Mrs. Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) and her husband Clem (Walter Pidgeon) live a comfortable life with their three children in a village outside London. As World War II looms, the Minivers and people of the village can still afford to squabble over mundane issues. Like when Mr. Ballard (Henry Travers) enters his beautiful rose- the “Mrs. Miniver” into the village flower show causing the village to be divided by those who believe the working class man has a right to give Lady Beldon a little competition and those who think it outrageous for Mr. Ballard to challenge the current social status by entering the rose to compete with the the Beldon rose. Too, there is time for a relationship to grow between Vin (Richard Ney), the Miniver’s oldest son who is down from university and Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright), granddaughter of Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty) from nearby Beldon Hall. Despite initial disagreements over their ideals when it comes to class restrictions, they fall in love and eventually marry, knowing they may only have a short time to love one another as the war moves closer and closer to home.
When the war does come, we find a village united with the Miniver’s doing their part. Clem helps in the Dunkirk evacuation, Vin becomes a fighter pilot, and Kay deals with a wounded and hostile German officer who is in enemy territory. All the while they must suffer through air raids, bombings, and the ever increasing knowledge that they may all not make it out of this battle alive.
After the flower show competition where Mr Ballard’s rose wins, Kay and Carol are slowly making their way back when an air attack begins. Thinking it prudent to stop the car, Kay reassures Carol that all will be well however, Carol is wounded by gunfire from a German plane. When she dies a few minutes after they reach home, Kay is devastated. Here the whole focus has been on Vin getting safely back home from a dangerous mission and Carol becomes the casualty.
Once Vin returns home, the village gathers in the remains of their local church where the vicar (Henry Wilcoxon), affirms their determination in a powerful sermon:
"We in this quiet corner of England have suffered the loss of friends very dear to us, some close to this church. George West, choirboy. James Ballard, stationmaster and bellringer, and the proud winner only an hour before his death of the Beldon Cup for his beautiful Miniver Rose. And our hearts go out in sympathy to the two families who share the cruel loss of a young girl who was married at this altar only two weeks ago.
"The homes of many of us have been destroyed, and the lives of young and old have been taken. There's scarcely a household that hasn't been struck to the heart.
"And why? Surely you must have asked yourselves this question? Why in all conscience should these be the ones to suffer? Children, old people, a young girl at the height of her loveliness? Why these? Are these our soldiers? Are these our fighters? Why should they be sacrificed?
"I shall tell you why. Because this is not only a war of soldiers in uniform. It is the war of the people, of all the people. And it must be fought not only on the battlefield but in the cities and in the villages, in the factories and on the farms, in the home and in the heart of every man, woman and child who loves freedom.
"Well, we have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them. Instead they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves, and those who come after us, from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down.
"This is the People's War! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us! And may God defend the right."
Mrs. Miniver is a an emotionally moving film with unexpected results. I was unnerved at how wonderfully well Garson and Pidgeon displayed their fear and strength. The film realistically shows not only the terror of living in a war zone but how a people can rise against adversity. Simply a must see!
Trivia: Some may have been a little unnerved when they heard Mrs. Minniver married her son Vin shortly after they made this film. ;)
Tonight on TCM!
Mr. Imperium (1951) An exiled king and a film star try to rekindle a romance from the past.
Cast: Lana Turner, Ezio Pinza, Marjorie Main, Barry Sullivan Dir: Don Hartman