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 wartime England. Additionally imbued with an unmatchably able cast and the fine, understanding direction of William Wyler, the picture will draw good grosses, particularly among class and femme audiences.
It’s one defect, not uncommon with Metro’s prestige product, is its length — two hours and 13 minutes. 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. Were this remedied by some shearing, the film would undoubtedly rate close to the pinnacle for the year — if not at the b.o., at least in the accolades of critics and lovers of fine acting, fine writing and fine direction.
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. Not that it shows anything like the result of lack of planning by governments or individuals, but in that it brings so close to home the effects of total war. The film is so warm, so well done, that Mrs. Miniver’s family is the audience’s family; that what’s in her heart is in the audience’s heart when her 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, when her daughter-in-law of a few weeks is killed. Mrs. Miniver truly brings the war into one’s own family.