2022 Blind Spot Series: Mrs. Miniver

 

What I knew going in: That Greer Garson won an Oscar for this.

Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson) tries to keep a positive attitude in her small town in England during the start of WWII. Her eldest son, Vin (Richard Ney) is enlisted. He's falling in love with young Carol (Teresa Wright) at the same time. Between looking after her young children, her husband also having to go away, bombs dropping on their city, and some pesky business about a local flower competition. She's got a lot on her plate.

As awful as this sounds, I don't think I had really heard much about Greer Garson until I started watching Be Kind Rewind's youtube channel. After watching her Oscar win episode, I knew I wanted to add one of her films to my Blind Spot list, and lucky for me while taking a recent flight. This film was available on Delta Studios.

There are some drawbacks of inflight movies, mainly, planes aren't very quiet. I found myself a little confused on where this movie was supposed to be taking place. It's in England, but because no one is really speaking with a British accent, I thought this film was supposed to be taking place in New York somewhere. It isn't until Mr. Miniver takes his boat to Dunkirk until it dawned on me they were in Europe. Aside from that confusion, I really enjoyed this movie. 

Garson is great. This role doesn't start off very showy, but it gets there. It's not the most complex story, and there are a few eyebrow raising moments. Like Mrs. Miniver somehow being old enough to give birth to Vin. I think it would've made more sense for him to be her younger brother, to be honest. Also there's some - let's say architectural choices made later on without going into spoiler territory that are a bit questionable.  

I appreciated that this felt different than a lot of WWII films I've seen. For a film that's taking a fairly light approach to war, I was shocked at what a brutal ending this had. I know I probably shouldn't be, but it's just devastating. I never read the book this is based on, but it seems like a pretty ballsy choice for a film with the tone this one has.

I'm happy to get my 2022 Blind Spot off to a great start, and I hope to see more of Garson's work in the future.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I think it's lovely having flowers named after you." - Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson)

Comments

  1. In historical context, Mrs. Miniver is an incredibly important film. For a lot of people, this was the film that validated their experience on the home front. If you were not actively fighting in the war, Mrs. Miniver showed you that you still had a role to play.

    It's also a film that generated a lot of sympathy for the British experience during the Blitz. The actual physical privation was substantially worse than depicted, but the social, mental, and emotional aspects are pretty accurate.

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    1. That's a very good point, I didn't think of it in that context. I felt different watching it now, but I can see how at the time it would be really eye opening for those at home.

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  2. This is a really good film and, yes, the ending is so very sad but it shows what the British were going through on the home front. I know this was one of Winston Churchill’s favourite. Garson and Walter Pidgeon made several films and many thought. They were married in real life. I love Henry Travers as the sweet flower guy. I think it is Henry Travers. Greer Garson actually married her “son” in real life although it didn’t last. It’s a shame that a lady of this caliber is not much known today as she was considered the Meryl Streep of her day.

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    1. I loved the flower guy, when I got to the ending I was the most devastated by him. I'm glad to hear she married her "son." because making him her son in the first place was a....choice.

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  3. I have heard of this film but never seen it. I heard it's one of those films that isn't lauded in comparison to many other films but I'd like to check it out. I'm sure it's a lot better than people give it credit for.

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    1. I can see why it's not lauded, but at the same time, it is a very different WWII movie than the ones we normally see.

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  4. Yikes how did I miss this for so many days!!

    LOVE this film….and Greer Garson! It really has so many great pieces to it. You never get the sense that the script was reworked constantly while they were filming as world events leading America into WWII took shape. It was always intended to win more of the populace over to the Allies cause and really get behind the British war defense but once Pearl Harbor was bombed towards the end of principal photography the script was sharpened even more against the Germans. It worked the film was the most profitable film of 1942 and a huge morale booster.

    Greer is so perfect as Kay Miniver it seems crazy to think she wasn’t the automatic first choice, but she was third in line. At the time first choice Norma Shearer was Queen of the MGM lot owing to two factors, first a solid box office record but more importantly she was the widow of wunderkind Irving Thalberg who upon his death in 1936 had left her an enormous amount of stock in Metro so she wielded a great deal of power. She however let vanity get in the way since she did not want to play the mother of a grown son even if at 39 it was at least plausible. She had lost her script sense at this point anyway, she turned down both this and a chance to costar with Bette Davis in “Old Acquaintance” playing a part that would have been ideal for her for the exact same reason and finished up her career in two films that were out of step with the times, and box office failures, retiring a very wealthy woman though she remained a key player behind the scenes discovering both Janet Leigh and Robert Evans.

    After Norma said no Mayer offered it to another star whose luster was dimming-Ann Harding. Same age as Shearer she turned it down for the same reason. It was then that Mayer turned to his new protégé-he had personally discovered Greer on a business trip to England when he went to see a play she happened to be appearing in-and convinced her that even though she was only thirty-three that she could carry it off, which she did beautifully. It was such a success for her that when Shearer chose to retire this same year Greer ascended to the top spot in the pecking order, with the contract list MGM had in the 40’s that was quite an achievement. I can see your point about making Vin her brother, but I think he needed to be their child for the emotional connection to work between Mrs. Miniver and Lady Beldon. Once the initial disparity wears off you just assume that Kay and Clem married very early and started a family immediately which is why she is so young with a grown son.

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  5. The picture almost completely belongs to her but she’s not a scene hog allowing the extraordinarily strong performers that surround her their moments in the spotlight. Walter Pidgeon and she share a warm, lived-in chemistry which served them well in all their films together but particularly here where they are supposed to be a settled couple. But while his solid presence does its work within the framing of the story there are three others who really add depth to the film. Henry Travers is so ingratiatingly humble and dear as Mr. Ballard, BTW the Miniver rose does actually exist. Teresa Wright is a nice mix of gentle and determined as Carol, I think her winning Best Supporting Actress this year was a foregone conclusion, she already had a nomination under her belt for the previous year’s “The Little Foxes” and was also nominated as Best Actress this year for her role in “Pride of the Yankees” so momentum was on her side but the Oscar really should have gone to Agnes Moorehead’s amazing work in “The Magnificent Ambersons”. But my favorite is Dame May Whitty as Lady Beldon! She’s a tough old buffalo, sure of her place and responsibilities but humane enough to understand others’ problems and canny enough to see people’s worth…whether she wants to or not.

    The film does well measuring out the tone, not jumping from sunny, bucolic village life to bomb battered privation too quickly but having subtle losses creep in slowly until rather late in the film. The ending does pack quite an emotional punch.

    I’ve managed to see all of Greer’s films over the years, she mostly had a very specific genre-the very dignified lady who either raises up from poverty or some other obstacle by her brains and willpower. It was VERY profitable for both her and MGM, but she was well known to have a wicked sense of humor and in her few comedies she displays a sure and light touch.

    I would recommend “Random Harvest,” “When Ladies Meet” and “The Valley of Decision” as good places to start on her more dramatic fare and “Julia Misbehaves” for something more comedic (this one also has a 16-year-old incredibly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in it). She also appeared as Calpurnia in the star-studded version of “Julius Caesar” that stars Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony and a reworked version of Pride and Prejudice (she’s Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier Darcy). Unfortunately, the sequel to “Mrs. Miniver” “The Miniver Story” is a dreary downer best left unseen unless you’re a Garson completist.

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    1. I had no idea there was a sequel to this! There really didn't need to be. The ending was depressing enough. I knew how much you liked this so I was happy that it worked well for me too! I definitely want to watch more of Greer so I'll use your suggestions as a starting place.

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