In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden describes a movie:

It was about this English guy, Alec something, that was in the war and loses his memory in the hospital and all. He comes out of the hospital carrying a cane and limping all over the place, all over London, not knowing who the hell he is. He's really a duke, but he doesn't know it. Then he meets this nice, homey, sincere girl getting on a bus. Her goddam hat blows off and he catches it, and then they go upstairs and sit down and start talking about Charles Dickens. He's both their favorite author and all. He's carrying this copy of Oliver Twist and so's she. I could've puked. Anyway, they fell in love right away, on account of they're both so nuts about Charles Dickens and all, and he helps her run her publishing business. She's a publisher, the girl. Only, she's not doing so hot, because her brother's a drunkard and he spends all their dough. He's a very bitter guy, the brother, because he was a doctor in the war and now he can't operate any more because his nerves are shot, so he boozes all the time, but he's pretty witty and all. Anyway, old Alec writes a book, and this girl publishes it, and they both make a hatful of dough on it. They're all set to get married when this other girl, old Marcia, shows up. Marcia was Alec's fiancée before he lost his memory, and she recognizes him when he's in this store autographing books. She tells old Alec he's really a duke and all, but he doesn't believe her and doesn't want to go with her to visit his mother and all. His mother's blind as a bat. But the other girl, the homey one, makes him go. She's very noble and all. So he goes. But he still doesn't get his memory back, even when his great Dane jumps all over him and his mother sticks her fingers all over his face and brings him this teddy bear he used to slobber around with when he was a kid. But then, one day, some kids are playing cricket on the lawn and he gets smacked in the head with a cricket ball. Then right away he gets his goddam memory back and he goes in and kisses his mother on the forehead and all. Then he starts being a regular duke again, and he forgets all about the homey babe that has the publishing business. I'd tell you the rest of the story, but I might puke if I did. It isn't that I'd spoil it for you or anything. There isn't anything to spoil for Chrissake. Anyway, it ends up with Alec and the homey babe getting married, and the brother that's a drunkard gets his nerves back and operates on Alec's mother so she can see again, and then the drunken brother and old Marcia go for each other. It ends up with everybody at this long dinner table laughing their asses off because the great Dane comes in with a bunch of puppies. Everybody thought it was a male, I suppose, or some goddam thing.
The Catcher in the Rye, chapter 18

Is this a reference to a specific movie? If so, what movie?

  • Sorry about the giant quote, all of it seems significant enough to possibly help but it looks horrible. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 5:02

1 Answer 1


Random Harvest (1942) has many of the elements mentioned in Catcher in the Rye:

  • The hero is an English officer who was wounded in the First World War and lost his memories.
  • He meets and falls in love with a woman.
  • He becomes a writer.
  • He recovers his original (pre-war) memories when his head is struck accidentally.
  • When he recovers his pre-war memories he loses his post-war memories, including his lover.
  • He turns out to be from a wealthy family.
  • In the end he recovers his post-war memories too and reunites with his lover.

There are lots of differences too:

  • The hero is called ‘John’ before he regains his memory, and ‘Charles’ afterwards (not ‘Alec’).
  • His lover is a showgirl (not a publisher).
  • His accident is a collision with a taxi (not a cricket ball).
  • He is the son of an industrialist (not a duke).
  • He recovers his memory before finding his family (not vice versa).
  • He has a cousin called Kitty who is infatuated with him (not a fiancée called Marcia).
  • There is no alcoholic brother, no meet-cute with identical copies of Oliver Twist, and no great Dane.

We should therefore understand Holden’s description as an exaggerated pastiche of elements that he sees as particularly ‘phony’ in Random Harvest and other films he has watched (for example, the great Dane might have come from Blondie in Society, 1941).

I found Random Harvest using IMDb’s advanced title search: I requested a ‘Feature Film’ in the ‘Drama’ genre with a release date of 1945 or earlier and ‘lost his memory’ in the plot summary. This turned up Random Harvest as the first result.

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