- A Week of Remembrance-
All of the performances in Mrs. Miniver are good, although you do have to overlook some rather suspect English accents... though set in England, it was filmed in America due in part to the fact that the Blitz made filming in Britain extraordinarily difficult. Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon have great chemistry together, which is no doubt why they ended up co starring in eight movies over the course of their careers. Garson is especially good as the titular Mrs. Miniver, giving a convincing portrayal of a woman dealing with the reality of a war which threatens not only her peaceful, comfortable existence but also the lives of her family and all she holds dear. She is particularly good in quiet scenes, able to convey a sense of deep emotion kept firmly in check, such as when Vin announces that he's enlisting in the RAF: Mrs. Miniver says nothing... just becomes very, very still... and without her saying a word, we see her shock at the idea of her boy being old enough to go to war and her dreadful realization of the likely consequences.
Was 'Mrs. Miniver' a propaganda film? Of course it was, and why not? Watching it now, we know how it all turns out. But at the time, the outcome of the war was very much in question. When work started on 'Mrs. Miniver', the USA had not yet entered the war. Much of Europe was under German control, and France had surrendered. England and it's Commonwealth allies- like Canada- stood alone. Even the amazing evacuation at Dunkirk, which in the movie Clem takes part in, was necessitated by a military disaster. One of the main objects in making 'Mrs. M.' was to try to convince America that joining in the fight against Nazi Germany was the right thing to do. Of course, Pearl Harbour happened before the film's release, so then its makers had two slightly different motivations- strengthening America's conviction that they had made the right decision, and bolstering the morale of the British people.
"...We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
You can read that speech from start to finish- and I recommend that you do- and you won't find a hint of self-doubt or wavering- or sympathy and understanding for the enemy- only an uncompromising, iron-willed determination to hold firm whatever the cost. Which was what the British people needed to hear, and which leads me to the incredible final scene of 'Mrs. Miniver'.