Random Harvest

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Smithy: I don't even know who I am.
Paula: Well, I know who you are. You're someone awfully nice.

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Question: I have several questions. In Random Harvest Ronald Colman is a First World War veteran. A war accident left him with amnesia and no memory of his previous life. He meets Greer Garson, they fall in love and marry. Several years later Ronald Colman crosses the road without looking, is hit by a car and knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness he recalls that he is Charles Rainier, a wealthy landowner and industrialist, but he now has no memory of his life when he was an amnesiac and married to Greer Garson. Is such "double amnesia" possible? Ronald Colman meets Greer Garson again and employs her as his secretary, so he sees her and converses with her daily for several years, but his amnesia is such that he never recognises her as his wife. She could tell him about his missing years and their marriage, but she must never do this because the shock would be too great for him. Does this make any sense? Surely, if any woman met her long-lost husband, who said "I have amnesia and I can't remember who I am", wouldn't she instinctively reply "You're my husband"?

Rob Halliday

Answer: Amnesia the way it is often portrayed in movies, including this one, is impossible. People who do suffer from it, usually from some traumatic event, regain their memory relatively quickly. Double amnesia as portrayed in this movie could never, ever happen. This movie is total fiction, though people did, and still do, believe amnesia happens this way.

raywest Premium member

Answer: I have seen other films and read stories about people with amnesia. In 1965 and 1966 there was a "western" television series "A Man Called Shenandoah", wholly based on this premise. In the aftermath of the American Civil War Robert Horton is discovered unconscious on the prairie. When he revives he has no memory of who he is. He roams the west, unsuccessfully trying to discover his identity. I think he had some atrocious bad luck. Just as somebody was about to tell him who he really was they would get run over by a train, or shot in the back. The television company dropped the series after 34 episodes, so we never did find out who he really was.

Rob Halliday

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