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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Mrs. Miniver

Steve Hayes reviews the 1942 Greer Garson - Walter Pidgeon classic that was a megahit when it came out, and was a particular favorite of FDR's:
In 1942, with the Germans invading throughout Europe, William Wyler directed MRS. MINIVER, as a means of getting the United States into the war effort. Starring the popular team of Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, the movie tells the story of how the war effects a family living on the outskirts of London and covers everything from the son's enlisting, to the nightly bombing , the invasion of Dunkirk, the capture of a German flier and the tragic loss of a family member.

Winning the Oscar for Best Picture, as well as Best Actress for Garson and Best Supporting Actress for Teresa Wright, "Mrs. Miniver" is filled with Wyler's trademark attention to detail, pacing and the coaxing of brilliant performances from his actors. It's a prime example of the kind of high gloss melodramas of MGM in its prime and because of Wyler's direction, is still a powerful piece of propaganda today.

This is one of those wonderful stories - like Jane Eyre, among others I could name - you should experience when young and idealistic.  I never saw the picture until a few years ago when I got Netflix; and though it's lovely, charming, and suspenseful, it didn't have the same effect on me that it would have had at a more callow age.  Still, very worth watching for the suavely masculine Walter Pidgeon - and Greer Garson, well, who else combines so exquisitely beauty and class and humility?

I shouldn't tell you this before you watch the movie, which will spoil it for you.  But Garson married one of her co-stars after the picture was made - and it wasn't the studly Pidgeon, unfortunately.  But watch the movie first, then google up and find out her surprising choice.

The marriage didn't last very long; afterwards she married a Texas millionaire and lived long and happily down in these parts, and is buried in Dallas.  My late husband once saw her at a nearby table when he was dining at the Adolphus.  He smiled at her; she smiled back, very gracious and unselfconscious.  Sweet.


Staircase Witch said...

Saw this first as a teenager and was moved, even in the cynical post-Vietnam 80s. Should find a copy and watch it again--love old WWII films. Maybe a double feature with Olivier's Henry V.

Russ Manley said...

Olivier's great classic is on my must-see-someday list - I'm just waiting for a triumphant mood to come along to watch it in.

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