Based on the fictional British housewife created by Jan Struther in 1937 for a series of newspaper columns, Mrs. Miniver was one of the first war movies to take viewers off the battlefield and into homes of people trying to live their lives, despite the war around them. Released just seven months after America’s entry into World War II, Mrs. Miniver did a great deal to inform viewers of Britain’s defiance against Nazi Germany and their steadfast resolve, despite overwhelming odds.
Under the guiding hand of director William Wyler decidedly thin story—no less than four writers are given credit for the Oscar winning screenplay—remains compelling and heartfelt from start to finish. As the film begins, war is on the horizon but has not yet broken out. English upper middle-class housewife Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) enjoys shopping in town and socializing. She and her architect husband Clem (Walter Pidgeon) are the parents of three children: Vin (Richard Ney), Judy (Clare Sandars), and Toby (Christopher Severn). Just home from Oxford, Vin becomes involved in a romance with 18-year old Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright), the granddaughter of the Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty), whose chief concern in life is that her prize roses win an annual flower competition. The first meeting between the two youngsters had been a tense clash about the British class system, but that was quickly superseded by the sparks of love.
Then the war comes. Vin does his duty and joins the RAF. Though Clem is too old to serve in the armed forces, he mans his small boat to aid in the evacuation of Dunkirk. At home, Kay is forced to confront a downed, injured German flyer who forces his way into her kitchen. The man is carrying a gun and it’s immediately obvious that he’s scared enough that it won’t take much provocation for him to use it. Kay must find a way to pacify him. Somehow, she must convince this enemy flier that she means him no harm.
The daily struggles that Briton’s faced is best exemplified in a scene that that takes place in a bomb shelter. The Minivers and their two youngest children have been forced to seek refuge during a raid. The children sleep as their parents chat quietly. Bombs are falling with alarming regularity, getting closer with each explosion. Eventually, power in the shelter is lost, as the children wake up and the entire family huddles together.
Mrs. Miniver was a major success at the time of its release, grossing $5,358,000 in North America and $3,520,000 abroad. In Britain, it was named the top box office attraction of 1942. Mrs. Miniver was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and took home six, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Greer Garson, Best Supporting Actress for Teresa Wright and Best Director for William Wyler. In 2009, Mrs. Miniver was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time.
While the film has a few sappy moments, Mrs. Miniver has withstood the passage of time rather well. More than seventy years after its release, the story is still an effective and moving experience. Furthermore, it provides a glimpse at the uncertainty that a global crisis like World War II can have on people’s lives regardless of their station in life.
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, Warner Brothers’ 1080p transfer proves once again that the studio is committed to releasing great looking high definition product when it comes to their catalog titles. The print is free of any noticeable blemishes and the sense of detail is downright impressive. Contrast and blacks are stable, with only a slight bit of edginess on occasion. For a film just over 70 years old, this transfer is very impressive.
Outfitted with a clean DTS-HD MA 1.0 soundtrack, Mrs. Miniver undoubtedly sounds as good as the original source would allow. While the dynamic range is somewhat limited, the bombing sequences and a scene involving the downing of an aircraft have a good amount of heft. While dialogue is clear, I had to use the included English subtitles on occasion to understand the thick English regional accents.
English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Italian SDH and Korean subtitles are available.
The following special features are included:
- Mr. Blabbermouth! (SD, 19:22) This satirical dramatization of an editorial from the Los Angeles Daily News was created to counter rumors that the U.S. Navy was crippled beyond repair after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
- For the Common Defense (SD, 21:36) MGM’s contribution to the “Crime Does Not Pay”, series attempts to show the value of cooperation between international police forces, specifically in this one, Chile and the United States.
- Blitz Wolf (HD, 10:39) A retelling of The Three Little Pigs”, with the Big Bad Wolf reimagined as Hitler.
- 1942 Academy Awards Newsreel (SD, 0:58) A short excerpt of Greer Garson’s Best Actress Oscar speech, which actually went on for more than five minutes.
- Trailer (SD, 2:42) A highly effective trailer.