This beautiful drama about a quiet English village and its inhabitants during the early days of WWII is perfect in every way. Director William Wyler was himself flying a bombing mission over Germany the night the Academy got it right and singled it out as Best Picture. Like the hat Greer Garson purchases despite the cost, this film is rather precious, and if made tomorrow, would still win the award for Best Picture.
Wyler was delivered a fabulous script from screenwriters Arthur Wimpers, George Froeschell, James Hilton, and Claudine West. Greer Garson's restrained performance as Jan Struther's heroine won her Best Actress honors but the entire cast is equally good, Teresa Wright especially so as the bright and cheery young woman who would marry the Miniver's son and show them all the way.
Wyler paints a lovely picture of day-to-day life in 1939 for the Miniver family and the small village where they live. Greer Garson is the nice Mrs. Miniver. An early scene when the kind porter Mr. Ballard (Henry Travers) reveals to her that he has named the beautiful red rose he intends to enter in the yearly floral contest after her, sets the feelings and mood of the entire film. The story of the white rose turning red from tears yet made more beautiful was not lost on audiences on both sides of the pond. If ever a film gave the world a resolve to stand up to evil, this quiet and touching film certainly did.
Wyler shows the poignancy of young men going off to war as the Miniver's young son, Vin, home from college and full of ideals, joins the R.A.F. There is one terribly moving scene as Garson listens with all her being as the planes fly over, waiting for Vin's signal that he is one of those returning. Wyler shows the efforts of all during the early days of the war to help in any way possible. Clem (Walter Pidgeon) will use his small boat along with his fellow villagers in a dangerous rescue mission during the night, beautifully filmed by the director.
But through the air raids, which become matter-of-fact for the Miniver family, the joyous moments of living are shown by Wyler, leaving no doubt that life will and does go on. Dame May Whitty is superb as the village's most powerful woman, Lady Beldon. She is the grandmother of the sweet Carol, portrayed winningly by Teresa Wright. It is her romance with Vin (Richard Ney) which will provide the most poignant moment in the film, showing that tragedy could come at any moment.
Garson's cool resolve when confronting a downed German flyer in her kitchen is never to be forgotten. Neither are the moments of Mrs. Miniver's small children sleeping peacefully in the cellar during air raids hitting closer and closer to home while Clem talks and she knits. Just as moving, however, is the moment the winner for best rose is announced.
There is a deeply moving and unexpected death, just as it happened to many families, English and otherwise, during the war. But it will not defeat the Minivers or the village, and the final speech was so stirring that Roosevelt had leaflets of it dropped from the air all over Europe.
Rarely does something so entertaining have the substance of "Mrs. Miniver." It is no wonder that Churchill said "Mrs. Miniver" was more important to the war effort than an entire fleet of of destroyers ever could have been. A magnificent and unforgettable film you can watch time and again with the entire family. A must see film for everyone.