Mrs. Miniver is the first of many World War II films to win Best Picture. Predating Casablanca by one year. Since 1942 was at the height of WWII, Mrs. Miniver couldn’t help but lean into propaganda. Although the movie is more war adjacent than a straightforward war film. It’s told from the perspective of its title character. Mrs. Kay Miniver is an average everyday English housewife created by Jan Struther for a newspaper column. William Wyler won his first of three Best Director Oscars for the film. Other awards include Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay. The script couldn’t have been easy to write with the war changing so rapidly. Yet Mrs. Miniver is both topical and thoroughly engrossing.
Nearly every cast member was nominated, but it’s Greer Garson who commands the screen with her career making performance. Kay is a loving wife and mother who indulges herself before the war breaks out. Walter Pidgeon was nominated for his performance as Kay’s caring husband Clem. Like Cavalcade before it, Mr. and Mrs. Miniver are determined to keep their children safe in times of war. Their children are the sweet Judy, chatty Toby, and grown up Oxford graduate Vin. The plot is mostly divided with the war raging in the background. Mrs. Miniver has a rose named after her by the kindly Mr. Ballard played by an Oscar nominated Henry Travers. Clem is called to fight in Dunkirk, but it’s all left to our imagination. What we do see is a very intense confrontation between Mrs. Miniver and an injured Nazi pilot. Of course the scene had to be reshot when America entered the war.
Vin joins the Air Force and develops a passionate romance with Carol Beldon. Teresa Wright also deserved her Best Supporting Actress win playing a different kind of war bride. Dame May Whitty was only nominated for her scene stealing portrayal as Carol’s grandmother Lady Beldon. Her arc involves a rose competition that tests her newfound acceptance of the Miniver family. You truly feel the devastation of the war when bombs drop on their fallout shelter and unexpected casualties start to add up. Although propaganda in nature, the final speech at a ruined church followed by a rendition of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” is enough to inspire anyone. There is a 1950 sequel titled The Miniver Story, but it wasn’t nearly as acclaimed. A rose by any other name would be Mrs. Miniver.
Followed by: The Miniver Story