[Film Review] Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Mrs. Miniver poster.jpg

Title: Mrs. Miniver
Year: 1942
Country: USA
Language: English, German
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Director: William Wyler
Arthur Wimperis
George Froeschel
James Hilton
Claudine West
basted on the book by Jan Struther
Music: Herbert Stothart
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Greer Garson
Walter Pidgeon
Teresa Wright
May Whitty
Richard Ney
Henry Travers
Reginald Owen
Henry Wilcoxon
Christopher Severn
Clare Sandars
Helmut Dantine
John Abbott
Rhys Williams
Rating: 7.9/10

Ms. Miniver 1942.jpg

The first inductee of William Wyler’s Oscar BEST PICTURE triumvirate, MRS. MINIVER is an undisguised propaganda weepy that emphatically packs a punch of what that particular time needs the most, in 1942 when our world was enveloped under the pall of WWII, and the United States freshly took a hard blow from the Pearl Harbor attack.

A burgher family living in the suburb of London, Clem Miniver (an agreeable Pidgeon as ever) is a successful architect, he and his wife Kay (Garson) has three children, a snug domicile and the film opens with the couple respectively splurging out on luxury items, darting back to the millinery for a with-it head-wear or spoiling for a new automobile, and the day is rounded out by a mutual reconciliation that perfectly explains the allure of middle-class content, which significantly pales in comparison with what will soon ensue. The next day, their eldest son Vincent (a spiffy Richard Ney, whose acting days would be put paid to by the disintegration of the marriage with his screen-mother Ms. Garson, 12 years of his senior, in 1947), an undergraduate of Oxford returns home and over a spat with Carol Beldon (Wright, a delighted ingénue in earnest yoked with sublime outpourings of pathos when the crunch hits), the granddaughter of the old money Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty, loses her Oscar to her co-star Wright notwithstanding, her wits-within-fierceness impression is a force to be reckoned with), he is an idealist and she is more a realist, the two actually are caught by a coup-de-foudre, and before soon Vincent proposes in a home dinner and Carol says yes.

With the war looming toward the isle from the embattled Continent, Vincent enlists in the RAF as a fighter pilot and the announcement of wedding has to be parked. Clem pitches in the mission to rescue British soldiers from Dunkirk evacuation with his motorboat, whereas Kay must come face to face under duress with a wounded German pilot (Dantine) right inside their home, and for the first and only time, she loses her temper with a slap across the aggressor’s face when the latter blusters with unrepentant zeal of extirpation, Greer Garson won her Oscar fairly and gracefully with this dignified portrayal.

The pulsating dread of losing beloved ones who are engaged in the warfare pervades through the story albeit the family collectively musters a can-do attitude in the face of adversity (a magnificent shelter-hiding episode speaks volumes of the horror of bombing relying inclusively on the upsetting close-ups and juddering sound effects), after tactfully convincing Lady Beldon that Vincent and Carol are a blissful union, Kay has a heartfelt tête-à-tête with Carol when the pair returns from their honeymoon in Scotland, Carol expresses her understanding of the stake she is taking by becoming a Mrs. Miniver, but in the climax, Wyler and his script-smiths forcefully overturns the casualties to those unarmed folks caught by strafing and potshots, it is this “everyone is in danger of perdition” gravity that potentially actuates the film’s “pro-Britain, anti-Germany” impact in the states, beautifully bookended by the vicar’s (Wilcoxon) stirring speech in the half-ruined Anglican church.

Under Wyler’s well-adjusted administration, MRS. MINIVER – its title, apart from denoting the two women (Kay and Carol), is also the moniker of the rose cultivated by the station master Mr. Ballard (Travers, providentially chalking up a coattail Oscar-nomination), coined after Kay, and is awarded the first prize in the annual village flower show over the perennial winner Lady Beldon, which can be justly symbolized as the undimmed spirit of faith in humanity -, is a considerate homespun melodrama skillfully eschewing the direct war-zone spectacles and exacting an immense emotional weight in its story, potently attests how movie as a media can effectually spur the mass to the exact message of its behind-the-camera masterminds.

referential points: Wyler’s BEN-HUR (1959, 8.0/10), WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939, 7.9/10).

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