AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Mrs. Miniver
Director: William Wyler (Dir)
Release Date:   1942
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 4 Jun 1942; Los Angeles opening: 22 Jul 1942
Production Date:   early Nov 1941--12 Feb 1942; addl scenes mid-Mar--1 Apr 1942
Duration (in mins):   133
Duration (in feet):   12,026 or 12,168
Duration (in reels):   14
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Cast:   Greer Garson (Mrs. [Kay] Miniver)  
    Walter Pidgeon (Clem Miniver)  
    Teresa Wright (Carol Beldon)  
    Dame May Whitty (Lady Beldon)  
    Reginald Owen (Foley)  
    Henry Travers (Mr. Ballard)  
    Richard Ney (Vin Miniver)  
    Christopher Severn (Toby Miniver)  
    Henry Wilcoxon (Vicar)  
    Brenda Forbes (Gladys "Housemaid")  
    Clare Sandars (Judy Miniver)  
    Marie de Becker (Ada)  
    Helmut Dantine (German flyer)  
    John Abbott (Fred)  
    Connie Leon (Simpson)  
    Rhys Williams (Horace)  
    Paul Scardon (Nobby)  
    Ben Webster (Ginger)  
    Aubrey Mather (George, innkeeper)  
    Forrester Harvey (Huggins)  
    Billy Bevan (Conductor)  
    Florence Wix (Woman with dog)  
    Bobby Hale (Old man)  
    Alice Monk (Passenger)  
    Ottola Nesmith (Saleslady)  
    Douglas Gordon (Porter)  
    Miles Mander (Voice of Lord Haw Haw)  
    Gerald Oliver Smith (Car dealer)  
    Alec Craig (Joe)  
    Clara Reid (Mrs. Huggins)  
    Harry Allen (William)  
    Leslie Vincent (Dancing partner)  
    John Burton (Halliday)  
    Leonard Carey (Lady Beldon's butler)  
    Eric Lonsdale (Marston)  
    Guy Bellis (Barman)  
    Charles Irwin (Mac)  
    Ian Wolfe (Dentist)  
    Dave Thursby (Farmer)  
    Charles Bennett (Milkman)  
    Arthur Wimperis (Sir Henry)  
    Sidney Franklin (Man at flower show)  
    David Clyde (Carruthers)  
    Colin Campbell (Bickles)  
    Herbert Clifton (Doctor)  
    Leslie Francis (Doctor)  
    Frank Baker (Policeman)  
    Leslie Sketchley (Policeman)  
    Emerson Fisher-Smith (Policeman)  
    Colin Kenny (Policeman)  
    Dave Dunbar (Man in store)  
    Art Berry Sr. (Man in store)  
    Sid D'Albrook (Man in store)  
    St. Luke's Choristers    
    Gene Byram (Glee club member)  
    Virginia Bassett (Glee club member)  
    Aileen Carlyle (Glee club member)  
    Irene Denny (Glee club member)  
    Herbert Evans (Glee club member)  
    Eula Morgan (Glee club member)  
    Vernon Steele (Glee club member)  
    Vivie Steele (Glee club member)  
    Marek Windheim (Glee club member)  
    Tudor Williams (Glee club member)  
    Kitty Watson (Contestant)  
    Hugh Greenwood (Contestant)  
    Sybil Bacon (Contestant)  
    Florence Benson (Contestant)  
    Harold Howard (Judge)  
    Billy Engle (Townsman)  
    Louise Bates (Miniver guest)  
    Edward Cooper (Waiter)  
    Walter Byron (Man in tavern)  
    Ted Billings (Man in tavern)  
    Dan Maxwell (Man in tavern)  
    Frank Atkinson (Man in tavern)  
    Henry King (Man in tavern)  
    Gil Perkins (Man in tavern)  
    John Power (Man in tavern)  
    Thomas Louden (Mr. Verger)  
    Peter Lawford (Pilot)  
    Stanley Mann (Workman)  

Summary: In early summer 1939, middle-class English housewife Kay Miniver happily returns from a London shopping trip to Belham, the Thames Valley village in which she lives, and is flattered that station master Ballard has named his newly propagated rose after her. That night, Kay feels slightly guilty over buying an expensive hat, while her architect-husband Clem feels the same way about his new sportscar. When they eventually confess their respective purchases, they laugh, happy in the knowledge that they can now afford some of life's little luxuries. The next day, Kay and Clem welcome home their eldest child Vin, who has returned home for the summer holiday and is a bit pompous after his year at Oxford. Vin embarrasses his parents when he insults Carol Beldon, granddaughter of local aristocrat Lady Beldon, when Carol comes to ask Kay to influence Ballard to withdraw his rose from competing against Lady Beldon's in the annual flower show. At a dance that night, Carol receives a secret message from Vin asking her to meet him. The two confess their mutual attraction and promise to write to each other while Carol and her grandmother are away in Scotland. Some weeks later, concern over the fall of Poland dominates village conversations, and at church on Sunday, the vicar's sermon is interrupted by news that England is now at war with Germany. While Clem, Kay and their two youngest children, Toby and Judy, return home, Vin goes to the Beldon estate to make certain that the newly returned Carol and her grandmother are adequately prepared. Although Lady Beldon at first refuses to take seriously new air raid regulations, Vin takes charge of the situation. He and Carol also come to an "agreement" about their relationship and kiss for the first time. Eight months later, after Vin has left school to join the RAF, the Minivers, like others in the village, have made accommodations for the war, but have yet to seriously feel its effects. In the pub, the locals laugh at the radio admonitions of the traitor Lord Haw Haw that England will soon fall, and discuss a German pilot who parachuted out of his plane and may be hiding near the village. That night, Vin proposes to Carol, much to the delight of Clem and Kay. Immediately thereafter, Vin is ordered back to his airbase, and in the middle of the night, Clem, a member of the Thames River patrol, is awakened and told to meet at the pub. Like the other local boat-owners, Clem is at first amused and somewhat irritated by the call-up, but soon finds that his is one of thousands of privately owned, seaworthy crafts needed to evacuate stranded British soldiers from Dunkerque, France. Five days later, Kay's only news of what Vin and Clem may be doing comes from the papers. When she goes for a stroll in her garden one morning, she sees the boots of the missing German pilot. Unable to get the sleeping flyer's gun away, she rushes to the house, but he forces his way into her kitchen and holds her at gunpoint while she brings him food. Weakened from his wounds, the flyer collapses and Kay is able to take his revolver and call for help. Before the police arrive, though, the German bitterly tells Kay that England will soon fall, just as Holland and Poland did, and she slaps him. After the police take the flyer away, Clem returns in his badly damaged boat, unharmed, but exhausted from his ordeal, and soon they learn that Vin, too, is safe. A short time later, Vin and Carol marry, after Kay convinces Lady Beldon that the couple are right for each other. One night, while Carol and Vin are on their honeymoon, Clem, Kay, Judy and Toby retreat to their bomb shelter while an air battle rages overhead. As the children sleep, Kay calmly knits and Clem reads until the bombing becomes so fierce that the children awaken, crying, and the family fearfully huddles together, realizing that their house has been hit. When Carol and Vin return from their honeymoon, they are shocked by the bomb damage, but Kay and Clem shrug off the partial destruction of their home and look forward to going to the annual flower show. At the show, Lady Beldon is secretly informed that she has won the competition, but when Kay helps her to realize that the judges chose her rose over Ballard's more worthy flower because of her position in the village, Lady Beldon announces that Ballard has won the prize. The show is then interrupted by an air raid warning. As Kay drives Carol home, they are heartsick at the destruction they see. When a plane dives toward them, Kay thinks that the car has been hit but soon realizes that Carol has been badly wounded. Kay is able to get Carol home, but she dies before medical help can arrive. On Sunday morning, in the badly damaged village church, the vicar sadly talks of those who have died, including Carol and Ballard. As the vicar reads from the Ninety-First Psalm, Vin goes to Lady Beldon's pew to comfort her, and more British planes take to the air. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Production Text: A William Wyler Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: William Wyler (Dir)
  Walter Strohm (Asst dir)
Producer: Sidney Franklin (Prod)
Writer: Arthur Wimperis (Scr)
  George Froeschel (Scr)
  James Hilton (Scr)
  Claudine West (Scr)
  R. C. Sherriff (Contr wrt)
  Paul Osborn (Contr wrt)
Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Urie McCleary (Assoc)
Film Editor: Harold F. Kress (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Costumes: Kalloch (Gowns)
  Gile Steele (Men's ward)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
  Ripley Dorr (Dir [St. Luke's Choristers])
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Special Effects: Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
  Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles for Miss Garson)
Production Misc: Howard Dietz (Pub)
Country: United States

Songs: "Midsummer's Day," music and lyrics by Gene Lockhart.
Composer: Gene Lockhart
Source Text: Based on the novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther (London, 1939).
Authors: Jan Struther

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 15/5/1942 dd/mm/yyyy LP11367 Yes

PCA NO: 8034
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: World War II
  Domestic
  Homefront
 
Subjects (Major): Class distinction
  England
  Family relationships
  Village life
  World War II
 
Subjects (Minor): Air pilots, Military
  Air raid wardens
  Blackouts in war
  Boats
  Bombing, Aerial
  Children
  Churches
  Dances
  Death and dying
  Dunkerque (France), Battle of, 1940
  Flower shows
  Germans
  Hats
  Honeymoons
  Knitting
  Nobility
  Radio programs
  Romance
  Roses
  Vicars

Note: 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." Jan 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 LADN , among other sources, "If Jan 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."
       HR 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 Oct 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 Mar 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 HR news items, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       According to various HR 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. HR 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 Sep 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 (see above 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 Mar 1943 HR 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 STR , MPH , Box , NYT , 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 Var reviewed noted, "It's impossible to praise too highly Wyler's direction" and the HR review stated, "A masterful film document...His [Wyler's] is a faultless work. NYT 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 (see above), 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. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   16 May 1942.   
Daily Telegraph (London)   11 Apr 96   p. 23.
Film Daily   13 May 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 40   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jan 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Feb 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Mar 41   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Nov 41   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Nov 41   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Dec 41   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Feb 42   p. 8, 10
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   13 May 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 May 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jun 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jun 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jul 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 42   p. 2, 7
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jul 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jul 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Aug 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Nov 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 42   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 43   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Mar 43   p. 3.
Life   8 Jun 1942.   
Look   11 Aug 1942.   
Los Angeles Daily News   5 Nov 1941.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 May 42   p. 661.
New York Times   5 Jun 42   p. 23.
San Francisco Chronicle   3 Nov 2002.   
Variety   13 May 42   p. 8.

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