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It must be over 50 years since I first saw this classic film, and for some
reason I never watched it again until recently. To do so was an interesting
experience - reliving many memories of the war years which I mostly spent in
London. I think the reason why there was such a long interval before I
decided to watch it again was a subconscious recognition that it was
produced at a time of crisis, largely for political reasons, and a feeling
this was unduly evident in the screenplay. Mrs. Miniver was released a few
months after Pearl Harbour, at a time when many U.S. citizens wondered why
their country should be expending its efforts fighting in Europe when it was
Japan which had attacked them The film was quite clearly written, produced
and directed with the objective of answering this question. Winston
Churchill has made it clear that he regarded the release of this film as one
of the biggest single contributions made to the allied war effort (worth, in
his words, "a flotilla of destroyers"), and it is hard today not to regard
the film as primarily a piece of patriotic propaganda. However the deft and
capable direction of William Wyler and the almost uniformly great acting by
the cast, particularly Greer Garson as Mrs. Miniver, go a very long way
towards concealing the fact that one is viewing a film with a message and
few would deny that the Oscars it won were thoroughly deserved. Mrs. Miniver
certainly earns its place on any short list of film classics.
There are of course already many comments on this film in the database, I would have been reluctant to add any more but for the realization that people of my age who lived in England during the war are becoming increasingly few, and our comments - which must have a rather different perspective to those of younger generations - will not continue to be available for very much longer. Many of the very fine sequences in this film have already been reviewed more than adequately by others and I will not comment further on them; but two sequences which I found particularly evocative were the call on amateur sailors to help evacuate the British army from Dieppe, and the pub scene where the locals were listening to the British traitor Lord Haw Haw broadcasting from Germany and telling his listeners how futile any further resistance would be. In stating this, I am simply confirming that for such documentary type films people who lived through the events depicted will assess the film on the basis of their personal memories rather than on their cinematographic quality.
Ultimately, both on its first viewing and when viewing it again a few days ago, I found that for me watching Mrs. Miniver was irritating because it inevitably showed an American view of life as it was in England. Numerous very small points indicated that we were seeing a glimpse of middle class English life through American eyes. Whilst as an English born viewer I found this irritating, it did not in any way detract from the primary purpose of the film in showing Americans what life in wartime Britain was really like, and why their involvement in the war in Europe was so vital. Ultimately I had to accept that this was a great film which well deserves its classic status.
What a wonderful film Mrs Miniver still is 58 years later. Like
Coppola's 'Gardens of Stone', it deals with war by following the lives
of those affected by it, and without showing any combat. It's moving,
but unlike many other films of the period, totally unsentimental,
though has many warm and winning moments (Pidgeon spanking Garson as
the maid walks in, following an eventful morning, to say the least!)
Two sequences particularly clicked on this viewing. The first involves the son/pilot who is recalled to service abruptly when his leave has only just begun. He goes upstairs to get his belongings, the mother and fiancée are left in the room, with the backs of their heads to camera - a most unusual shot 'against the rules' of filming. Then you realise the centre of attention is the space left on the stair by the son - they and we are missing him, awaiting his return, but only for a moment as he must leave again. It's as poignant as the doorway framing scenes in 'The Searchers', and rather subtle.
Another scene is the family in the air raid shelter undergoing a bombing attack. The claustrophobia of the situation, and the bravery and dignity of the powerless family caught there, is focused by a single point of view. The unspoken fear is on the face of Garson, vocalised by the kids who finally awake as the bombardment increases. Long, simple takes perfectly capture the intense atmosphere (and exceptional acting.
When I was young I never appreciated this art of 'invisible' film-making, and just why such directors as William Wyler or Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder do such a good job without you even noticing. The fact their films stand the test of time so well is testament to their wonderful abilities as film-makers.
I avoided watching "Mrs. Miniver" for years because I assumed it was a
treacly, sentimentalized film that ignored what I considered the real
of war. Knowing Greer Garson, who I considered the anti-Crawford, starred
in it gave me more of an excuse.
I finally watched it as "film homework" and loved it. It's about an upper-middle-class English family (although most of the American actors are terrible holding their accents) and their experience in the early years of World War II.
A swiftly-moving storyline takes us from the complacency of peace through air raids, Dunkirk and tragedy. No one is a super-hero, but decent people who understand they must put aside their personal concerns and do what must be done to fight for their country and freedom. No one preaches except the minister and he, only rarely.
Of course, it being England, there's time for a flower show, and being a movie, there's a romance (WWII was not kind to Theresa Wright's characters, however).
The film's remarkable pacing is one of its great highlights. Long transitions are covered in the merest of hints; a comment that a servant has departed, for example. Yet there's time for powerful, lengthy scenes such as that of the Minivers holed up in a crude bomb shelter with their two young children, away from their storybook home. Despite the increasingly hellish crash of bombs and bullets, they try to chat about knitting and such. But soon the fear builds to an unbearable climax and the family desperately clings to one another.
The acting is generally superb, and much of the story is told through silent shots of the stars, rather than dialog. Few moments are as touching as the shot of the glowing young wife seeing her husband off to war, admiring his courage, contrasted by the barely hidden fear and maturity of the mother.
You can nit-pick; the movie has many of the conventional stylistic hallmarks of the period. But it is the masterpiece it has long been hailed.
With her peaceful English life suddenly thrown into turmoil
the Second World War, MRS. MINIVER continues to provide
solid rock of security for her family.
Released seven months after America's entry into the War, this film did a great deal to inform the American people about Britain's defiance against Nazi Germany and the steadfast resolution of the British people in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Coming at a time of heightened emotions - as well as being expertly produced and extremely well acted - it is easy to see why the film earned 6 Oscars, including Best Picture & Best Director.
Greer Garson is completely marvelous in the title role, (for which she won the Best Actress Oscar), presenting a portrait of grace & courage under fire which transcends mere acting. She is representing an entire island full of women who grew the crops & ran the factories and kept the nation operating while the men went to battle. Through her wonderful performance, Garson shows how those she symbolized more than did their part in the fight against the Axis.
Two other ladies give outstanding performances in the film. As the local aristocrat, Dame May Whitty is properly imperious & proud, yet the viewer sees her character unbend over the course of the film to become much more vulnerable. Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, lovely Teresa Wright is luminous as Dame May's granddaughter. Sweetly sensible, elegantly at ease, joyous during hardships, Miss Wright gives a performance not easy to forget.
In solid, understated roles, both Walter Pidgeon as Mr. Miniver & Richard Ney as his elder son, supply good support to the ladies in the cast. Pidgeon gets to pilot one of the Little Boats to Dunkirk and Ney becomes a flyer with the RAF, but both are performed in an almost subdued manner, leaving the heroics to the women.
A quintet of fine actors add small, deft brushstrokes to the movie's canvas: cherubic Henry Travers as the station-master who delights in the gentle art of breeding roses; blustery Reginald Owen as the local storekeeper who eagerly takes over as air raid warden; kindly Henry Wilcoxon as the village vicar; blunt Rhys Williams as the boyfriend of the Miniver's maid (comically played by Brenda Forbes); and Helmut Dantine as the pitiless German pilot who briefly invades the Miniver household.
Six-year-old Christopher Severn will either delight or annoy as the Miniver's talkative infant son. Clare Sandars, as his slightly older sister, is left something of a cipher by the script.
Movie mavens should recognize Ian Wolfe, uncredited as a boatman helping with the Dunkirk rescue.
The scenes involving the brutal aerial bombardment are still vividly suspenseful, focusing primarily on the faces of the actors involved.
This film is great movie because it pulls at the heartstrings and brings
forth real emotion in the viewer. As somebody who has recently moved away
from a war-zone, the sense of loss of the innocent at the hands of a
heartless and remorseless enemy actually moved me to tears.
I can see why the movie won so many Oscars - the performances are far above the standards of many of today's "greats", and the longer shots (unlike today's "grunge" editing or excessive camera movements) give the cast a chance to act out scenes in depth instead of doing one line at a time as is the current vogue. In one scene between the young Belden and Miniver, all the dialogue is conveyed by subtle body language. We don't see that from most modern films - cheap dialogue substitutes for communication. Less really is more.
I have one niggle - every single visual detail is wrong - it was filmed in America, where everything looks different. The train was not a Southern Region train, the garden fence wasn't British, and the interiors were like nothing you'd seen in English villages. And some of the accents were uncomfortably like products from "Dick Van Dyke's School of Bad Cockney" - a dialect only spoken in the East End of London!!!
Other than that, this film was a great, and I await the DVD eagerly.
I've seen this film several times now, and despite knowing what occurs, the
beauty never wears off.
The film is aesthetically lovely, thanks to William Wyler's low key yet attentive and detailed style. The characters act naturally, something oft times missing in older films that lean to be more stylized. The acting is incredible in this film, and something many a modern film would do well to copy. Greer Garson is the portrait of strength, beauty, and dignity as Mrs. Miniver in a brilliantly played role. Yet it's the substance that stays with you. The film is telling a story about people and a time in history, and it's simple because it allows itself to be. It flows like real life, the trivial, the simple, the small moments, the enormous and life shattering. It taps into the real emotions people feel, and not big "war movie" emotions, but the joy of greeting a child upon return, of having a flower named after you and winning an award, of happiness and humor, of exhaustion, fear, pain, and grief. The film gently brings us into another life and lets us reside there. While there, we begin to love the Minivers and those that they love.
At one point in the movie, the family is in a bomb shelter and Mr. and Mrs. Miniver are talking. Mr. Miniver picks up "Alice in Wonderland" and begins to recite a passage about the joys of childhood, a summer past, and the simple pleasures in life. Mrs. Miniver finishes the passage, and Mr. Miniver (Walter Pidgeon) mentions that he wonders if Lewis Carrol ever thought that his story would be so beloved decades later. I found that interesting, because after all these years and viewings, it's the characters and their realistic palpable experiences and emotions, the strength and courage they show, and the simplicity of the film in allowing us to see it plainly and feel it too, because it's a story of the human experience we can all relate with that isn't limited to the battleground, that do and will keep this movie everlasting, and an homage to the human spirit.
At the time it was a sensation and one of great influence, which obviously
hit home with many American families, with the reality of the War still of
course very much alive. The ending is not the expected happy one, but is
instead rather thought provoking, stirring and influential. Reality, or
reality is after all always better than the typical MGM musical. Today it
not possible for it to retain the power it held during the period, but one
of the reasons it is still a good movie because it is great wholesome
The Minivers are a family with great fortune who are well over the average income earning line to be considered just a middle class family. This is obvious with the picturesque house designed by Mr Miniver the architect. Some of the scenes have now become more noticeably studio bound now, which was something I did not notice before because it was one of the first old classic movies I did watched, but it hardly matters, as it still remains one of my favourite movies.
Greer Garson, in another of her charming English rose roles, gives a superb performance, as the devoted and loving wife. Walter Pidgeon is also great in his role, the second of his teamings with Garson. The great supporting cast includes Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Richard Ney, Reginald Owen and Henry Travers. Henry Travers' as Mr Ballard, station master and a keen rose grower is in particular a memorable performer.
Elements of the film have been well combined with drama, romance, light humour, and finally, tragedy. It may have been given the Hollywood and typical glossy MGM treatment, but it hasn't forgotten either humanity or the sacrifices associated with war time problems.
Showered with accolades and awards at the time, the movie won Oscars for Greer Garson, Teresa Wright, screenplay, William Wyler and Best Picture of 1942. Walter Pidgeon lost to the dynamic performance of James Cagney in "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Henry Travers, and Dame May Whitty also netted nominations.
An agreeable screenplay and the direction of veteran William Wyler make this a forgotten treat. Few films have been as effective as this, and although its message may not ring as clear now as it did then, it has to be saluted for the war time morale it brought to movie goers around the world.
With the help of the extensive British colony in Hollywood, William
Wyler directed at MGM the best World War II propaganda film to come out
of our film industry. Mrs. Miniver won a host of Oscars including Best
Picture, Best Actress for Greer Garson, Best Supporting Actress for
Teresa Wright, Best Director for William Wyler, all deserved.
Forget all the war pictures, this film about the trials of a British family just before and during World War II struck a poignant note with the American public. Showing how they were coping with the attacks on their civilian population made every American family identify with the Minivers. If they fail in their resolution to defend their blessed isle, we in America could be facing these same trials and depredations.
Like the people in The Diary of Anne Frank, the Minivers are such ordinary folks, caught up in a thing that was not of their making. The film opens with Greer Garson coming home after a shopping trip to London deciding how to tell her husband Walter Pidgeon about a new hat. On the way home, the stationmaster Henry Travers asks Garson permission to name a rose he's been cultivating for the flower show the Miniver Rose. Pidgeon's splurged on a new car and he's trying to figure out how to tell Garson.
The war comes and the Minivers and all their neighbors in their small country town have to deal with rationing and shortages and then the blitz as the ruling malignancy in Germany seeks to terrorize the British people into submission. As London took it as their Prime Minister said it would, so to do the small villages and hamlets, especially if they're located next to an RAF base.
Which is where their oldest boy, Richard Ney, is now stationed after having left Oxford. He's involved too, with a radiantly beautiful Teresa Wright as the granddaughter of the local grande dame, Dame May Witty.
Wright is involved in two of my favorite scenes. When she first meets the pretentious Ney and gently but firmly puts him down, who could help but fall for this girl. And her final scene with Greer Garson is what I'm convinced got them both Oscars. You have to see it, I can't say more and the hardest of hearts will be moved.
Pidgeon's moment comes when he's called away because he owns a small boat, a cabin cruiser we'd call it and ordered to take it to Ramsbottom. It's the beginning of the greatest citizen mobilization of the last century, the evacuation of the British Army from the beach at Dunkirk. He and thousands like him are told what the mission is and they could expect to be under fire at that beach and crossing 40 miles of English Channel. No one flinches and a very nice animated scene at night is showing all of these small crafts filling up the river on a date with history.
Garson also comes face to face with Nazism herself as she first is held captive and then turns the tables on a wounded Nazi flier who bailed out played by Helmut Dantine. Don't think all the women in America didn't think about coming face to face with evil right in their kitchens.
Both Walter Pidgeon for Best Actor and Henry Travers for Best Supporting Actor got nominations themselves, but lost to James Cagney and Van Heflin respectively. In addition Dame May Witty was also up for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to her fellow cast member Teresa Wright.
The valedictory for the film is delivered by Vicar Henry Wilcoxon after a bad raid in which several cast members are killed. With so much death and destruction waged on them at home, it has become the people's war, more a people's war than it was even in the United States with so many civilian casualties. We got a taste of it at Pearl Harbor and a much bigger taste on 9/11 in New York, Northern Virginia, and on the Pennsylvania countryside. The words of Henry Wilcoxon should be standard reading or viewing. It's what makes Mrs. Miniver such a timeless classic as we deal with another brand of totalitarian malignancy in this century.
Greer Garson gives a wonderful performance as Kay Miniver, a
middle-aged English wife and mother whose kindness, intelligence, and
positive spirit speak well of women all across England, during the
difficult days of WWII. And that's what this movie is really about: the
love and devotion of ordinary people during wartime.
Technically, this is a fine film. The script is well written and the plot is easy to follow. Most of the characters are sympathetic, and all of them have convincing arcs through the story. I did not care for the very Victorian Lady Beldon, but Dame May Witty gives a nice performance in that role. The film's plot has an interesting twist toward the end that coincides with the randomness of the effects of war. The story's tone does drip with a bit of sentimentality. But given the fact that the movie itself was made during the war it portrays, I think some sentimentality is entirely appropriate.
The film's B&W cinematography is conventional but competent. Production design and costumes are credible. And the special effects are surprisingly good for the early 1940s.
I will say that the film seems very dated. Customs and manners have changed so much in the last 65 years; the behavior of characters in this film is so proper and formal. That's not a criticism, just an observation.
The 1930s and 40s must have been a truly awful time for peace loving people. It's good, therefore, that we have high-quality films like Mrs. Miniver as a reminder of what life was like for ordinary people, to give us some historical perspective from which to view our own times. Of the many WWII films that I have seen, "Mrs. Miniver" is one of the best.
"Mrs. Miniver" is an important film which captured the Best Picture Oscar in 1942. Greer Garson (Oscar-winning) is excellent as the titled character. The movie deals with what civilians have to go through while all the men are off fighting in the war. It takes place in war-stricken England and was made right when all of Europe was in chaos. All in all, "Mrs. Miniver" is a great film that is one of the best films produced in the 1940s. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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