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Mrs. Miniver

Promotional poster
Directed by William Wyler
Produced by Sidney Franklin
Written by Jan Struther (book)
George Froeschel
James Hilton
Claudine West
Arthur Wimperis
Starring Greer Garson
Walter Pidgeon
Teresa Wright
Dame May Whitty
Reginald Owen
Henry Travers
Richard Ney
Henry Wilcoxon
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg
Editing by Harold F. Kress
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) June 4, 1942 (1942-06-04)
Running time 134 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $5,358,000
Followed by The Miniver Story

Mrs. Miniver is a 1942 drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Greer Garson in the title role. It was based on the fictional English housewife created by Jan Struther in 1937 for a series of newspaper columns, Mrs. Miniver.[1] The film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director.

Contents

Background

The film adaptation of Mrs. Miniver was produced by MGM in 1942 with Greer Garson in the leading role and William Wyler directing.

The film exceeded all expectations, grossing $5,358,000 in North America (the highest for any MGM film at the time) and $3,520,000 abroad. In Britain, it was named the top box office attraction of 1942. Of the 592 film critics polled by American magazine Film Daily, 555 named it the best film of 1942.

Plot

The Mrs. Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) of the film version is still presented as living a comfortable life at a house called 'Starlings' in a village outside London. The house has a large garden, with a private landing stage on the river Thames, and a motorboat. Her husband Clem (Canadian-born actor Walter Pidgeon) is a successful English architect. They have three children: the youngsters Toby and Judy (Christopher Severn and Clare Sandars), and an older son Vin (Richard Ney) who is at university. They have live-in staff: Gladys the housemaid (Brenda Forbes) and Ada the cook (Marie De Becker).

As World War II looms, Vin comes down from university and meets Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright), granddaughter of aristocratic Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty) from nearby Beldon Hall. Despite initial disagreements, for example the contrast of Vin's idealistic attitude to class differences and Carol's practical altruism, they fall in love: Vin proposes to Carol at dinner time after young brother Toby has embarrassingly blurted out that he should do so if they are in love. They eventually marry. As the war comes closer to home, Vin feels he must do his bit, joins the Royal Air Force as a pilot, and when qualified is posted to a base near to his parents' home. Clem takes his motorboat to assist in the Dunkirk evacuation.[2] There are scenes of the family during an air-raid, when Mr. Foley (Reginald Owen), the storekeeper and air-raid warden, advises them to close their curtains; and they are shown in their shelter in the garden. Left alone at home, Kay finds a wounded German pilot (Helmut Dantine) in her garden. She feeds him, then calmly disarms him and calls the police.

After the flower show's competition, in which the entry of the stationmaster (Henry Travers) named the 'Mrs. Miniver' rose is declared the winner over Lady Beldon's rose, Kay, with Carol, drives Vin to join his squadron just as an air attack begins. On their return home Kay stops the car: Carol is wounded in an attack from a German plane, and she dies a few minutes after they reach home.

The local inhabitants assemble at the badly damaged church where their vicar (Henry Wilcoxon), affirms their determination in a powerful sermon:

"We in this quiet corner of England have suffered the loss of friends very dear to us, some close to this church. George West, choirboy. James Ballard, stationmaster and bellringer, and the proud winner only an hour before his death of the Beldon Cup for his beautiful Miniver Rose. And our hearts go out in sympathy to the two families who share the cruel loss of a young girl who was married at this altar only two weeks ago.
"The homes of many of us have been destroyed, and the lives of young and old have been taken. There's scarcely a household that hasn't been struck to the heart.
"And why? Surely you must have asked yourselves this question? Why in all conscience should these be the ones to suffer? Children, old people, a young girl at the height of her loveliness? Why these? Are these our soldiers? Are these our fighters? Why should they be sacrificed?
"I shall tell you why. Because this is not only a war of soldiers in uniform. It is the war of the people, of all the people. And it must be fought not only on the battlefield but in the cities and in the villages, in the factories and on the farms, in the home and in the heart of every man, woman and child who loves freedom.
"Well, we have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them. Instead they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves, and those who come after us, from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down.
"This is the People's War! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us! And may God defend the right."

The congregation stand in unity and sing "Onward, Christian Soldiers" at the top of their voices, while through a gaping hole in the bombed-out roof in the sky above can be seen flight after flight of RAF fighters in the V-for-Victory formation.

Wilcoxon and director William Wyler "wrote and re-wrote" this key sermon "the night before the sequence was to be shot."[3] The speech "made such an impact that it was used in essence by President Roosevelt as a morale builder and part of it was the basis for leaflets printed in various languages and dropped over enemy and occupied territory."[3]

Cast

Awards and nominations

It was the Winner of 6 Academy Awards.

Award Won Result Notes
Outstanding Motion Picture Won Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Sidney Franklin, producer
Best Director Won William Wyler
Best Actor Nominated Walter Pidgeon Winner was James Cagney for Yankee Doodle Dandy
Best Actress Won Greer Garson
Best Writing, Screenplay Won George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine West, Arthur Wimperis
Best Supporting Actor Nominated Henry Travers Winner was Van Heflin for Johnny Eager
Best Supporting Actress Won Teresa Wright
Best Supporting Actress Nominated May Whitty Winner was Teresa Wright for Mrs. Miniver
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White Won Joseph Ruttenberg
Best Effects, Special Effects Nominated A. Arnold Gillespie (photographic)
Warren Newcombe (photographic)
Douglas Shearer (sound)
Winner was Gordon Jennings, Farciot Edouart, William L. Pereira, Louis Mesenkop for Reap the Wild Wind
Best Film Editing Nominated Harold F. Kress Winner was Daniel Mandell for The Pride of the Yankees
Best Sound, Recording Nominated Douglas Shearer Winner was Nathan Levinson for Yankee Doodle Dandy

In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time.[4]

Romantic interest

Soon after filming, Richard Ney, who played Greer Garson's son and 11 years her junior, married Garson.

Radio adaptations

The film was adapted into an episode of the Lux Radio Theater in 1943. That episode in turn was popular enough to inspire a 5 day a week serial, starring radio veteran Trudy Warner on CBS.[5]

Television adaptation

A 90 minutes television adaptation was broadcast on CBS in 1960 with Maureen O'Hara as Mrs Miniver and Leo Genn as Clem Miniver, directed by Marc Daniels.

Legacy

Mrs Miniver is briefly mentioned in a J. D. Salinger story, "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters". In June 2006 it was placed #40 on the American Film Institute's list celebrating the most inspirational films of all time.

References

  1. ^ "Mrs. Miniver (1942) at Reel Classics". http://www.reelclassics.com/Movies/Miniver/miniver.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-28.  
  2. ^ There is a parallel story here: Sub-Lieut. Robert Owen Wilcoxon of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, only brother of Henry Wilcoxon, assisted in the Dunkirk evacuation on May 29th 1940; but, having helped to get hundreds of Allied troops off the beach to safety in his assault landing craft, he was fatally injured when, after returning to the sloop HMS Bideford to arrange a tow back to Dover, the ship had its stern blown off by a bomb dropped from a dive-bombing German aircraft. This must have been on Wilcoxon's mind during the making of the film. This event is reported in the book The Evacuation from Dunkirk, 'Operation Dynamo', 26 May-4 June 1940 ed. W. J. R. Gardner, pub. Frank Cass, London, 2000 ISBN 0714651206.
  3. ^ a b Daynard, Don Henry Wilcoxon in Peter Harris (ed.) The New Captain George's Whizzbang #13 (1971), p. 5
  4. ^ "25 new titles added to National Film Registry". Yahoo News (Yahoo). 2009-12-30. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091230/ap_en_mo/us_classic_films_glance;_ylt=Am9aCMfxzzsN4EY9F802IESs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNzcHU5NnU4BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkxMjMwL3VzX2NsYXNzaWNfZmlsbXNfZ2xhbmNlBGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMTAEcG9zAzcEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawMyNW5ld3RpdGxlc2E-. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  5. ^ "Jan Struther Bibliography". October 20, 2008. http://www.zip.com.au/~lnbdds/home/janstruther7.htm.  

External links

Awards
Preceded by
How Green Was My Valley
Academy Award for Best Picture
1942
Succeeded by
Casablanca







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