Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1942. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Claudine West, George Froeschel, Arthur Wimperis, based on the novel by James Hilton. Cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg. Produced by Sidney Franklin. Music by Herbert Stothart. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Robert Kalloch. Film Editing by Harold F. Kress. Academy Awards 1942. National Board of Review Awards 1942. New York Film Critics Awards 1942.
This heartfelt, romantic melodrama really tempts ridicule with its outrageous plot, but the beauty of its cinematography, rich sentimentality in its direction and the superb performances by its leading stars make it a warm and wonderful indulgence. Ronald Colman is terrific as a shell-shocked soldier who is languishing in an asylum, unable to remember his identity and having difficulty with speaking. The excitement of the end of the Great War sees him walk away from the institution unnoticed, wandering into the nearby town where he meets a beautiful music hall performer (Greer Garson) who immediately feels sympathy for him. Taking care of him in the hopes of preventing his going back to the asylum, she ends up taking him to a faraway village where they fall in love, get married and have a child, and he, on the mend despite still not knowing who he is, pursues a career as a writer to support them. When an offer comes from a Liverpool newspaper looking to put him on their staff, he leaves her and their baby behind to go take a meeting in the city and, while there, has an accident that causes him to remember his old life and forget his new one! From there things go to crazy places that are for you to discover, including one of the most shocking dramatic reveals in a movie made before Psycho, but don’t worry, no matter how much this almost Odyssean odyssey stresses you out (and it definitely does), it’s well worth sticking with until the end. Garson couldn’t possibly be lovelier in the lead, displaying all that genuine warmth beneath her grand manner and earning our affection every time she crinkles those starry eyes.