Mrs. Miniver (1942)
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Representing the upper class in Belham (a microcosm of
English society) are the local matriarch Lady Beldon (played by
Dame May Whitty) and her granddaughter Carol (Teresa
Wright). Lady Beldon sits in a special, reserved pew in church (at
right), orders people about, and complains about middle-class housewives who try to
be "better than their betters" and buy things they can't possibly afford.
But just as Mrs. Miniver's relationship with Mr. Ballard unites
the middle and lower classes in the film, so the romance that develops between
Mrs. Miniver's grown son Vin (Richard Ney) and Carol Beldon serves to
unite the middle class with the landed aristocracy. Though Carol has a
tendency to act self-important and snippy, her relationship with Vin helps
cure her of her upper-class affectations while at the same time demonstrating
to Vin that his feudalistic preconceptions of her are without foundation.
At right, Mrs. Miniver (Garson)
and her husband Clem (Walter
Pidgeon) welcome Carol Beldon (Wright)
into their family upon the announcement of her engagement to their son Vin, a
newly commissioned pilot in the Royal Air Force. One of the primary
vehicles of MRS. MINIVER's effectiveness is the ironic nature of its script
which serves to heighten the film's emotional highs and lows, juxtaposing them
and leading the audience to anticipate certain events which either don't
happen or are brought about in unexpected ways. For example, in one of
my favorite scenes, young Toby
demands a proposal from his older brother Vin at the dinner table.
In yet another example of emotional juxtaposition in MRS. MINIVER, and one of
the film's most potent scenes, Mrs. Miniver
reads Lewis Carroll's Alice
in Wonderland to her young children, Toby (Christopher Severn, left) and
Judy (Clare Sandars), as she puts them to bed in
the family bomb shelter before an air raid. After the children are asleep
and before the bombs start to fall, Clem and Kay also find a moment to make
light of the harrowing situation in which they will soon find themselves, a
situation that is quickly becoming routine. His new gas detection screen
has become as commonplace a topic of conversation as her knitting needles and
- "I don't know what the country’s coming to -- everyone
trying to be better than their betters -- mink coats and no manners.
No wonder Germany’s arming." --Lady Beldon.
- "I think it's lovely having flowers named after you."
--Mrs. Kay Miniver.
- "I can't stop, Daddy. Napoleon wants to throw up."
- "And on top of that, Father, I think I've developed a
social conscience." --Vincent Miniver.
- "If you feel something's wrong, what are you doing about
it?" --Carol Beldon.
- "I know how comfortable it is to curl up with a nice fat book
full of big words and think you're going to solve all the problems of the
universe. But you're not, you know. A bit of action is required now and
then." --Carol Beldon.
- "Is this a time to lose ones sense of humor?" --Carol Beldon.
- "You can write it in blood!" --Toby Miniver.
- "There'll always be roses." --Mr. Ballard.
- "She was a good cook, as good cooks go. And as good cooks
go, she went." --Clem Miniver.
- "I suppose that's the way to be really happy -- to be
with something you just can't live without, or someone." --Mrs. Kay Miniver.
- "Our enemies are no respecters of flower shows." --Lady
After the annual flower show (during which the film at last
achieves the unification of the upper and lower classes), Mrs. Miniver and Carol
(left) drive Vin to the airfield and wait out a tense moment in the
car as a dogfight takes place overhead. With her chin high and nostrils flared, Greer
Garson came to epitomize the strength of women on the home front during World War
II, fighting "the people's war" on their own turf to protect their way
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