The Turner Classic Movie Channel has been playing past Oscar nominees and winners in celebration of the 94th Academy Award Ceremony. In honor of one of the most prestigious awards in film, let’s look back on the 1943 Best Picture Winner, “Mrs. Miniver.”
Starring old Hollywood legendary actors such as Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, “Mrs. Miniver” is a look at an English upper-middle-class family at the beginning of World War IIand the air raid attacks from the Luftwaffe.
This is an almost eerie familiarity to the current events in Eastern Europe, that some wonder might be the beginning of World WarII. It’s an illustrious film to watch to understand what the perspective is of some Ukrainians who are dealing with during the current Russian invasion
Mrs. Miniver, played by Greer, is a fine woman with expensive taste compared to her husband, who hesitates to buy anything expensive that is not necessary. Though not the richest woman in town, she and her husband, Clem Miniver played by Walter Pidgeon, live in a nice house with a few servants. However, they are humble and attend church every Sunday.
Her kindness towards others is felt across the community, but especially by the sweet Mr. Ballard of the lower class, played by the familiar-faced Henry Travers. Appreciative of the kindness she has shown him over the years, he decides to name his newly bred rose the Mrs. Miniver Rose.
The eldest Miniver child, Vincent Miniver, played by Richard Ney, greets his family as he comes home from University. Before he can get too comfortable at home, spewing all the snobbish new things he has learned about, he meets Carol Beldon, played by Teresa Wright.
Carol is the granddaughter of the richest woman in town, and she is also the one that ends up flustering Vin the most. An argument ensues which leads to Vin storming off, but despite the differing opinions, there is obvious chemistry among the young adults.
War is on the brink of reaching England, and people are getting more nervous. When the Prime Minister declares war, Vin feels it’s only right to go do his part in fighting for their country and joins the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot.
Tense air horns and threatening air raids put everyone on alert, but despite that, it does not feel like the Miniver Family is in danger.
Vin is stationed at a base close to their home. It is not until Clem goes on a voluntary mission, which turns out to be the famous Dunkirk military evacuation campaign, that war seems to be getting closer to the family.
While waiting for her husband to come back one morning, Mrs. Miniver finds an armed and wounded German soldier in her yard. Pointing his pistol at her, the soldier demands food, milk, and a coat while hiding out in her kitchen. She is able to disarm him and call the police after his injuries cause him to pass out.
Clem and Vin both make it back home safely after Dunkirk, but before long, duty calls as the war has closed in around them.
Many nights are spent in the makeshift family bunker outside of the house because of the bombings by the air raids. One night is exceptionally bad, as the aerial fights are overhead, causing the bunker to violently shake with the Miniver family crowded together inside.
To try and boost the community’s morale, the annual flower show is still put on.
It is a community spectacle where people enter beautiful flowers they have grown and try to win awards. Every year, Mrs. Beldon, Carol’s grandmother, wins without any competition. However, this year Mr. Ballard is determined to win with the Mrs. Miniver Rose.
The joy of the day is suddenly interrupted by a warning of incoming German air raids, and everyone is sent home to shelter in place, but unfortunately, some do not make it, including someone unexpected in the Miniver family.
At the time, “Mrs. Miniver” was a propaganda film to raise war bonds and to rally American support. When looking at it with modern eyes, it is an interesting echo of current events. This outstanding film shows how a relatable normal family has to deal with the intensity of warfare.
This moving MGM film has incredible acting and well-paced storytelling. It’s easy to be empathetic for the characters in this family because they seem like familiar people, and as the possibility of death and destruction looms over their heads, you as the movie watcher can not help but hope they make it out without a scratch.
Greer Garson’s performance as Mrs. Miniver shines and was awarded the Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 1943 Oscar ceremony. Fellow co-star Teresa Wright, who played daughter-in-law Carol, also won for her supporting role.
“Mrs. Miniver” is directed by William Wyler, a multi-Academy Award nominee and winner for films like “Ben-Hur”(1959), “Roman Holiday” (1953), and “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946). His choice in having the film start off as a lighthearted comedy and turning it into a tense drama was brilliant and engrossing.
The resilient family in “Mrs. Miniver” provides a sense of hopefulness in a time full of dread. Showing each member persist through the terrifying events happening at their doorstep. It’s a poignant war film that has heartwarming moments, as well as terrifying ones, that keep you in your seat until the very end.
“Mrs. Miniver” is available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99.