Superbly catching the warmth and feeling of Jan Struther’s characters in her best-selling book of sketches, Mrs Miniver, Metro has created out of it a poignant story of the joys and sorrows, the humor and pathos of middle-class family life in war-time England.
Its one defect, not uncommon with Metro’s prestige product, is its length. It gets about three-quarters of the way through and begins floundering, like a vaude act that doesn’t know how to get off the stage.
In addition, the film, in its quiet yet actionful way, is, probably entirely unintentionally, one of the strongest pieces of propaganda against complacency to come out of the war.
When Mrs Miniver’s husband is summoned from his bed at 2 a.m. to help rescue the legions of Dunkirk, when her son flies out across the Channel each night, when she frightenedly captures a sick and starving German pilot who bears resemblance to her own boy, Mrs Miniver truly brings the war into one’s own family.
Greer Garson, with her knee-weakening smile, and Walter Pidgeon, almost equally personable, are the Minivers. Scarcely less engaging or capable are young Teresa Wright as their daughter-in-law and Richard Ney in the difficult role of their son.
It’s impossible to praise too highly William Wyler’s direction, which hits only one or two false notes throughout the lengthy presentation. His is clearly the understanding heart to whom these are not actors, but people living genuine joy and sorrow and fear and doubt.
1942: Best Picture, Director, Actress (Greer Garson), Supp. Actress (Teresa Wright), Screenplay, B&W Cinematography.
Nominations: Best Actor (Walter Pidgeon), Supp. Actor (Henry Travers), Supp. Actress (May Whitty), Editing, Sound, Special Effects