Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mrs. Miniver

When war breaks out in England, the middle class Minivers do everything they can to aid the struggle: Patriarch Clem (Walter Pidgeon) joins a local naval squad assisting in the Dunkirk evacuation, his son Vin (Richard Ney) enlists in the RAF, all the while the indomitable Mrs. (Greer Garson) maintains matters at home, putting on a strong face while worrying about her loved ones, participating in flower shows, and even outsmarting the occasional Nazi who has invaded her home. William Wyler's "Mrs. Miniver" is rousing propaganda for the highest form, so great that it lead to Oscar wins for Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress (Theresa Wright, delightful), Screenplay, and Cinematography as well as Winston Churchill's famous praise that it had done more for the Allied cause that a "flotilla of battleships." Wyler's film is wonderfully directed in crisp, clear black and white, and whose sentiment never seems phony or forced. Garson is luminous and credible in the leading role and Pidgeon brings great earnestness to his role. Though how accurate the film really was about its middle class subjects, it helped bring out the best of the British people for a conflict that was arduous, interminable and fought with courage and grace, both on the battlefields and on the home front.
note: "Downton Abbey", a series which I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with, creator Julian Fellowes directly lifted the crucial rose contest sequence from this film.