[box cover]

Mrs. Miniver

Every year, Oscar season becomes the cineaste's Sisyphean rock. Though a couple of good pictures get nominated, these great films usually don't win, or they end up with a pat on the head (winning for Best Original Screenplay, for example) while — more often than not — a bloated and bland yet "tasteful" and "important" effort takes the big prizes. Usually these are made by a workhorse director who is rewarded for longevity (think Ron Howard) more than the film's quality. For some reason, Hollywood decides to bestow its most treasured trophy upon these mediocrities, and before long they sit upon video-store shelves next to similarly uninspired material like Oliver!, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Out of Africa. The 1942 winner Mrs. Miniver fits right in with these other efforts; though not a bad movie by any stretch, it's the sort of "important" movie that loses much of its value as time goes by. Greer Garson stars as Kay Miniver, an upper-middle-class housewife whose family lives slightly beyond their means under the guidance of husband Clem (Walter Pidgeon). But their complacent ways are shattered by the onset of World War II, which their son Vin (Richard Ney) signs up for. Vin's in love with Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright) and proposes before he's sent off, but Carol's grandmother Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty) — who represents the true upper crust — blanches at their union. Lady Beldon is also upset with Mr. Ballard (Henry Travers), the local stationmaster and church-bell ringer, who has entered a rose named Mrs. Miniver in the local garden show that could win — a contest Lady Beldon has won for over 30 years. As the family copes with war-torn England, life (and the flower contest) moves on. Directed by the tasteful William Wyler, Mrs. Miniver — like most of the films Wyler made — was an adaptation of a successful novel that seems custom-made to join the Oscar pantheon. And it's easy to see how Jan Struther's book would have made its mark, and how — with America empathetic to Britain's wartime plight — it became a hit. Leaving the auditorium with six trophies (including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Cinematography), the film is made by the casting, which was always Wyler's strength. Greer Garson deservedly won her Best Actress award as the put-upon matriarch who tries to hold the family together, and to get Lady Beldon to accept both her son and the changing times. Also excellent is fellow Oscar-winner (for Supporting Actress) Teresa Wright. It's just that — as Orson Welles said — Wyler as a director was a great producer. Warner presents Mrs. Miniver in its original Academy ratio (1.33:1) with DD 1.0 audio. Supplements include brief footage from Greer Garson's acceptance speech, the propaganda shorts "Mr. Blabbermouth" and "For the Common Defense" that will send any modern liberal into hysterics (both 20 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Snap-case.
—DSH



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