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Mrs. Miniver

Mrs. Miniver(1942)

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Mrs. Miniver A British family struggles to... MORE > $19.99 Regularly $27.98 Buy Now blu-ray

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The film's written prologue reads: "This story of an average English middle-class family begins with the summer of 1939; when the sun shone down on a happy, careless people, who worked and played, reared their children and tended their gardens in that happy, easy-going England that was so soon to be fighting desperately for her way of life and for life itself." January Struther's novel was compiled from stories she initially published in The Times (London) in 1938 and 1939. These stories were used more as a the basis for the characters in the film, rather than the plot, and were described as semi-autobiographical in some contemporary sources. As noted in Los Angeles Daily News, among other sources, "If January Struther contributed no plot on which to work, the mood and characters of her book provide inspiration for a picture of middle class British courage under the stress of war."
       Hollywood Reporter news items, the story file on the film in the USC Cinema-Television Library, the William Wyler Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library and other contemporary materials in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library reveal the following information on the production: M-G-M purchased the rights to Struther's novel in early October 1940, intending it to become a a starring vehicle for Greer Garson. At that time, James Hilton and R. C. Sherriff were announced as the screenwriters. One news item in March 1941 noted, however, that the film might star either Garson or Norma Shearer. Although actress Mary Field is included in the CBCS as "Miss Spriggins," neither she nor that role were in the released film. Actors Pat O'Hara, Elspeth Dudgeon, Dennis Chaldecott and Eric Snowden were cast in the picture, according to Hollywood Reporter news items, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       According to various Hollywood Reporter news items, the film's Los Angeles premiere was held to benefit the Volunteer Army Canteen Services, and Thrifty Drugstores, a local Southern California chain, distributed 30,000 free copies of the film's finale, "the vicar's speech," to their customers. Some modern sources have suggested that Wyler and actor Henry Wilcoxen, who portrayed "The vicar," rewrote the speech, which essentially addresses the audience, during filming. According to studio records, Mrs. Miniver's negative cost was $1,344,000 and it grossed $8,878,000, yielding a $4,831,000 profit for the studio. Actor Richard Ney (1927-2004), who played "Vin Miniver," made his motion picture debut in the film. Ney and Garson married in 1943 and divorced in 1947. Ney abandoned his acting career in the early 1960s to became a financial advisor. He also authored the best-selling 1970 investment bible The Wall Street Jungle.
       Many contemporary and modern sources have commented on the propaganda value of Mrs. Miniver in the British war effort, and the part the film played in swaying American public opinion into stronger support for Britain as the United States entered World War II. Hollywood Reporter news items and ads noted that Lord Halifax, British Ambassador to the U.S., sent a congratulatory telegram to Wyler, stating that the film "portrays the life that people live in England today in a way that cannot fail to move all that see it. I hope that this picture will bring home to the American public that the average Englishman is a good partner to have in time of trouble." British newspaper mogul and cabinet member Lord Beaverbrook expressed similar sentiments, as well as praising the film as a morale boost for England.
       A news item in the Daily Telegraph (London) recorded an often repeated quotation attributed to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the effect of the film on "public sentiment in the USA was worth a whole regiment" during World War II. A Gallup poll, conducted in September 1942, indicated that among those Americans who had seen Mrs. Miniver, the Twentieth-Century Fox film This Above All and the Universal picture Eagle Squadron ( and below), which all opened in early summer 1942, 17% more were favorable toward the British than those who had not seen the films. A March 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that M-G-M head Louis B. Mayer was asked by President Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill to show the film specifically to help the war effort.
       The film earned six Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Garson), Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright), Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography. The picture received six additional nominations, Best Actor (Walter Pidgeon), Best Supporting Actor (Henry Travers), Supporting Actress (Dame May Whitty), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound and Special Effects. Wright was also nominated in the Best Actress category that year, for her performance in Pride of the Yankees. According to some modern sources on the history of the Academy Awards ceremonies, Garson's acceptance speech upon receiving her award was so lengthy that the Academy henceforth requested that recipients limit their remarks, but the official AMPAS publication on the Oscars notes that the length was considerably exaggerated and Garson was quoted as saying "...actually it clocked at about five-and-a-half minutes, but I...somewhat fractured a long-standing rule which was that a winner should simply say 'thank you' and then dissolve into a flood of tears and sit down." The history continues that the length of Garson's speech did not result in a time limit for acceptance speechs; time restrictions were not imposed until many years later, when the Awards ceremonies were broadcast live on television.
       The film received numerous "Best Film of the Year" honors from various publications and societies in the U.S. and abroad, including Showmen's Trade Reviews, Motion Picture Herald, Box Office, New York Times, The National Board of Review and Canadian Film Weekly. Many reviews highly praised the film, with trade and consumer publications almost unanimously commenting on its excellence. The Variety reviewed noted, "It's impossible to praise too highly Wyler's direction" and the Hollywood Reporter review stated, "A masterful film document...His [Wyler's] is a faultless work. New York Times review reads, in part, "It is hard to believe that a picture could be made within the heat of present strife which would clearly, but without a cry for vengeance, crystallize the cruel effect of total war upon a civilized people. Yet that is what has been magnificently done in Metro's Mrs. Miniver." The review in Look magazine stated, "The most important motion picture to come out of this war hasn't a single battle in it." British and Canadian reviews were equally positive.
       M-G-M made a sequel to the film in 1950. That film, called The Miniver Story, was directed by H. C. Potter in England and again starred Garson and Walter Pidgeon. The film picked up the story of the Miniver family after World War II. In 2002, Ysenda Maxtone Graham, the daughter of writer Anstruther, published a book entitled The Real Mrs. Miniver, in which she related the true story of her mother in relation to the highly fictionalized version of herself depicted in the Times articles and M-G-M movie.