Mrs. Miniver (1942)

“He’s young and he loves life, but he may die — any day, any hour.”

Synopsis:
A British mother (Greer Garson) copes with the stress of her husband (Walter Pidgeon) helping with local war efforts, and her oldest son (Richard Ney) becoming an RAF pilot while romancing the granddaughter (Teresa Wright) of local nobility (Dame May Whitty). Meanwhile, the local stationmaster (Henry Travers) hopes to take home top prize at that year’s flower show, for a rose he’s named “Mrs. Miniver” in honor of Greer — but will Whitty allow “her” annual prize to be taken from her?

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that while the “typical British middle-class family” in this Best Picture winner — about individuals “whose cherished, hard-earned life of tranquillity and security has been destroyed by war” — may be “phony”, they’re “exactly the same as Americans depicted in Hollywood films”, and ultimately “the type of people American viewers could identify with in 1942”. He adds that “this was important because the purpose of MGM’s propaganda piece, which was filmed on the studio lot, was to motivate Americans to come to the aid of the British… and it is known to have succeeded to an astonishing degree.” With that said, as Peary notes, the “picture is self-conscious to an annoying degree”. He further admits that he has “always had mixed feelings about Greer Garson (and other actresses I can’t picture in blue jeans), but she deserves her Oscar if only because she agreed to be mother to an adult” (!!!). [In Alternate Oscars, he snubs Garson altogether and splits the Best Actress Oscar between Carole Lombard in To Be or Not to Be and Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor.] Greer’s performance is earnest and consistent, but she only seems to depict a few primary expressions, and never really surprises us with any noteworthy acting moves. Wyler would ultimately have much more success and authenticity with The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) — a film which has endured as a true wartime classic.

Note: This film was added to the National Film Registry in 2009 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gorgeous b&w cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg


Must See?
No, though most film fanatics will be curious to check it out at least once given its history as a multiple Oscar winner and nominee.

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2 Responses to “Mrs. Miniver (1942)”

  1. Not must-see. Watching it now, it does come off as a film with a value tag that’s very much of its time and it seems quite clear that “the purpose of MGM’s propaganda piece… was to motivate Americans to come to the aid of the British”. And that’s all well and good and admirable.

    But the rest of the film that does not concern itself directly with the war is not all that compelling. The film’s most effective sequence – played for maximum tension – involves Garson suddenly happening upon a German pilot in her garden.

    This is a film that was given more Oscars than it deserves… as a work of art. Wyler’s direction has been better elsewhere, and Wright and Garson have given better performances. (Garson is better and more memorable in this same year’s ‘Random Harvest’ – which was nominated for 7 Oscars and won.. none.)

  2. A good wartime melodrama but not must see anymore.

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