Run time: 126 mins
In Theaters: Tuesday 31st August 1943
Distributed by: MGM Home Entertainment
Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 1
IMDB: 8.0 / 10
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Producer: Sidney Franklin
Starring: Ronald Colman as Smithy, Greer Garson as Paula, Philip Dorn as Dr. Jonathan Benet, Susan Peters as Kitty, Henry Travers as Dr. Sims, Reginald Owen as Biffer, Bramwell Fletcher as Harrison, Rhys Williams as Sam, Una O'Connor as Tobacconist, Aubrey Mather as Sheldon, Margaret Wycherly as Mrs. Deventer, Arthur Margetson as Chetwynd, Melville Cooper as George, Alan Napier as Julian, Jill Esmond as Lydia, Marta Linden as Jill, Ann Richards as Bridget, Norma Varden as Julia, David Cavendish as Henry Chilcet, Ivan F. Simpson as The Vicar (as Ivan Simpson), Marie De Becker as Vicar's Wife, Charles Waldron as Mr. Lloyd, Elisabeth Risdon as Mrs. Lloyd
The film is an adaptation of a novel by James Hilton (who wrote Lost Horizon, which Frank Capra made into one of Hollywood's greatest epics, also featuring Colman). The contrived plot of Hilton's novel is not helped by the film's condensed treatment. Neither of Colman's lives is fully fleshed out, and it's possible to imagine the plot going off in other, more plausible directions than the one it takes. And the premise is essentially a male fantasy, with Colman's protagonist getting two shots at success, happiness, and marriage (however, he is happy in only one of his lives, until both are reconciled at the end).
Like many films from Hollywood's classic era, the abundance of talent rescues the material. Colman and Garson (both English, though neither one has an accent) contribute strong performances, adding elements of psychodrama to what would otherwise have been a standard romance. Garson's mix of ethereal beauty and down-to-earth presence is perfect for the role (she won an Academy Award the same year for the excellent WWII drama Mrs. Miniver). Colman was never better than in this movie. The role probably was easy for the actor, a WWI veteran who was wounded in combat.