Mrs. Miniver

Mrs. Miniver

4.5 7
Director: William Wyler

Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright

     
 

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This is a strange DVD to recommend heartily, considering how poorly the main feature has held up. Mrs. Miniver (1942) was a multiple Oscar winner that may well have helped firm up American solidarity with the British in the first year of American combat in World War II. It was made by one of Hollywood's greatest directors, had a top cast and a script that wasSee more details below

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Overview

This is a strange DVD to recommend heartily, considering how poorly the main feature has held up. Mrs. Miniver (1942) was a multiple Oscar winner that may well have helped firm up American solidarity with the British in the first year of American combat in World War II. It was made by one of Hollywood's greatest directors, had a top cast and a script that was the product of four major authors, and it utilized the best facilities of what was then the biggest of all the studios, MGM. The Warner Home Video DVD looks as good and as handsome as one might expect it would -- much sharper than the old MGM/UA laserdisc, without any of that format's playback anomalies, and also costing far less (and loaded with bonus features). It's impossible to complain about any of the technical aspects of the DVD, except for the audio, which is mastered at a very low level. The movie itself is another matter. At the best of times, Mrs. Miniver anticipates director William Wyler's much more effective dramatic scenes in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), while other scenes -- most notably the confrontation between Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) and a downed German flyer -- are beautifully played and suspenseful. But, through much of the film, Wyler and the cast are too weighed down trying to emphasize the movie's Englishness (in its characterizations and setting) and tell a story (intended for American eyes) that showcases the notion that every class of British society was in the war and fighting. It all becomes very tiresome, watching Wyler and company operating in second gear (or on seven cylinders) because of the artificial, message-laden script; it's like watching Wyler trying to work with one eye blindfolded, and he only finds his footing in about half of the movie. Interestingly, in the domestic scenes, he finds one common element with The Best Years of Our Lives (and the characters played in that film by Fredric March and Myrna Loy), in the obvious relish with which he depicts the middle-aged couple (Greer Garson/Walter Pidgeon) here as still being passionately in love with each other and very obviously still enjoying a healthy sex life. The other half of the story -- the self-consciously British half -- is as bad (or good, but nothing special) as any less-than-first-rate propaganda drama of the period. It's fifty percent of a good movie, with a lot of binding material lacking. What makes the disc distinctly more worthwhile than the movie are the extras. MGM produced some good propaganda shorts, and two of them are here. Mr. Blabbermouth is an anti-defeatist short subject with a strongly comic edge, reminiscent of the Pete Smith specialty films, and a good morale-boosting tone. It's nicely and cleverly put together, and even though it stretches the truth at times in the name of keeping morale high, it's a lot less inaccurate than anything the Germans were being fed by their film industry. Curiously, it does leave out the one factor about American industry that even the highest levels of the German intelligence and military communities feared, in terms of bringing the United States into the war -- that as of 1940, 11 years into the Great Depression with industrial activity crippled for a decade, there were still more precision machine tools in the United States than there were in the whole rest of the world combined. The other short, For the Common Defense, was part of the studio's superb "Crime Doesn't Pay" series. It tells of the breaking up of a German espionage and sabotage ring in Latin America with help from the Chilean police, and emphasizes inter-American cooperation. It's suspenseful and includes a fair amount of violence for the period, as well as being reasonably well acted. Indeed, there was enough good here that the same story, in the hands of another studio such as, say, RKO, this scenario would have been the basis for a solid 75-minute B-movie. The funny thing is, that makes it sort of the opposite of Mrs. Miniver, which was adapted from a flabby script that never realized what potential it did have. For those who really care about the latter, there is newsreel footage of Garson accepting her Oscar with a very emotional speech (of legendary length) and the original release trailer, which is a reminder of just how special the movie did seem in 1942. There's also a still photo array from the movie. The whole package is well designed, the disc opening on a simple two-layer menu that is easy to maneuver around, including the special features. Everything is transferred full-screen (1.33:1), with beautiful sharpness and clarity. The language selection includes optional French audio and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
Mrs. Miniver was a World War II propaganda film that, early in the war, helped build and sustain public support for the United States' involvement in Europe. Parts of it may now seem forced and artificial, particularly Greer Garson's Oscar-winning performance. Garson's Oscar win and lengthy acceptance speech became a long-running joke in Hollywood -- for example, the claims that she stayed at the podium for 45 minutes or more. (Her actual acceptance remarks took around 5 minutes, still the longest-ever Oscar acceptance speech.) The film contains the sort of elements that you would expect it to contain. Garson is the strong-willed British homemaker who refuses to allow Nazi bombs to ruin her roses. She is noble and brave and self-sacrificing and all those things that a government asks its people to be in times of war. The film is constructed so smoothly that it's easy to overlook its craft. Hollywood did its part for the war effort and honored Mrs. Miniver with six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director (William Wyler). As soon as WWII was over, Wyler would direct The Best Years of Our Lives, the era's most insightful movie about the hardships that war brings to families.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/03/2004
UPC:
0012569519626
Original Release:
1942
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
1
Time:
2:13:00
Sales rank:
2,616

Special Features

Closed Caption; Greer Garson Academy Awards footage; Photo gallery; Two World War II-era shorts: "Mr. Blabbermouth" and "For the Common Defense"; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Greer Garson Mrs. Kay Miniver
Walter Pidgeon Clem Miniver
Teresa Wright Carol Beldon
May Whitty Lady Beldon
Reginald Owen Foley
Henry Travers Mr. Ballard
Henry Wilcoxon Vicar
Richard Ney Vin Miniver
Tom Conway Man
Christopher Severn Toby Miniver
Brenda Forbes Gladys, the Housemaid
Frank Atkinson Actor
Frank Baker Actor
Louise M. Bates Miniver Guest
Guy Bellis Barman
Ted Billings Actor
Walter Byron Actor
Leonard Carey Haldon's Butler
Aileen Carlyle Actor
Herbert Clifton Actor
Edward Cooper Waiter
Sidney D'Albrook Men in Store
David Dunbar Actor
Billy Engle Townsman
Herbert Evans Actor
Leslie Francis Doctor
Colin Kenny Policeman
Henry King Actor
Eric Lonsdale Marston
Stanley Mann Workman
Eula Morgan Actor
Ottola Nesmith Saleslady
Gil Perkins Actor
John Power Men in Tavern
Clare Sanders Judy Miniver
Leslie Sketchley Actor
Vernon Steele Actor
David Thursby Farmer
Leslie Vincent Dancing Partner
Tudor Williams Glee Club Member
Marek Windheim Actor
Florence Wix Woman with Dog
St. Luke's Choristers Chorus
Art Berry Actor
Harold Howard Judge
John Abbott Fred, the Porter
Harry Allen William
Charles Bennett Milkman
Billy Bevan Conductor
John Burton Halliday
Colin Campbell Bickles
David Clyde Carruthers
Alec Craig Joe
Helmut Dantine German Flyer
Marie de Becker Ada, The Cook
Mary Field Miss Spriggins
Douglas Gordon Porter
Bobby Hale Old Man
Forrester Harvey Mr. Huggins, Conductor
Charles Irwin Mac
Peter Lawford Pilot
Connie Leon Simpson, The Maid
Thomas Lockyear Mr. Verger
Miles Mander German Agent
Aubrey Mather The Innkeeper
Clara Reid Mrs. Huggins
Paul Scardon Nobby
Gerald Oliver Smith Car Dealer
Ben Webster Ginger
Rhys Williams Horace Perkins
Arthur Wimperis Sir Henry
Ian Wolfe Dentist

Technical Credits
William Wyler Director
Sidney Franklin Producer
George Froeschel Screenwriter
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Arnold A. Gillespie Special Effects
James Hilton Screenwriter
Robert Kalloch Costumes/Costume Designer
Harold Kress Editor
Urie McCleary Art Director
Warren Newcombe Special Effects
Joseph Ruttenberg Cinematographer
Herbert Stothart Score Composer
Claudine West Screenwriter
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design
Arthur Wimperis Screenwriter

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits and Foreword.
2. Nice Things.
3. A Rose by Her Name.
4. Pricey Purchases.
5. Lucky People.
6. Oxford Enlightenment.
7. Carol's Request, Vin's Protest.
8. Wonderful Evening.
9. Eye Contact.
10. At War.
11. Good Luck, Horace.
12. Sirens, Milady.
13. Lights Out.
14. Ready for Real.
15. Vin Called to Duty.
16. Signal From the Sky.
17. Clem Called to Duty.
18. Destination Dunkirk.
19. Their Comfort.
20. The Enemy.
21. The Same Thing Here.
22. Homecomings.
23. Trading War Stories.
24. Lady Beldon Calls.
25. Bomb Shelter.
26. Time Enough for Tears.
27. Flower Show.
28. Challenge Cup Winner.
29. Plane Crash.
30. Air-Raid Casualty.
31. Our War.
32. Cast List.

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