film noir, rather than actual film noir, it is nonetheless a really wonderful film. Of the handful of Paul Muni’s films that I’ve seen, it is most definitely my favorite of his performances. Muni is one of those actors who completely disappears into the roles he plays and, sadly, is not all that well-known these days. This film was nominated for three Academy Awards, though it didn’t win any: Best Sound, Best Actor and Best Picture. The other films nominated that year were 42nd Street, A Farewell to Arms, Lady for a Day, Little Women, The Private Life of Henry VIII., She Done Him Wrong, Smilin’ Through, State Fair and winner Cavalcade.