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Watch out for the backs of the heads!
nick-36827 February 2000
What a wonderful film Mrs Miniver still is 58 years later. Like Coppola's 'Gardens of Stone', it deals with war by following the lives of those affected by it, and without showing any combat. It's moving, but unlike many other films of the period, totally unsentimental, though has many warm and winning moments (Pidgeon spanking Garson as the maid walks in, following an eventful morning, to say the least!)

Two sequences particularly clicked on this viewing. The first involves the son/pilot who is recalled to service abruptly when his leave has only just begun. He goes upstairs to get his belongings, the mother and fiancée are left in the room, with the backs of their heads to camera - a most unusual shot 'against the rules' of filming. Then you realise the centre of attention is the space left on the stair by the son - they and we are missing him, awaiting his return, but only for a moment as he must leave again. It's as poignant as the doorway framing scenes in 'The Searchers', and rather subtle.

Another scene is the family in the air raid shelter undergoing a bombing attack. The claustrophobia of the situation, and the bravery and dignity of the powerless family caught there, is focused by a single point of view. The unspoken fear is on the face of Garson, vocalised by the kids who finally awake as the bombardment increases. Long, simple takes perfectly capture the intense atmosphere (and exceptional acting.

When I was young I never appreciated this art of 'invisible' film-making, and just why such directors as William Wyler or Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder do such a good job without you even noticing. The fact their films stand the test of time so well is testament to their wonderful abilities as film-makers.
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A film which justifies its status as a major classic.
bbhlthph27 August 2004
It must be over 50 years since I first saw this classic film, and for some reason I never watched it again until recently. To do so was an interesting experience - reliving many memories of the war years which I mostly spent in London. I think the reason why there was such a long interval before I decided to watch it again was a subconscious recognition that it was produced at a time of crisis, largely for political reasons, and a feeling this was unduly evident in the screenplay. Mrs. Miniver was released a few months after Pearl Harbour, at a time when many U.S. citizens wondered why their country should be expending its efforts fighting in Europe when it was Japan which had attacked them The film was quite clearly written, produced and directed with the objective of answering this question. Winston Churchill has made it clear that he regarded the release of this film as one of the biggest single contributions made to the allied war effort (worth, in his words, "a flotilla of destroyers"), and it is hard today not to regard the film as primarily a piece of patriotic propaganda. However the deft and capable direction of William Wyler and the almost uniformly great acting by the cast, particularly Greer Garson as Mrs. Miniver, go a very long way towards concealing the fact that one is viewing a film with a message and few would deny that the Oscars it won were thoroughly deserved. Mrs. Miniver certainly earns its place on any short list of film classics.

There are of course already many comments on this film in the database, I would have been reluctant to add any more but for the realization that people of my age who lived in England during the war are becoming increasingly few, and our comments - which must have a rather different perspective to those of younger generations - will not continue to be available for very much longer. Many of the very fine sequences in this film have already been reviewed more than adequately by others and I will not comment further on them; but two sequences which I found particularly evocative were the call on amateur sailors to help evacuate the British army from Dieppe, and the pub scene where the locals were listening to the British traitor Lord Haw Haw broadcasting from Germany and telling his listeners how futile any further resistance would be. In stating this, I am simply confirming that for such documentary type films people who lived through the events depicted will assess the film on the basis of their personal memories rather than on their cinematographic quality.

Ultimately, both on its first viewing and when viewing it again a few days ago, I found that for me watching Mrs. Miniver was irritating because it inevitably showed an American view of life as it was in England. Numerous very small points indicated that we were seeing a glimpse of middle class English life through American eyes. Whilst as an English born viewer I found this irritating, it did not in any way detract from the primary purpose of the film in showing Americans what life in wartime Britain was really like, and why their involvement in the war in Europe was so vital. Ultimately I had to accept that this was a great film which well deserves its classic status.
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It isn't sappy!
Cincy2 October 1999
I avoided watching "Mrs. Miniver" for years because I assumed it was a treacly, sentimentalized film that ignored what I considered the real issues of war. Knowing Greer Garson, who I considered the anti-Crawford, starred in it gave me more of an excuse.

I finally watched it as "film homework" and loved it. It's about an upper-middle-class English family (although most of the American actors are terrible holding their accents) and their experience in the early years of World War II.

A swiftly-moving storyline takes us from the complacency of peace through air raids, Dunkirk and tragedy. No one is a super-hero, but decent people who understand they must put aside their personal concerns and do what must be done to fight for their country and freedom. No one preaches except the minister and he, only rarely.

Of course, it being England, there's time for a flower show, and being a movie, there's a romance (WWII was not kind to Theresa Wright's characters, however).

The film's remarkable pacing is one of its great highlights. Long transitions are covered in the merest of hints; a comment that a servant has departed, for example. Yet there's time for powerful, lengthy scenes such as that of the Minivers holed up in a crude bomb shelter with their two young children, away from their storybook home. Despite the increasingly hellish crash of bombs and bullets, they try to chat about knitting and such. But soon the fear builds to an unbearable climax and the family desperately clings to one another.

The acting is generally superb, and much of the story is told through silent shots of the stars, rather than dialog. Few moments are as touching as the shot of the glowing young wife seeing her husband off to war, admiring his courage, contrasted by the barely hidden fear and maturity of the mother.

You can nit-pick; the movie has many of the conventional stylistic hallmarks of the period. But it is the masterpiece it has long been hailed.
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War Drama Still Highly Significant
Ron Oliver29 June 2002
With her peaceful English life suddenly thrown into turmoil by the Second World War, MRS. MINIVER continues to provide a solid rock of security for her family.

Released seven months after America's entry into the War, this film did a great deal to inform the American people about Britain's defiance against Nazi Germany and the steadfast resolution of the British people in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Coming at a time of heightened emotions - as well as being expertly produced and extremely well acted - it is easy to see why the film earned 6 Oscars, including Best Picture & Best Director.

Greer Garson is completely marvelous in the title role, (for which she won the Best Actress Oscar), presenting a portrait of grace & courage under fire which transcends mere acting. She is representing an entire island full of women who grew the crops & ran the factories and kept the nation operating while the men went to battle. Through her wonderful performance, Garson shows how those she symbolized more than did their part in the fight against the Axis.

Two other ladies give outstanding performances in the film. As the local aristocrat, Dame May Whitty is properly imperious & proud, yet the viewer sees her character unbend over the course of the film to become much more vulnerable. Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, lovely Teresa Wright is luminous as Dame May's granddaughter. Sweetly sensible, elegantly at ease, joyous during hardships, Miss Wright gives a performance not easy to forget.

In solid, understated roles, both Walter Pidgeon as Mr. Miniver & Richard Ney as his elder son, supply good support to the ladies in the cast. Pidgeon gets to pilot one of the Little Boats to Dunkirk and Ney becomes a flyer with the RAF, but both are performed in an almost subdued manner, leaving the heroics to the women.

A quintet of fine actors add small, deft brushstrokes to the movie's canvas: cherubic Henry Travers as the station-master who delights in the gentle art of breeding roses; blustery Reginald Owen as the local storekeeper who eagerly takes over as air raid warden; kindly Henry Wilcoxon as the village vicar; blunt Rhys Williams as the boyfriend of the Miniver's maid (comically played by Brenda Forbes); and Helmut Dantine as the pitiless German pilot who briefly invades the Miniver household.

Six-year-old Christopher Severn will either delight or annoy as the Miniver's talkative infant son. Clare Sandars, as his slightly older sister, is left something of a cipher by the script.

Movie mavens should recognize Ian Wolfe, uncredited as a boatman helping with the Dunkirk rescue.

The scenes involving the brutal aerial bombardment are still vividly suspenseful, focusing primarily on the faces of the actors involved.
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A powerful image of war on the home front
michaeljacobs30 November 2003
This film is great movie because it pulls at the heartstrings and brings forth real emotion in the viewer. As somebody who has recently moved away from a war-zone, the sense of loss of the innocent at the hands of a heartless and remorseless enemy actually moved me to tears.

I can see why the movie won so many Oscars - the performances are far above the standards of many of today's "greats", and the longer shots (unlike today's "grunge" editing or excessive camera movements) give the cast a chance to act out scenes in depth instead of doing one line at a time as is the current vogue. In one scene between the young Belden and Miniver, all the dialogue is conveyed by subtle body language. We don't see that from most modern films - cheap dialogue substitutes for communication. Less really is more.

I have one niggle - every single visual detail is wrong - it was filmed in America, where everything looks different. The train was not a Southern Region train, the garden fence wasn't British, and the interiors were like nothing you'd seen in English villages. And some of the accents were uncomfortably like products from "Dick Van Dyke's School of Bad Cockney" - a dialect only spoken in the East End of London!!!

Other than that, this film was a great, and I await the DVD eagerly.
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Simply beautiful
mercybell25 January 2003
I've seen this film several times now, and despite knowing what occurs, the beauty never wears off.

The film is aesthetically lovely, thanks to William Wyler's low key yet attentive and detailed style. The characters act naturally, something oft times missing in older films that lean to be more stylized. The acting is incredible in this film, and something many a modern film would do well to copy. Greer Garson is the portrait of strength, beauty, and dignity as Mrs. Miniver in a brilliantly played role. Yet it's the substance that stays with you. The film is telling a story about people and a time in history, and it's simple because it allows itself to be. It flows like real life, the trivial, the simple, the small moments, the enormous and life shattering. It taps into the real emotions people feel, and not big "war movie" emotions, but the joy of greeting a child upon return, of having a flower named after you and winning an award, of happiness and humor, of exhaustion, fear, pain, and grief. The film gently brings us into another life and lets us reside there. While there, we begin to love the Minivers and those that they love.

At one point in the movie, the family is in a bomb shelter and Mr. and Mrs. Miniver are talking. Mr. Miniver picks up "Alice in Wonderland" and begins to recite a passage about the joys of childhood, a summer past, and the simple pleasures in life. Mrs. Miniver finishes the passage, and Mr. Miniver (Walter Pidgeon) mentions that he wonders if Lewis Carrol ever thought that his story would be so beloved decades later. I found that interesting, because after all these years and viewings, it's the characters and their realistic palpable experiences and emotions, the strength and courage they show, and the simplicity of the film in allowing us to see it plainly and feel it too, because it's a story of the human experience we can all relate with that isn't limited to the battleground, that do and will keep this movie everlasting, and an homage to the human spirit.
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The People's War
bkoganbing21 November 2007
With the help of the extensive British colony in Hollywood, William Wyler directed at MGM the best World War II propaganda film to come out of our film industry. Mrs. Miniver won a host of Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actress for Greer Garson, Best Supporting Actress for Teresa Wright, Best Director for William Wyler, all deserved.

Forget all the war pictures, this film about the trials of a British family just before and during World War II struck a poignant note with the American public. Showing how they were coping with the attacks on their civilian population made every American family identify with the Minivers. If they fail in their resolution to defend their blessed isle, we in America could be facing these same trials and depredations.

Like the people in The Diary of Anne Frank, the Minivers are such ordinary folks, caught up in a thing that was not of their making. The film opens with Greer Garson coming home after a shopping trip to London deciding how to tell her husband Walter Pidgeon about a new hat. On the way home, the stationmaster Henry Travers asks Garson permission to name a rose he's been cultivating for the flower show the Miniver Rose. Pidgeon's splurged on a new car and he's trying to figure out how to tell Garson.

The war comes and the Minivers and all their neighbors in their small country town have to deal with rationing and shortages and then the blitz as the ruling malignancy in Germany seeks to terrorize the British people into submission. As London took it as their Prime Minister said it would, so to do the small villages and hamlets, especially if they're located next to an RAF base.

Which is where their oldest boy, Richard Ney, is now stationed after having left Oxford. He's involved too, with a radiantly beautiful Teresa Wright as the granddaughter of the local grande dame, Dame May Witty.

Wright is involved in two of my favorite scenes. When she first meets the pretentious Ney and gently but firmly puts him down, who could help but fall for this girl. And her final scene with Greer Garson is what I'm convinced got them both Oscars. You have to see it, I can't say more and the hardest of hearts will be moved.

Pidgeon's moment comes when he's called away because he owns a small boat, a cabin cruiser we'd call it and ordered to take it to Ramsbottom. It's the beginning of the greatest citizen mobilization of the last century, the evacuation of the British Army from the beach at Dunkirk. He and thousands like him are told what the mission is and they could expect to be under fire at that beach and crossing 40 miles of English Channel. No one flinches and a very nice animated scene at night is showing all of these small crafts filling up the river on a date with history.

Garson also comes face to face with Nazism herself as she first is held captive and then turns the tables on a wounded Nazi flier who bailed out played by Helmut Dantine. Don't think all the women in America didn't think about coming face to face with evil right in their kitchens.

Both Walter Pidgeon for Best Actor and Henry Travers for Best Supporting Actor got nominations themselves, but lost to James Cagney and Van Heflin respectively. In addition Dame May Witty was also up for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to her fellow cast member Teresa Wright.

The valedictory for the film is delivered by Vicar Henry Wilcoxon after a bad raid in which several cast members are killed. With so much death and destruction waged on them at home, it has become the people's war, more a people's war than it was even in the United States with so many civilian casualties. We got a taste of it at Pearl Harbor and a much bigger taste on 9/11 in New York, Northern Virginia, and on the Pennsylvania countryside. The words of Henry Wilcoxon should be standard reading or viewing. It's what makes Mrs. Miniver such a timeless classic as we deal with another brand of totalitarian malignancy in this century.
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Excellent Historical Perspective
Lechuguilla8 June 2008
Greer Garson gives a wonderful performance as Kay Miniver, a middle-aged English wife and mother whose kindness, intelligence, and positive spirit speak well of women all across England, during the difficult days of WWII. And that's what this movie is really about: the love and devotion of ordinary people during wartime.

Technically, this is a fine film. The script is well written and the plot is easy to follow. Most of the characters are sympathetic, and all of them have convincing arcs through the story. I did not care for the very Victorian Lady Beldon, but Dame May Witty gives a nice performance in that role. The film's plot has an interesting twist toward the end that coincides with the randomness of the effects of war. The story's tone does drip with a bit of sentimentality. But given the fact that the movie itself was made during the war it portrays, I think some sentimentality is entirely appropriate.

The film's B&W cinematography is conventional but competent. Production design and costumes are credible. And the special effects are surprisingly good for the early 1940s.

I will say that the film seems very dated. Customs and manners have changed so much in the last 65 years; the behavior of characters in this film is so proper and formal. That's not a criticism, just an observation.

The 1930s and 40s must have been a truly awful time for peace loving people. It's good, therefore, that we have high-quality films like Mrs. Miniver as a reminder of what life was like for ordinary people, to give us some historical perspective from which to view our own times. Of the many WWII films that I have seen, "Mrs. Miniver" is one of the best.
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A very personal experience
jandesimpson20 April 2007
When a film touches one's own reality it becomes something rather special. For this reason I have long held a deep affection for Wyler's saga of an English family on the home front from the immediate pre-second world period to the darkest days of the blitz. It has become very fashionable to sneer at "Mrs Miniver" as sentimental propaganda long after the events it depicted. Was it really like that? Well - yes and no. The whole was very cleverly orchestrated by a team of four scriptwriters (including James Hilton), Hollywood's most accomplished director (William Wyler), MGM's able in-house composer (Herbert Stothart), one of their best cameramen (Joseph Ruttenburg) and a cast, when not verging on the caricature, giving the nearest semblance to the emotions I can remember living through as a child during those dark days. No one sneered at the time and the film gathered a well deserved collection of Oscars. It was only afterwards that doubts set in and reactions from a new generation became derisory. Looking at it today there are many things that are not quite right but they tend to be minor such as the risibly awful choir at the garden party, the maid snivelling to the point of embarrassment, the phoney look of American style fencing around those English gardens and the endless digs at class which, although part and parcel of how things were, were never quite so overstated. Where the work really comes into its own is in its portrayal of human emotions which was always Wyler's trump card. A film that attempts to enshrine that spirit of togetherness that comes to the fore in times of adversity and the fight against a common evil needed a director able to convey with an almost tactile sense of human passion. William Wyler, who during his great period from "Jezebel" in 1938 to "Carrie" in 1952 depicted the human heart with an intensity that has hardly ever been seen before or since, invested his depiction of the British wartime home front with a sincerity that almost completely deflects the arrows of criticism it has so often received. Ask again if it was really like that and I would cite the air-raid shelter scene some two-thirds of the way through as being in every sense definitive. My mother protected me in just such a way during air-raids in South London during the 1940 blitz as do the Miniver parents their children. I remember the crescendo of destructive sounds as depicted in the film as if only yesterday.
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Tear jerking excellence
Calysta17 January 2000
At the time it was a sensation and one of great influence, which obviously hit home with many American families, with the reality of the War still of course very much alive. The ending is not the expected happy one, but is instead rather thought provoking, stirring and influential. Reality, or part reality is after all always better than the typical MGM musical. Today it is not possible for it to retain the power it held during the period, but one of the reasons it is still a good movie because it is great wholesome family entertainment.

The Minivers are a family with great fortune who are well over the average income earning line to be considered just a middle class family. This is obvious with the picturesque house designed by Mr Miniver the architect. Some of the scenes have now become more noticeably studio bound now, which was something I did not notice before because it was one of the first old classic movies I did watched, but it hardly matters, as it still remains one of my favourite movies.

Greer Garson, in another of her charming English rose roles, gives a superb performance, as the devoted and loving wife. Walter Pidgeon is also great in his role, the second of his teamings with Garson. The great supporting cast includes Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Richard Ney, Reginald Owen and Henry Travers. Henry Travers' as Mr Ballard, station master and a keen rose grower is in particular a memorable performer.

Elements of the film have been well combined with drama, romance, light humour, and finally, tragedy. It may have been given the Hollywood and typical glossy MGM treatment, but it hasn't forgotten either humanity or the sacrifices associated with war time problems.

Showered with accolades and awards at the time, the movie won Oscars for Greer Garson, Teresa Wright, screenplay, William Wyler and Best Picture of 1942. Walter Pidgeon lost to the dynamic performance of James Cagney in "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Henry Travers, and Dame May Whitty also netted nominations.

An agreeable screenplay and the direction of veteran William Wyler make this a forgotten treat. Few films have been as effective as this, and although its message may not ring as clear now as it did then, it has to be saluted for the war time morale it brought to movie goers around the world.

Rating: 10/10
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Its Propaganda Value is Greater than its Artistic Merit
JamesHitchcock30 December 2005
Winston Churchill famously said of this film that it had done more for the war effort than a flotilla of destroyers. Set in what Halliwell's Film Guide describes as "the rose-strewn English village, Hollywood variety", it is a quite open and unashamed work of propaganda which deals with the fortunes of an upper-middle-class English family during the early days of the Second World War. Clem the husband takes part in the Dunkirk evacuation, his wife Kay helps to capture a German airman and their son Vin joins the RAF and fights in the Battle of Britain while conducting a romance with the attractive granddaughter of the Lady of the Manor.

Churchill's view of "Mrs Miniver" was widely shared at the time, as it won six Oscars, including "Best Picture" and "Best Director" for William Wyler. Sixty years after the end of the war, however, it is hard to escape the conclusion that those awards were given for propaganda value than for artistic merit. I have not seen all the films that were in contention for the "Best Picture" award in 1943, but there are at least two in the list which I would rate much more highly, Orson Welles's "The Magnificent Ambersons" and Michael Powell's "Forty-Ninth Parallel", another film which can be regarded as wartime propaganda but which deals with its subject-matter in a more thoughtful and less sentimental way than "Mrs Miniver". Perhaps Powell's implied criticism of American neutrality during the period 1939-41 did not go down well with the Academy.

Much of the criticism of "Mrs Miniver" has concentrated on what is perceived to be an inaccurate, Hollywoodized view of British life. There is some truth in these criticisms- the characterisation of Vin, for example, as a middle-class radical who utters his left-wing opinions in a pompous voice seems to owe much to the American view of socialism as the opium of the bourgeois intellectual. It seems, however, unfair to put the blame on Hollywood for all the stereotypes contained in the film. The idea that English rural life typically consists of lovable working-class rustics and formidable but decent aristocrats living in picture-postcard villages and obsessed by hobbies such as rose-growing may be a caricature, but it is the sort of caricature that could just as easily be found in British films of this period (or, for that matter, in some of a later date). Some of the accents seem strange to modern British audiences- Theresa Wright in particular seems stuck in mid-Atlantic- but I doubt if American audiences of the forties were bothered. Walter Pigeon makes no attempt to disguise his Canadian accent, but there is nothing in the script to say that Clem is actually an Englishman.

The film has much in common with another wartime movie from two years later, "Since You Went Away", which did for the American home front what "Mrs Miniver" had done for the British. Both films combine patriotism and sentimentality in equal doses, and both feature a number of similar characters- a young man eager to serve his country, a pretty teenage girlfriend, an impossibly young-looking mother (Greer Garson here, Claudette Colbert in the later film) and even a crusty old grandparent who turns out to have a good heart beneath a forbidding exterior. It seems likely that "Since You Went Away" was influenced by the earlier film. Of the two I would rate "Mrs Miniver" slightly higher, but it does share some of the defects- excessive length and miscasting - that flawed the later film. Although it only lasts for two and a quarter hours as opposed to three, it is slow-moving at times, particularly during the first half. Greer Garson, who was thirty-eight at the time and looked ten years younger, was not convincing as the mother of the twenty-six year-old Richard Ney, who later became her husband. Her "Best Actress" award is particularly hard to understand. As with "Since You went Away", most of the best acting comes in the minor roles, such as May Witty as the formidable dowager or Henry Wilcoxon as the patriotic Vicar.

My own views of the film are best encapsulated by that quote from "Halliwell's" about "false sentiment, absurd rural types and melodramatic situations" that was so derided by another reviewer. The sentiment seems so false precisely because it is deliberately manufactured for propaganda purposes. Wilcoxon's final speech is delivered in the sort of ringing tones that suggest he would have made an admirable substitute Prime Minister if Churchill had for any reason been unavailable, but these are very much the sentiments of 1940. By 1942 the world had moved on a bit. It was an unfortunate irony that a film which so excoriates the German bombing of Britain should have been released in the first week of June 1942, a few days after Bomber Command's famous "Thousand Bomber Raid" on Cologne. There is a respectable historical case to be made that the bombing of German cities was a legitimate and necessary military tactic, but it seems hypocritical of Allied propagandists to have attacked the enemy for using the same tactic themselves. "Mrs Miniver" may have been effective propaganda, and propaganda in the service of a laudable cause, but that ought not to prevent us from recognising it for what it is. 6/10
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Very dated morale booster, but with some good parts.
xavrush8928 March 2004
This film gets off to a REALLY slow start, so slow in fact that it may lose some viewers if it airs on television. However, it is worth staying with for Garson's performance as well as the rest of the ensemble cast, once the dramatic stakes are raised. The film really does show the impact of war on civilians more than other films of the day, and the long set-up starts to make sense later in the film when we really start pulling for this family.

I do think that this is one of the more dated of the Best Picture Academy Award winners of the era. (This was right before Casablanca raised the bar significantly.) It is undoubtedly the best-known of the TEN Best Picture nominees from that year (aside from The Magnificent Ambersons), but one could argue it was a week year at the Oscars in general. The film for which I would have voted, Now Voyager, wasn't even nominated! Just goes to show you what the mentality was like in the early 1940s--propaganda over substance.

The one good thing about this film winning Best Picture is that it increases the likelihood of Greer Garson being seen by movie buffs, and she deserves that. Fans of director William Wyler can obviously find better movies in his filmography. Grade for this film: B-
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Important World War II Film
tfrizzell26 January 2001
"Mrs. Miniver" is an important film which captured the Best Picture Oscar in 1942. Greer Garson (Oscar-winning) is excellent as the titled character. The movie deals with what civilians have to go through while all the men are off fighting in the war. It takes place in war-stricken England and was made right when all of Europe was in chaos. All in all, "Mrs. Miniver" is a great film that is one of the best films produced in the 1940s. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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stands the test of time
greenforest5615 November 2005
One unnoticed talent in the picture was Christopher Severn playing the part of Toby Miniver, the Miniver's youngest child. Child actors are often cast strictly for their appearance and their performances frequently leave much to be desired. However, Christopher, playing at such a young age, gives an absolutely delightful performance that is also refreshingly professional. His timing is excellent, his dialogue is on the button, and he hits all his marks. He far outshines his other child co-star. He contributed to every scene he was in. Ironically, the rest of his short career was spent in oblivion, not even receiving screen credit in some of his roles.

The rest of the picture is very good. The sappy violin music through much of the picture could be toned down. But the picture as a whole is far less sappy than many other propaganda pictures of the day and much more believable. Callous modern audiences, hardened by the deadening sex and violence constantly doled out on today's screen, may find some of its conventions amusing. But it stands the test of time and is still a very watchable picture.
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A Real Boost to Britain's war Effort
dougandwin3 July 2004
There is no doubt that this film was released at a time when Britain most needed it - a tribute to the ordinary Englishman in time of war...Certainly it went right over the top in many ways, but lifted the spirits and raised patriotism to a remarkable level, when things were looking very dire for England. The cast was superb, with Greer Garson in the title role, supported wonderfully well by Walter Pidgeon and Teresa Wright. Richard Ney as the son left a bit to be desired in the acting sphere, but people such as Dame May Witty, Henry Travers and Henry Wilcoxon lent a great deal of character to the movie. his was clearly the high-light of the many films the two stars made together, and Garson certainly deserved her Oscar.
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Much Of It Still Works Quite Well
Snow Leopard6 October 2004
There seems to be little doubt that "Mrs. Miniver" served a useful purpose in its day, in addition to receiving praise and critical acclaim. Without its topical immediacy, not all of it is quite as compelling now as it probably was in the early 1940's, yet a good deal of it still works well, with fairly simple but worthwhile characters who are portrayed by a pretty good cast.

The first part is well conceived, if a little slow, showing the fussing and concern about day-to-day issues that will soon cease to have much significance. The bulk of the movie then provides an assortment of wartime experiences, most of them at least interesting, and some of them quite tense.

It does well both as a general portrayal of the kinds of sudden and unpleasant changes that ordinary persons must endure due to international events beyond their control, and as a portrayal of an English family in their time of crisis. This portrait is no doubt stylized in some respects, but it is believable in preserving the types of experiences that only those who lived through them could really understand.

There are a few times when the pace lags too much, and this tends to detract from the drama rather than adding to it. At other times, though, the low-key tone makes critical moments more believable and sometimes even more compelling. Overall, it's still worthwhile and is generally effective, even if it no longer has its former immediacy.
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A perfect look at a not so perfect transition in time.
mark.waltz24 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There's nothing like a suburban British housewife to aid her family in getting through the war. In the case of the upper middle class Miniver family, it is the wife (Greer Garson) who keeps the home fires burning, literally, as she fends off Nazi fliers, keeps her children calm in an air raid, and helps the family mend through a tragedy concerning her oldest son (Richard Ney) and the young woman he loves (Teresa Wright). She is also beloved in her village of Belden, given the distinct honor of having a beautiful red rose named after her by the town's long-time railroad station master (Henry Travers), daring to enter it in a contest opposite the town's delightfully imperious matriarch (Dame May Witty), Wright's grandmother. This leads to the famous town flower show sequence, a plot element so remembered by fans that years later it was incorporated into "Downton Abbey" involving Dame Maggie Smith's character.

Of course, there's more to this film than a flower show, the guilt over buying a new hat during troubled financial times (while husband Walter Pidgeon buys a new car on the very same day with the same trepidation of telling his wife) and young love. It's about England's transition from innocence to potential annihilation as the evil Nazi Germany bombs the town (at least they waited until the winner of the Belden cup was announced), and how peace loving communities will not allow tyrants to attempt to destroy their freedom. Everybody in this peaceful village gets involved, from store owner turned air raid warden Reginald Owen, parson Henry Wilcoxin and even the Miniver's servants. A screenplay filled with light sentiment, sweet romance, subtle comedy and a divine spirituality of good vs. evil makes this truly a perfect film with everybody excellently cast and the pacing perfectly fitting to each mood that the film undertakes.

It's been tempting over the years to make fun of this film which has been spoofed ("Laugh-In", parodying the Nazi soldier with Arte Johnson approaching guest-star Garson) and given legend for Garson's alleged lengthy Oscar speech. It should be noted that 1943's Oscar Winning Best Film "Casablanca" had a New York release during the same year as "Mrs. Miniver", which makes a close call for which of the two would have won the Oscar had "Casablanca" had its Los Angeles release just a few months earlier. On its own, "Mrs. Miniver" still stands the test of time today, and that is also due to its brilliant screenplay and tight direction by the legendary William Wyler.
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Why It's such a great movie
b-gallagher29 March 2011
This movie was outstanding. Absolutely touching and compelling. A pure work of genius. Mrs. Miniver is by far one of the most emotional and tragic war movies I've ever experienced. It's very unconventional in the sense that it's portrayed in the home life of WWII as oppose to the normal combat war movies. This heart stopping tragic movie gives us all a very accurate feel of what it must have been like living during this war. The sadness of feeling so "unsafe" in our own villages, and even in our own homes. Why hundreds of good people, women and children were all brutally murdered in their own homes! One of the greatest things about this movie is not just it's unconventional form, but also it's extremely simplistic storyline. It's incredible how a movie with such simplicity is so heart stopping and so emotional. That is pure talent, you don't see that much anymore in contemporary movies. Contemporary movies are so much more structured and complex, but Mrs. Miniver had no complexity, it was so simple, but so good. You'll just have to see for yourself, and experience the war as if it's really existing before you. Great Movie.
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War of the Roses
sashank_kini-118 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Every person on this earth is a budding rose. In spite of some thorns in them, they bloom vivaciously. However, in times of war, these roses turn black. War brings out the most execrable face of man. And in this movie, love, war and courage have been infused so beautifully, that a long-lasting impression is cast on the viewer.

Greer Garson's unglamorous, unflinching performance as Mrs Miniver is nothing short of brilliance. She maintains her composure through out the movie, restraining whenever she is required to and throwing the weights just at the right places. Her performance reinvigorates the viewers, because its scintillating and applaud-worthy. A stoical character and an embodiment of fearlessness, Greer's Mrs Miniver emotes through her eyes. No fancy embellishments, no extravaganza and pompous gesticulations. A towering mite of a role discernibly enacted with simplicity.

Teresa Wright is a delightful surprise as Carol Beldon, the charming, young, patient and equanimous daughter-in-law who plays Vin's love interest and towards the end, complements Greer beautifully as an actress, in a moving sequence that opens the human flood-gates. In fact that particular scene does not boast of bounteous tears and words of concern. A five minute interaction that encaptures the horrors and unpredictability of war.

Walter Pidgeon's chemistry with Greer is one of the shining moments of the film, especially in the opening sequence. Dame May as the snobbish, strident woman with a change of heart is memorable so is Henry Travers as the railway master who maintains optimism in the face of adversity.

What astonished me was the cinematography. The light and dark conflates so well, the person behind this is a genius. Right amount of light thrown on Greer to expose her pathos, the dark ships in the sea conveying the bleak outcome of war are just illustrations of the luminous work by Joseph Ruttenberg.

A very deserving best picture winner that shines so vividly because of its performances. 9 out of 10.
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A mother navigates the uncertain waters of WWII
jimjo12161 March 2010
MRS. MINIVER is an excellent social drama set in wartime England. It's about a family keeping it together on the homefront after England declares war on Germany. The war came to the English people, remember, as Germany bombed the British Isle from the air. So the homefront was still a scary place to be.

Greer Garson (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) is stunningly beautiful as the middle class mother of three (including, improbably, a college-aged son). Mrs. Miniver must steer her family through the uncertainty of war. She keeps a positive outlook for her youngest children, but worries for her loved ones out fighting for their country. She's a strong character and Garson's performance won her an Academy Award.

Walter Pidgeon (HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, FORBIDDEN PLANET) plays Mr. Miniver, Dame May Witty (THE LADY VANISHES) plays an aristocrat, and Teresa Wright (SHADOW OF A DOUBT, THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES) plays her granddaughter. In addition to Garson's Oscar win, Wright won for Best Supporting Actress and Pidgeon, Witty, and Henry Travers (IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) were all nominated. The film won six Oscars, including Best Picture.

MRS. MINIVER is a powerful wartime drama, but my favorite parts are the little human touches. A highlight is the youngest son Toby, one of those kids who say the darndest things. The young actor seems very comfortable on camera and has quite a bit of charisma. Mr. and Mrs. Miniver have a sweet playful dynamic as a married couple. And there are little things throughout the movie that don't seem like much, but add a human element. Toby fiddles with the handle of a church door as the family leaves mass. Mr. Miniver scoops up his son's hat as he climbs the stairs and flips it to him. A tipsy boatman pulls down a decorative banner as the crowd exits the bar. A maid kicks a door closed with her leg as she walks out of the dining room. Little things like this I noticed. I doubt these small actions were written into the script. They were probably devised on-set by the director or the actors. (William Wyler won a Best Director Oscar.)

Released in the midst of World War II, MRS. MINIVER is an excellent film about the toll war takes on the innocent folks back home. It's a very human story with some strong characters. You'll get to know the Miniver family as if they were neighbors, but you might shed a tear or two before the film is ended.

William Wyler also directed the post-war Oscar powerhouse THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (also starring Teresa Wright), an excellent film about American soldiers adjusting to civilian life after the war. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, in 1947 and I highly recommend it for fans of MRS. MINIVER.
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Playing a subtle line through very unsubtle times, the best kind of rallying effort during the war
secondtake30 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Mrs. Miniver (1942)

The trajectory of this kind of film--happy normal (rich) people right before World War II leading to hardship and tragedy during it--is too familiar to play straight, and at first Mrs. Miniver seems to play it straight. The first half might drag a modern viewer through boredom to an actual nap. The conflict in the nice, happy lives of these upper crust Britons amounts to who will win a local rose competition. It's all sweet and well made, but that's hardly enough.

The acting is sustaining, for sure. The two leads, played by a wonderful Greer Garson (the first Mrs. Miniver of three) and her husband, a likable Walter Pidgeon, are completely convincing, warm, and eventually admirable. The supporting roles of the son (played by Richard Ney) and neighbor's daughter (Teresa Wright, a year after The Little Foxes and a year before Shadow of a Doubt) are first rate if somewhat typecast. The scene is England, and the year is 1939.

Eventually the action turns, and the hardships begin, and death visits the family as it did so often in the south of England early in the war. That first hour of calm pays off now by contrast. And as a sidebar, watch when mother and son kiss, on the lips, a little too warmly for mother and son. That's because Garson and Ney are hitting it off and they will soon marry (for all of four years).

Director William Wyler makes a highly professional job of all this. Certain moments will affect you if you let them, like the bombing around the family in their little shelter. This is the fear of every sweet and ordinary family in war, helpless and afraid, but doing their best to survive with calm and even humor. The cheer of the townspeople between bombings, and even as the warning of more planes is given, makes you swell up with admiration. If there seems to be a lack of warmth of effusive love all around (this is the typecast British style, of course) there is instead total goodness, steadfastness, and loyalty. There is the implication of love, and of caring, and doing what is right.

And that, above all, is the point of the movie. War time movies, Hollywood, European or British equally, had to support the cause. Sometimes it comes off metaphorically, as an artistic parallel to the truth, as in Casablanca, which really is a kind of "support the troops" movie. And sometimes it is more literal, showing soldiers in action or a population mobilized in every small way, and this is Mrs. Miniver, which has the lasting advantage of a human drama beyond mere fighting. Even the rose competition ends up as a lesson to the old guard to be willing to change with the times, to embrace your countrymen across class barriers, and do what is right.

Taken out of context, this is a commonplace drama made extremely well, a great entertainment. Its predictability (we don't know who will die but we know someone will) and its stylized, calm handling of really awful and terrifying scenes (a wounded Nazi in your kitchen!) make this something less than it might have been in other hands. Wyler is all about restraint, but even he might have made a more gut-wrenching version ten years later, once the war is won. But of course, that's not fair, because when it was shot it wasn't known who was going to win. To appreciate the movie, you have to see how a viewer with relatives on the battlefield would see it. Everyone is desperate to have their love affair while they can. People of all stripes had to wear an attitude of perseverance and survival. This movie ignores those who didn't play along, the down side to war, the civilian misdeeds. Yes, this is a positive movie, what the enemy would call propaganda. But in all out war, anything less would have been suicidal.
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Might Be William Wyler's Warm, Affectionate, Spirited Masterpiece
jzappa18 August 2008
Mrs. Miniver might be William Wyler's warm, affectionate, spirited masterpiece, so natural and emotional. The source of these organic traits is the film's portrayal of the leisurely, unsuspecting life lived by the characters: Greer Garson, in a beautiful performance, plays the title role, a family woman living in a comfortable suburban house in London with Walter Pidgeon, giving one of the most genuine, natural, and realistic performances of the silver screen era, and several live-in housekeepers while their son is off at college. As German occupation looms, their community seems so pure and diplomatic that the idea of the SS disruption is intensely real to us, tragic. Winston Churchill himself claimed with complete confidence that this film did more to raise the morale of British troops "than a fleet of destroyers."

A big part of that surely comes from the movie's depiction of England's resourceful prevention of invasion, as is illustrated in a quiet sequence wherein Pidgeon takes his motorboat to aid in the Dunkirk evacuations, and of course England was the only European country that successfully averted occupation. The most powerful scene in the film, a tour de force of direction, is the when Mrs. Miniver is confronted by a wounded German pilot in her home, quite a shock, yet handled with humble calm.

The heartbreaking element of this film is how joyous it is to see the joy of its characters in the peace of their community with a growing amount to lose. One of the best non- contemporary achievements in cinema, Mrs. Miniver is a moving, uplifting portrait of a country's growing determination to defend their way of life.
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Excellent as propaganda--good as a movie
preppy-318 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This takes place in a small village near London just before the outbreak of WWII. Living there are Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson), husband Clem (Walter Pidgeon), 2 small children and their grown son Vin (Richard Ney) who visits from the university he attends. The Minivers live in a huge house and are basically pretty rich. Then Britain enters the war and the Minivers have to cope with bombings, air raids and German soldiers.

Historically this is a very important movie. It showed American audiences what was happening in Britain (although sanitizing it) and this movie was instrumental in getting America to help Britain through the war.

SPOILERS!!! However, in some ways, this is pretty overdone. I find it hard to believe that any British family take things as calmly as the Minivers do and a bunch of multiple deaths at the end REALLY pushes it but top production values, a good script and great acting pull this through. It's a little bit too long but it doesn't really matter. Two standout sequences are when Garson meets a German pilot and when the family has to hide in a bomb shelter when the Germans attack. Garson is a little bit too young to be a mother (she was only 33 when she did this) but she's great. Her performance deservedly won her a Best Actress Oscar. I never liked Pidgeon before but I have to admit he's very good here and was nominated for an Oscar. Then there's Teresa Wright (who also won an Oscar) very beautiful and appealing and Dame May Witty playing her aunt. Henry Travers also won an Oscar for this which is puzzling. He's good but his part is very small. This also got Best Director and Best Picture of the year.

It's overdone and self-conscious and a lot of people find this sappy but I think it's a good movie about the way Britain was during WWII. I give this an 8.
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We shall never be slaves
dbdumonteil31 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I had seen Wyler's film a long time ago and I saw it again yesterday.I was afraid I might be disappointed cause I had read so many bad reviews in my native France and elsewhere! I was not."Mrs Miniver" belongs to its era ,it's a dated movie,a propaganda movie (as were many Lang ,Hitchcock ,Powell and Borzage films of that era ) ,but it was made with care and respect for the audience.

Okay,there are implausibilities: Mr Miniver sailing to Dunkerque to rescue his unfortunate compatriots while Mrs Miniver fights against a German spy which threatens "We will come back!" is a bit too much.

One should notice,however,the way Wyler treats the scene of the boats on river Thames ,this gathering has something strange and unusual.People will also complain because the victims are a newly-wed girl,a choir boy and an old man:Wyler wanted to take a symbol ,and the scene in the church explains that the war involves everybody .I read a review where the author sneers and laughs at the congregation who sings "we're Christian soldiers marching on to war" and that clever man adds "what about the Jews?" In 1942,nobody knew,even the French after the roundup of Jews in the Paris ( "Velodrome d'Hiver" ),did not know what terrible fate laid in store for them .And if Wyler's message is not clear enough ,the music segues from the canticle into "land of hope /pump and circumstances" as the planes are flying in the sky .People who despise Wyler (and they are numerous in my native country) should bear in mind that,after filming "Mrs Miniver",Wyler joined the air force.They should also remember that Wyler was born in Alsace ,at a time when that region was German.

Generally people favor the scene when ,during a bombing, the family takes refuge in the cellar where Mrs Minniver reads "Alice in Wonderland".But the scenes of war and violence are few and far between.What I like best is the depiction of the daily life.It's not accurate,English people will say-but are Hollywood's depictions of France during the occupation historically relevant:Jean Renoir made himself a propaganda movie in 1941 called " This land is mine" and French people did not recognize their country when it was finally released in 1945.

This depiction is delightful:the old man from the station who grows roses and wants to give the name of Mrs Minniver to his most beautiful flower;the grumpy dowager who thinks that "they" are too young to get married and confesses she got married at 16 ..... and became a widow soon afterward;my favorite scene has nothing to do with war:it's the flowers challenge cup where Dame May Witty and Reginald Owen steal the show from the stars.

Wyler used to like the family unit,particularly when they were having a bad time:in "the best years of our lives" " Friendly persuasion" "desperate hours " and.... even "Ben Hur" we find this subject.

Wyler's legendary depth of field is always here:Vin Minniver receives "the " phone call as the rest of the family is still having dinner in the background.

Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon are an endearing couple (even though they are too rich (servants) to be what the cast and credits claim "average people" .They predate Myrna Loy's and Fredric March's characters in "best years of our lives". Teresa Wright is cute and tender.She was already in "little foxes" ,she would be part of the cast of the 1945 masterpiece too.
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A rose by any other name...
jotix10019 May 2004
William Wyler, one of the great directors of the American cinema, had the perfect team when he decided to make this film. Mr. Wyler was in a class by himself. He has given the movie going public pictures such as this one that will live forever, as new audiences discover them through cable and late shows on television.

The film, a product of Hollywood in the 40s, has an underside that is done very subtly when it takes the cause for going to war into the noble and just cause that the American public believed it to be. Therefore, we are shown the valor, the idea of a better world and victory for the just, as a matter of course.

Kay Miniver is a charming woman living in the country, not too far from London, where we see her go shopping. As the story unfolds, she is on her way back home. She is seated in the same carriage with the local aristocrat, Lady Beldon, who is a stereotype of that class. Mrs. Miniver doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She accepts with grace the proposal of the station master to have one of his roses named after her, and horror of horrors, he will compete head to head with Lady Beldon, who wins every year.

The life of the Minivers will change dramatically as the oldest son, Vin is called into war action. He loves Carol Beldon, a young woman out of his social class. The war makes it possible for them to marry. Lady Beldon learns to accept people that are beneath her conservative way of life, something that would have seemed impossible in normal times. Of course, these are things that only happen in films. Alas, in the real world, the Minivers would probably had no chance in mingling in an aristocratic world where class mattered more than anything else.

As Mrs. Miniver, Greer Garson brings her radiance to the screen. She had a way to make her presence be felt over the other actors when she appears. Walter Pidgeon plays the husband, Clem, but he has little to do otherwise. Lady May Whitty, is a delight as Lady Beldon, as is Teresa Wright, with her youth and beauty. Henry Travers, Richard Ney and Brenda Forbes also add their imprint to the film.
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