I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Friday, September 9, 2011

Mrs. Miniver, 1942










Not Rated

This beautiful and sentimental film was made during World War II and is consequently about it. Quite a few of the movies that came out that year (and were nominated for Best Picture) were about the world’s preoccupation with the war. “Mrs. Miniver” was adapted from a series of articles. Winston Churchill commented that its propaganda value was worth as much as twelve battleships; I assume he was referring to the last scene when the vicar was encouraging everyone in the congregation:This is the People's War. It is our war. We are the fighters. Fight it then. Fight it with all that is in us and may God defend the Right.”

We get a glimpse into the lives of the Minivers, an upper-middle class family living in England, before and during the start of the second World War. It’s a different war movie though. It is more about the family’s, and especially Mrs. Miniver’s, grace under pressure and their calm perseverance to protect and survive. It doesn’t really have a “happy” ending but it is fairly uplifting.

In one particularly memorable scene, Mrs. Miniver finds a wounded German soldier passed out in her yard. She tries to grab his gun, but he awakens and chases her into the house. I was terrified for her and tried to think what I would do. A policeman and a doctor come and she assures the soldier he’ll receive the best medical attention. What?! I asked my husband if that was typical and part of the ‘rules of war’, to which he responded, “Absolutely.” I’m not sure how I feel about this… Obviously, if one of our soldiers is wounded, I would want him/her to be well taken care of, but selfishly, I have problems with the reciprocity. How do you justify spending tax dollars on an enemy’s medical bills when s/he was just trying to kill you?


Greer Garson, who plays Mrs. Miniver, looks shockingly like a young version of Meryl Streep; I think she is gorgeous in this film. I thought she sounded familiar but I couldn’t recognize her… I discovered she also narrated the Christmas claymation classic “Little Drummer Boy”, a show that I watch every December. Greer won her well-deserved Best Actress award and gave Oscar’s longest acceptance speech in history… almost 6 minutes! (Maybe that’s why the music cues actors to move along now after 15 seconds…) Another fascinating bit of trivia: She married the man who plays her SON in this film the following year. She’s only twelve years older than he is, so it was more of a stretch for her to play a mother of three (with one being an adult), than it was for him to play her son.

Walter Pigdeon, who plays Mr. Clem Miniver, also plays Mr. Zeigfeld in “Funny Girl”, so I obviously recognized him (his voice first, really). He also plays Mr. Gruffyd in “How Green was my Valley” from the year before. He was charming and I laughed out loud at several of his lines. He apologizes for his son’s rash behavior by explaining that he is “suffering from an acute case of maturity”. I also completely agree with another one of his statements: “No matter what time I wake up, it’s time for breakfast”.

I found it interesting to learn that the actors that played Mr. and Mrs. Miniver had played a romantic couple in another movie just the year before (“Blossoms in the Dust”), and they played husband and wife in even several more films after this one! It was obvious they had good chemistry together.

Henry Travers plays possibly the most endearing and adorable character ever, Mr. Ballard. He is the town’s station master but he also tends to a garden and this year has produced a perfectly beautiful rose he would like to enter into the town’s annual contest and name “The Mrs. Miniver.” When asking her permission, he explains that “no matter how hurried you are, you always have time to stop and have a word with me”. He is the same actor that plays Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, basically solidifying the fact that I wish this guy was my friend.

This film walked away with six awards from its twelve nominations including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best B/W Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. William Wyler, the director, is the most nominated director in Oscar history with 12 nominations and 3 wins. This was his first directorial win but he had seven Best Picture nominations in a row before this film finally snagged him a win. It was up against “Kings Row”, “The Invaders”, “The Magnificent Ambersons”, “The Pied Piper”, “The Pride of the Yankees”, “Random Harvest”, “The Talk of the Town”, “Wake Island”, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. I haven’t seen any of the other ones but I’ve added “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to my list of movies to watch next year (when this blog is all over) because I was in the stage version back in 1995 (called “George M.!”); the actor who played George M. Cohan won the Best Actor award over Walter Pigdeon.

FAVORITE SCENE:

Lady Beldon is used to winning the prize for Best Rose at the annual flower show, but this year, she’s got some competition with my man Mr. Ballard’s beloved beauty. Although she’s a bit of a crotchety old woman, she has a selfless and redeeming moment at the flower show. It was the scene that made me smile the most, but I don’t want to give it away, so go rent the film!

(There’s the future “Mr. Greer Garson” on the left…)

LOADS OF LESSONS LEARNED:

*Carol Beldon, who became Mrs. Miniver’s daughter-in-law, has some fabulous lines in the movie as well, most of them directed to her soon-to-be fiancĂ©. I think they make good lessons learned…

“I know how comfortable it is to curl up with a nice, fat book full of big words and think you're going to solve all the problems in the universe. But you're not, you know. A bit of action is required every now and then.” It’s easier to sit around and act smart, (or be smart), and wait for others to do the work, but it’s better to get proactive.

“Every moment is precious; we mustn’t waste time with fear.” It is not healthy physically or spiritually to dwell on the fear of what “could be” or “might happen”.

*Lady Beldon made me chuckle with this little lesson on humility…

“Don’t try to be better than your betters… Everyone nowadays has mink coats and no manners”.

*Lastly, to draw a lesson from dear Mr. Ballard…

Don’t be so hurried through life, that you fail to acknowledge other people. I think we’re all guilty of this in today’s world of smart phones and ipods, but don’t forget to raise your gaze and recognize the real world.

2 comments:

  1. These are my favorite lessons so far. Maybe that is because a lot were direct quotes from the movie? That might mean the movie is more cheesy because these lessons aren't implied but stated, but on the other hand, it's kind of neat. They are catchy phrases, especially "don't try to be better than your betters."

    And ah yes, we both share that hunger for life whenever we wake up.

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  2. I don't know whether to be offended by that or not... that means my other creative and thought-out lessons aren't as good as the ones they spell out for you in the films. ;)

    And it's not so much a hunger for life I feel in the morning (I am still exhausted), it's a hunger for pancakes.

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