Directed by William Wyler
Based on the novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther
Screenplay by Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine West
Starring: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Henry Travers, Dame May Whitty, Teresa Wright, Richard Ney
The Miniver family has carved out a nice existence in England prior to the start of World War II. As the violence comes closer to home, they begin to see just how much the world around them is changing.
This film was the Best Picture winner at the 1943 Academy Awards. The film was based on Jan Struther’s 1940 novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by a team of writers that included Arthur Wimperis (Random Harvest), George Froeschel (Waterloo Bridge), James Hilton (Foreign Correspondent), and Claudine West (Goodbye, Mr. Chips). The film was directed by Hollywood legendy, William Wyler (Roman Holiday). For his work, Wyler would earn the first of three Oscars. In an interesting twist, he would win in 1947 for another World War II film, The Best Years of Our Lives. The cast of this film includes Greer Garson (Madame Curie), Walter Pidgeon (How Green Was My Valley), Henry Travers (It’s a Wonderful Life), and Dame May Whitty (Suspicion). Teresa Wright (The Men) and Richard Ney (Midnight Lace) are also featured.
This story is a very intimate and personal tale of survival during the start of World War II. The novel was published in 1940, based on a series of articles Jan Struther had published. Shortly afterwards, the story was crafted into a script. That script would be written and re-written over the next two years as the United States went from an observer to a participant in the war. The final draft stands as a powerful statement against the axis that threatened the allied nations. The writing does a wonderful job introducing the “normal” way of life for all of the main characters. From this somewhat simple start, the story helps to highlight the growing shadow of war. The moments of action and drama don’t feel out of place, and the characters all feel genuine to the setting. The dialogue is written with a unique sense of honesty that never seems to glorify the idea of fighting for your country. There is also a wonderful absence of overdone speeches or monologues. Along with The Best Years of Our Lives, this might be one of the best written war films of the 1940s. For their work, Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton, and Claudine West took home the Oscar for Best Writing.
The actors in this film had to know that they were doing something special. There, on the eve of World War II, these stars were being asked to embody the feelings of a nation. Greer Garson led the way with an excellent portrayal of the title character. Her performance manages to capture the innocence and the loss of innocence her and her family experienced. Walter Pidgeon was by her side with a great performance of his own. Like Garson, he was asked to adjust throughout the film to show the changes the war had on his character. Together, Garson and Pidgeon make a great pair on the screen. This film was one of eight films that the two would star in together, and the chemistry is evident. Henry Travers, Dame May Whitty, Teresa Wright, and Richard Ney all bring nice performances to this one as well. Each performance helped to create the sense of community at the heart of this movie. This cast did an excellent job with a nicely written script. For their performances, Greer Garson and Teresa Wright would take home Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Additionally, Walter Pidgeon, Dame May Whitty, and Henry Travers would all be nominated for Oscars. (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress.)
This movie would also earn nominations for other aspects of the production. Joseph Ruttenberg (The Philadelphia Story) won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Additionally, the film was nominated for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Effects. With a total of twelve nominations and six wins, this film stands as one of the more honored films of all-time.
So many aspects came together in a great combined effort to create a wonderful movie. Fans of war films should check this out. It is one of the more unique films of the World War II era. I would also suggest this one to fans of any of the stars. I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.