Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Director: William Wyler.
Cast: Greer Garson (Mrs. Kay Miniver), Walter Pidgeon (Clem Miniver), Teresa Wright (Carol Beldon), Dame May Whitty (Lady Beldon), Henry Travers (Mr. Ballard), Reginald Owen (Foley), Miles Mander (German Agent's Voice), Henry Wilcoxon (Vicar), Richard Ney (Vin Miniver), Clare Sandars (Judy Miniver), Christopher Severn (Toby Miniver), Brenda Forbes (Gladys, the Housemaid), Rhys Williams (Horace Perkins), Marie de Becker (Ada, the Cook), Helmut Dantine (German Flier), Mary Field (Miss Spriggins).
Dunkirk & the effects of the war on an English family
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"This story of an average English middle-class family begins with the summer of 1939, when the sun shone down on a happy, careless people, who worked and played, reared their children and tended their gardens in that happy, easy-going England that was so soon to be fighting desperately for her way of life and for life itself."
Mrs. Kay Miniver gets on a bus and has to get off. She must go back and buy that lovely hat she likes. She goes back to the store where she was shopping. The clerk brings out the hat and Kay purchases it.
Kay gets on a train to go home. There she meets the vicar. She asks him if he things there is going to be a war, but he doesn't have time to answer because Lady Beldon gets in the same train compartment. The station master, Mr. Ballard, shows Kay his beautiful rose. He says he is going to name the variety of rose as the Mrs. Miniver. The Mrs. Miniver thinks that it would be a very nice compliment to her.
Kay arrives home. Her husband Clem sees her go into the house from his seat in a used car being driven by the dealer. He wants to buy the car, but finds it a bit too expensive. He thinks about it and decides to buy the car despite the price. He asks the car dealer to bring it around after dinner and under no circumstances is he to tell his wife the cost.
Clem comes into the house and he says hello to his daughter Judy. Then he says hello to his boy Toby. He goes upstairs to see his wife.
They have a maid known as Gladys and she has a boyfriend. After dinner Gladys goes out with her boy friend and Kay and Clem talk about their days. Kay is afraid to mention the cost of her hat and Clem is a it afraid to tell Kay of the cost of his new car. After Clem tells her about the car, Kay shows him her new hat.
The next day the family picks up their teen-age son named Vin Miniver who has come home from Oxford. Miss Carol Beldon comes over to asks Mrs. Miniver for a favor. She says that her grandmother wins the rose contest every year and she wants Kay to tell Mr. Ballard to withdraw his rose, the Mrs. Miniver, from competition. Vin doesn't like the idea because of the class differences between Lady Beldon and Mr. Ballard. He is suggesting that Ballard is a mere serf compared to Lady Beldon and the rose contest appears to be fixed so an upper class woman can win it. This upsets Miss Beldon so she fires back asking Vin what has he done to back up his beliefs about social class.? Vin hasn't done much of anything while Miss Beldon has worked among the poor. Vin's parents thinks he's a being a bit too brash and hurting Miss Beldon's feelings. Vin gets mad and leaves the table. Kay and Clem apologize for their son, but Miss Beldon finds that Vin does have a good point and now she says she shouldn't have asked Kay to have the Mrs. Miniver rose withdrawn from competition.
The Beldon-Ballard fuss causes quite a bit of gossip in the little town with different people taking different sides. The Minivers are out at a dance and they approve of Miss Beldon and the way she handled the matter with Vin. Miss Beldon comes over and sits down to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Miniver. The parents tell her that Vin has stayed at home tonight. Miss Beldon gets a note from Vin which says: "May I see you for a moment alone? I am waiting on the old boat landing." She excuses herself from the table and goes down to see Vin.
Vin apologizes for being a bit too forward with her yesterday. Miss Beldon also says she regrets some things she said. She gets Vin to come in and dance with her. Vin's parents are shocked to see Vin at the party.
Mr. Ballard and a friend talk about the flower show being postponed. After all, Germany has invaded Poland and war is at hand.
The Minivers go to church, as do the Beldons. Miss Beldon was away for awhile and actually came back a week early. Vin is delighted to see her. The minister receives a verbal message and asks for everyone to be seated. It has just been announced over the air by the Prime Minister that Britain is at war. He lets the congregation go.
When the Minivers get back home they learn that Gladys has been crying and carrying on because her boy friend Horace is going to have to go off to war. Gladys serves dinner to the family, but cries as she does so. Horace comes in to say goodbye to the family. Gladys continues to cry a bit more. Vin tells Horace that he is going into the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force). Horace and Gladys leave.
Kay is very sad and mentions that Vin is a bit young for the air force. Her husband agrees with her. Vin runs over to see Miss Carol. Carol comes down the stairs to see him. She tells Vin that she really doesn't know him that well, so Vin says they could be together everyday at least for awhile. Carol seems to like the idea. Lady Beldon comes down and meets Vin Miniver. The mention of the name Miniver upsets grandmother a bit because of the rose competition. She of the upper class looks down on Vin and the other little people. Carol tries to quiet her down, but has no luck.
An air raid siren sounds off. Vin tells Lady Beldon that they should all go down to the cellar. The air raid warden Foley comes in to tell Clem that he is showing a light from his house. One of the drapes in the cellar does not close properly and Foley and Clem fix that right up The all clear siren sounds.
Eight months later. France has been defeated and her armies crushed. Clem and some of his friends are drinking in a tavern. In comes Vin all dressed up in his R.A.F. uniform. He is now pilot officer Miniver. Clem and Vin go home together. Vin is overwhelmed when he see his mother and Carol at the top of the stairs. Vin runs up to them. Carol gives him a kiss on the lips. Vin and Carl stay downstairs, while Clem and Kay go upstairs to see their young children. Vin kisses Carol.
At dinner Toby asks Vin if he is going to marry Carol? This makes everyone a little uncomfortable. Vin answers that he hasn't had the nerve to ask her yet. Carol asks Toby why doesn't he ask her if she is going to marry Vin? So Toby asks. Carol answers she will if Vin asks her. Vin stands up and asks Carol to marry him. Carol says yes and Toby starts celebrating making lots of noise. Vin gets a telephone call and has to report to the airport at once despite the fact that Vin had a week's leave. He has to grab his bag and get going. He says goodbye to all.
Kay and Clem go to bed and they hear airplanes overhead. One of the planes is having engine trouble. Kay says no, it's just Vin signaling them by making certain noises with his engine.
Clem has to go on river duty in the middle of the night. He reports in early in the morning. The local leaders are rounding up all the boats over 30 feet with orders to send them to Ramsey. Clem is in the convoy headed over to Ramsey. There are quite a few boats in the convoy. At Ramsey they are met by a naval ship. A voice over a loud speaker says that the men are to cut their engines. The British army is caught between the Germans and the English Channel. They are under bombardment from artillery and planes. The boats will head for Dunkirk in France and pick up soldiers. And they will head there immediately. Clem is raring to go as are most of the other boat owners.
At home Mrs. Miniver rises in the morning. She can hear the sound of guns from across the English Chanel. Clem has been gone for five days. Mr. Ballard stops to tell her he has entered his rose in the competition. Mrs. Miniver finds a wounded German soldier. She tries to take his pistol, but he awakens. Kay runs back to her house, but the pilot follows her. He asks her if she is alone? The maid and the children are upstairs. Now he asks for food and drink. She grabs some bread and he quickly grabs it and starts eating. He then downs some milk from a bottle.
The milk man comes and drops off the milk. The German asks her for one of her husband's coats. She retrieves one and the pilot puts it on over his uniform. He puts food in his pockets. He starts out the door but collapses before he can get out. Kay grabs the gun and calls the police. She reports the German flyer at her house. She tells them to bring a doctor because the pilot is wounded.
The pilot wakes up. Kay says she took his Lugar and called the police. He says that thousands of more Germans are coming and they will bomb all their towns and cities. Kay gets so upset that she slaps him. The police arrive and take the pilot away. Kay is very relieved after she closes the door to all that drama.
Clem comes home and Kay runs out to see him returning. The children also come running out to greet their father. As soon as dad's head hits the pillow he falls asleep on his bed.
Airplanes fly over the Miniver house and Vin makes the engine sound for his parents and siblings. Kay is so relieved to hear that sound.
When Clem finally awakens, she tells him the good news that Vin is also home. Kay tells Clem that she is so proud of him. He says that's the job of the husband to take care of these kinds of situations while the wives stay behind nice and save. The maid comes in and tells Kay that there is no more ham because the German pilot ate it all up yesterday morning. Clem is flabbergasted and demands to know all about this German pilot. Kay acts like it was really nothing.
Lady Beldon is downstairs! Kay goes downstairs to talk to her. She figures Lady Beldon is going to complain about the engagement. Lady Beldon does complain, mostly that the two young people are too young. Carol is just around 18 and Vin isn't yet 20. Kay points out that Lady Beldon herself married when she was 16 years of age. Lady Beldon says her husband was killed soon after they were married and she doesn't want Carol to suffer the same fate. And yet Lady Beldon knows that Carol will marry Vin regardless of what she says. Kay suggests that Lady Beldon probably doesn't object too much to that. She says Vin is a very nice fellow. And now the rich lady says that if they are going to be relatives the least Kay can do is offer her some tea.
The Minivers have a nice little bomb shelter now. Clem steps outside for a smoke of his pipe. He is joined by his wife. They listen to the anti-air craft barrage. A bomb is dropped not too far away from the Miniver house. The flower show is on tomorrow. The sounds of bombs is gets even closer now. They talk of how Vin and Carol went on their honeymoon to Scotland. One bomb falls so close that it knocks things off the top bunk. The kids start crying and the front door of the shelter flies open.
Clem, Kay and Lady Beldon are at the station when Vin and Carol return from their honeymoon. Vin sees the house for the first time since the bombings. It has suffered a lot of damage. Vin says it's quite a mess. Vin and Carol greet the children. Carol tells Kay that she will love Vin every moment -- every moment she has with him (knowing that he still could be killed in the air force).
The rose competition takes place. The award goes to Lady Beldon with Ballard as second-place winner. Kay suggests to Lady Beldon that she might consider giving first-prize to Mr. Ballard. Up on the podium Lady Beldon gives the award to Mr. Ballard, "our popular station master". Lady Beldon gets a huge applause for her action. The audience forces Ballard up to the podium. They have to cut the competition short because German planes are on their way to the area. The people go back to their homes. The air raid siren sounds. A number of people go to the Beldon house for safety.
Vin reports to his unit. Off the spitfires go to meet the enemy. Kay and Carol have to drive home slowly because they can't shine their head lights. The bombs start falling around them. Kay stops the car. An airplane on fire descends just above the car top and really bursts into flames after hitting a tree. The village is also on fire. Carol gets hit. Kay drives home as fast as she can. She calls for an ambulance but they are all out servicing wounded people.
Carol lies on the floor. She asks for water. Kay goes to fetch the water, but by the time she gets back Carol is dead. Kay holds her daughter-in-law close to her. And now she starts crying.
In the morning everyone in the family is very sad. And now Vin arrives to see his parents and Carol. Vin says that he already knows about Carol. Her body is in Vin's room and he goes up to see her. The Miniver family sans Carol goes to church. At church the minister says that they lost many people close to them, including James Ballard and Carol Miniver.
A little slow, but an excellent movie about the coming of World War II and its impact on a family in England. The first to feel the brunt of the war is the maid whose loved one goes to join the army. But it is not the last effect as the older son of the family goes off to join the Royal Air Force. The husband uses his boat to help evacuate troops from the shores of Dunkirk, France.
But it is not only the men's lives which are affected. Mrs. Miniver herself is confronted with an armed downed German pilot. And the ultimate sacrifice is not paid by a soldier fighting against the Germans, but someone unexpected, a civilian. Greer Garson won the academy award for best actress for her role as Mrs. Miniver in the film Mrs. Miniver.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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