Monday, March 25, 2024

Movie Monday: Mrs. Miniver

Movie Monday: Mrs. Miniver

Based on the 1939 Jan Struther book that had begun as a series of newspaper columns, Mrs. Miniver was the highest-grossing film of 1942 (and second highest of the decade behind Gone With the Wind) and won six of its twelve Oscar nominations, including Outstanding Motion Picture, Best Actress (Greer Garson), Best Director (William Wyler), Best Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright), and Best Screenplay.

Four years later, Wyler would win another Best Director Oscar for The Best Years of Our Lives, a film that told the story of American GIs adjusting to post-war life. According to one source, Mrs. Miniver was the first film centered on WWII to win Best Picture. Produced and distributed by MGM, the film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

The film received notice around the globe with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill calling the
movie, “more powerful to the war effort than the combined work of six military divisions” in boosting US support for his weary nation. Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels gave the movie grudging praise: [Mrs. Miniver] shows the destiny of a family during the current war, and its refined powerful propagandistic tendency was up to now only been dreamed of. There is not a single angry word spoken against Germany; nevertheless, the anti-German tendency is perfectly accomplished.” President Franklin Roosevelt would later order the film’s final sermon to be broadcast over the Voice of America radio network, and leaflets printed with the speech air-dropped over Europe.

Born in Alsace, which at the time of his birth was part of the German empire, William Wyler was eventually sent by his parents to America to work with his cousin Carl Laemmle (founder of Universal Pictures). He started out as a member of the “swing gang,” employees responsible for cleaning the stages, moving sets, and other unskilled labor-type tasks. Filming for Mrs. Miniver began in November 1941, before Pearl Harbor was attacked.

When asked about the movie in an interview years later, Wyler commented, “I was a warmonger. I was concerned about Americans being isolationists. Mrs. Miniver was obviously a propaganda film.” Seven months later when it was released isolationism was a moot point, and the US was at war. Wyler entered the US Army Air Corps in England and made three documentaries about the bomber groups to which his was attached. During his service, he lost the hearing in one ear during a bombing run over Italy and was awarded a Medal of Valor.

Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon play a middle-class English couple whose family and village face difficulties and destruction during the early days of World War II. The film begins somewhat lightheartedly with Kay Miniver discussing inconsequential things such as the extravagance of a new hat, and a new breed of roses for the annual flower show. As the movie progresses, the plot darkens with Mr. Miniver helping with the Dunkirk evacuation, an air raid, a crashed German Pilot, and two of the characters trapped in a car during enemy fire.

Mrs. Miniver ends in the village’s bombed church with the vicar providing encouragement to his frightened congregation. As they sing "Onward, Christian Soldiers," the camera pans to the hole in the roof where RAF fighters in a “V for Victory” formation depart (ostensibly to face the enemy).

Have you seen this classic or its sequel The Miniver Story?


A Love Not Forgotten

Allison White should be thrilled about her upcoming wedding. The problem? She's still in love with her fiance, Chaz, who was declared dead after being shot down over Germany in 1944. Can she put the past behind her and settle down to married life with the kindhearted man who loves her?

It's been nearly two years since Charles "Chaz" Powell was shot down over enemy territory. The war is officially over, but not for him. He has amnesia as a result of injuries sustained in the crash, and the only clue to his identity is a love letter with no return address. Will he ever regain his memories and discover who he is, or will he have to forge a new life with no connections to the past?

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