Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Mrs. Kay Miniver, the movie’s namesake, is the matriarch of a middle class British family. Well, they claim to be middle class at the beginning of the movie, but they do have a HUGE house and no less than three servants. Kay spends her days shopping and her husband Clem is a successful architect. They have three children Judy and Toby who are younger and Vin who is studying at Oxford. They live in a quiet village – the kind that has flower shows and glee clubs.
Mrs. Miniver is friendly with Mr. Ballard, a man who works at the train station in town. He grew a beautiful rose that he is going to enter into the annual Thames Valley Flower Show. He asks permission to name the rose after Mrs. Miniver, a sign that she is a beautiful and well-loved woman around town.
Vin returns from Oxford and is visiting at home with his parents when Carol Beldon, a young woman from the village, stops by to speak with Mrs. Miniver. She is the granddaughter of Lady Beldon, an older wealthy woman who has never lost the Themes Valley Flower Show. Carol’s hope is that Mrs. Miniver will ask Mr. Ballard to withdraw his rose. Mrs. Miniver won’t, but Carol’s trip isn’t in vein, as she and Vin hit it off.
Eight months pass and war begins in Britain. Vin joins the Royal Air Force, but has promised Carol his heart. The Miniver’s make a few minor adjustments for the war (dark curtains, building a bomb shelter) but they have yet to truly take the war seriously. Vin returns home one night and visits his family. He proposes marriage to Carol and only a few minutes after she accepts his proposal, he is called back to the Royal Air Force. Clem, who is a member of the Themes River Patrol, is called away in the middle of the night. Clem and the other men are annoyed at having to take to their boats, but they soon begin to take the war seriously when they learn they need to take their boats to France to rescue thousands of stranded British soldiers.
Kay wakes up the next morning and takes a walk around the house. She stumbles upon a wounded German soldier. He forces her into the house at gunpoint and demands food and milk. He eventually passes out from blood loss and Kay calls the police and takes his gun. The police come and take the man away. Much like her husband’s experience on the Themes River, Kay is now beginning to understand the seriousness of the war.
The best part of the movie is the last few minutes. During Carol’s funeral the pastor gives a rousing speech about how this war is the people’s war and we all must fight. I’ve reprinted it below.
Mrs. Miniver’s director, William Wyler, joined the US Army after making this movie. After having been to war, he said that Mrs. Miniver was too soft a depiction of actual war.
This movie was the first to ever be nominated for five acting Academy Awards. Greer Garson, who played Mrs. Miniver, gave the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history, a whooping 5 and a half minutes. The last piece of trivia – Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver) and Richard Ney (Vincent Miniver) got married after making this film. Kinda gross since she played his mom.
The Miniver Story (1950) was the sequel to this Oscar winner, but it bombed.
I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. Unfortunately, I found it more charming than anti-war. I think I’ve watched Saving Private Ryan too many times, which sort of tainted my ability to feel anything towards war that isn’t bloody.