Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Mrs. Miniver: based on the book by Jan Struther; written by Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine West, Paul Osborn, and R.C. Sheriff; directed by William Wyler; starring Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver), Walter Pidgeon (Clem Miniver), Teresa Wright (Carol Beldon), Richard Ney (Vin Miniver), Henry Travers (Mr. Ballard) and Dame May Whitty (Lady Beldon) (1942): Multiple Oscar winner is almost a perfect example of Classic Hollywood Drama. Greer Garson became a big star thanks to her portrayal of middle-class British housewife Mrs. Miniver in a small town just outside of London during the first two years of World War Two for Great Britain. The movie itself was also a huge box-office hit and a rallying point for America as it entered World War Two.

This is Hollywood England, so we never find out why Miniver's husband, played by Canadian Walter Pidgeon, doesn't sound English, or how their son developed an almost parodic upper-class-twit accent, given that they're middle-class and neither of them sound remotely like him. American Teresa Wright also doesn't sound particularly English. Things never really change in Hollywood.

But anyway, much rallying of spirits occurs as Mrs. Miniver and the town endure war, Nazi bombing, fugitive Nazi airmen, Dunkirk (Mr. Miniver owns a boat and so is drafted into helping out with the evacuation), personal tragedy, a dogfight that seems to take place about three feet above the English countryside, and the annual Canterbury flower show.

That last is a major plot point, by the way. President Roosevelt loved the movie for its propaganda value as America itself finally entered the war. The final singing of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" may strike one as mildly disturbing -- the Nazis loved putting crosses on their military hardware, after all. Recommended.

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