Directed by: William Wyler (won)
Screenplay by: Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton and Claudine West (all won)
Starring: Greer Garson (won), Walter Pidgeon (nominated), Teresa Wright (won), Dame May Whitty (nominated), Richard Ney
My rating: 7/10
IMDb rating: 7.6
The Magnificent Ambersons
The Pied Piper
The Pride of the Yankees
The Talk of the Town
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Synopsis: The experiences of the Miniver family at the start of WWII, centring on the matriarch, Kay Miniver.
Despite this being a piece of propaganda to encourage the US to join the war, I rather enjoyed it.
Mrs. Miniver, played by the elegant Greer Garson, is likable as the perfect British wife and has an easy patter with her husband, played by Walter Pidgeon (who seems to be pulling a Clark Gable, starring in two consecutive best picture winners). And it’s nice to know that at 38, Greer Garson was actually old enough to be the mother of a university student.
The two younger actors, Richard Ney (Vincent Miniver) and Teresa Wright (Carol Beldon), were enjoyable if bland. The best part about them was their first meeting where they argued about the aristocracy’s role in helping the working classes. Still, Richard Ney must have been interesting enough if Greer Garson married him.
The only characters with a bit of spark were Dame May Whitty’s Mrs Beldon and Henry Travers’ Mr Ballard. Whitty plays one of my all-time favourite tropes: the sharp-tongued Grade Dame. An example of her delicious wit: “The worst thing about this war is that it gives the wretched little persons a chance to make themselves important.”
All in all, this film was nominated for 12 Oscars and won six, and was number one in the US and UK box office. I haven’t seen any of the other nominees, so I can’t comment on how deserving it was, but I will say that even if the judges were being excessively patriotic, can you really blame them? This was 1942.
There’s something profoundly melancholy about wartime movie made during wartime. They don’t have the neat happy ending that we can construct now about of the end of war. They had to end their movies with ambiguity and rousing speeches and hope of a better day.
Bottom line: It’s not the best WWII movie, but it’s a well-crafted film by a talented director.
Find the rest of this series here.