There are movies that stay with you long after the credits roll. These are the films that haunt your dreams during the daylight hours or in the middle of the night. They make no sense as to the “why.” You were not alive when they were created. But even so, the visions feel real. Perhaps it is the subject matter…the story, that pulls you deeply within that small, cramped basement while bombs are exploding all around. Maybe it was expressing those faraway stares of sheer terror, all while trying to remain calm, think on your feet, and just survive the atrocities of war. When you close your eyes, the cries of anguish from frightened children are repeatedly heard, and then there are the parents who don’t have a clue as to what magical word will restore a calming, protected effect. Pointed guns, destroyed property, and lost lives. Everything else seems quite frivolous in comparison. It becomes apparent and crystal-clear what matters most. Yes…there are those films that have the power to project love and kindness even in the middle of an air raid. Ahh, humanity must live to fight another day and perhaps change the direction of our paradigm. All of this and more, I feel every time I watch the incredible, phenomenal MRS. MINIVER, a film made during World War II in 1942 that showcased in innumerable ways how the “people’s war” was extraordinarily devastating beyond our wildest imaginations.
MRS. MINIVER was a powerhouse of a movie. It was nominated for twelve Oscars and captured six. These include Best Picture, Best Director, (William Wyler) Best Actress, (Greer Garson) Best Supporting Actress, (Teresa Wright) Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Not bad for a “wartime” movie. Wyler was not present to accept his award since he enlisted immediately following the premiere of this film.
Greer Garson was stunning. She was a gorgeous woman who stopped men “dead” in their tracks. Her smile lit up the screen. But this wasn’t her only attribute. She was also a brilliant, talented actress. Her facial expressions offered a huge range of emotions, especially suited for MRS. MINIVER. She had a unique way of just pausing and taking breaths while waiting for secret signals to proceed with her reactions. It was bold and created frames filled with perfection. Her presence felt so authentic and real. Audiences believed Greer’s sincerity, her joy, her anger, and audacity. It was as if any viewer was getting a free pass into the world of masterclass acting.
The plot was small, yet repercussions were felt across the globe. It was the story of a “middle-class” family living in a quaint English village. MRS. MINIVER was the glue that binds her husband, Clem (Walter Pidgeon), and their children together. Their oldest son, Vin (Richard Nay), eventually joins the RAF and becomes a pilot. He was considered “young” for the Air Force at 17, and after filming was completed, he was 12 years younger than Greer Garson when they married. (That’s really not incestuous, was it?)
MRS. MINIVER was beloved by the entire town and even had a rose named after her for the annual flower show. The story’s strongest thread was showing the fragility of normal, ordinary lives enduring the horrors of war. She was an inspiration to all her neighbors who believed they must keep moving forward, no matter what. Action was required, not just words.
MRS. MINIVER was a film “heard” around the world. It infused just the right amount of warmth, sentimentality, and pride in the type of people we want and strive to be. It shined a light on “buying bonds” after every payday. It is a film whose intentions were evident during turbulent years. MRS. MINIVER was one of the most significant wartime classics that stirred hearts with fear, dignity, and honor. It is available to stream on TCM.