Thursday, March 7, 2013

1942 - Mrs. Miniver

Another Oscars ceremony over and I managed to predict 18 of the 24 categories correctly, which equals my previous best, so I'll take it. No major surprises this year. In the end, it seems Argo comfortably took the Best Picture award after all. So since I love statistics, why don't I just list my favourite Oscar stats from this year's awards...

  • Argo became only the fourth film to win the big prize without achieving a Best Director nomination (after Wings, Grand Hotel and Driving Miss Daisy).
  • Ang Lee's directing win is notable for the fact that he now has two Best Director Oscars for films that did not win Best Picture (previously winning for Brokeback Mountain, which lost to Crash), a rare feat.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis is now only the sixth performer to have three Oscar statuettes, all three of his wins for lead roles (second only to Katharine Hepburn with four Best Actress awards).
  • Christoph Waltz achieved his second acting win from only his second nomination. And since both his wins came for Quentin Tarantino films, he is now only the third person to win two acting Oscars for films by the same director (Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest both won twice for Woody Allen films). [edit: Turns out this stat isn't quite accurate. See the comments below the post.]
  • The tie for Best Sound Editing is only the sixth such occurrence since the Oscars began, the first in this category. (Perhaps the most famous of the ties was in 1968 when Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand shared the Best Actress award for The Lion in Winter and Funny Girl, respectively.)
  • Pixar Animation Studios continued their domination of the Best Animated Feature award, winning for Brave, their seventh award (plus two more nominations) since the category was introduced 12 years ago.
  • As one of the producers of Best Picture winner Argo, George Clooney won his second Oscar, his first for Best Supporting Actor for Syriana. This makes him only the second person to have won an acting Oscar and a Best Picture, along with Michael Douglas, who won Best Picture for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Best Actor for Wall Street.

And now to the eventual Best Picture winner from 1942...

Mrs. Miniver
William Wyler
Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton, Claudine West
(based on the novel by Jan Struther)
Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Henry Travers, Richard Ney, Henry Wilcoxon
Academy Awards:
12 nominations
6 wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Garson), Best Supporting Actress (Wright)

Another 1942 nominee dealing with World War II, Mrs. Miniver shows us the effects the war has on a small village in England. The Minivers are a happy and well-to-do family whose lives get caught up in the war in numerous ways. Mrs. Miniver (Garson) looks after the house and her two youngest children while her husband Clem (Pidgeon) lends his assistance and his boat to the British Navy's Dunkirk evacuation, and her eldest son Vin (Ney) does his part as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force. The war creeps ever closer to home, however, as Germany invades London, forcing those in the village, including Mrs. Miniver and Vin's fiancee Carol (Wright), to experience it firsthand. It even comes right into the Minivers' home when a wounded German pilot holds Mrs. Miniver at gunpoint for some food and milk.

Not your typical war film, Mrs. Miniver is low on battle sequences, choosing instead to tell the story from the perspective of the civilians. We focus on life back in the village while the war rages on across the continent. Nonetheless, as the war makes its way into the village itself, we're treated to a fair share of tense and gripping scenes, just as tense and gripping as if we were following the combatants themselves. We watch on with our hearts in our mouths as the family hides in an air raid bunker as the bombs explode around them. We're on the edge of our seats as Mrs. Miniver deals with an enemy intruder in her home. And we can't look away as the aerial assault takes place directly above the town, stranding Mrs. Miniver and Carol as they attempt to drive back to the house.

Some of the cast struggle a tad with the English accents, particularly Walter Pidgeon and Richard Ney. But with a handful of British actors filling in the supporting roles, the damage is more than alleviated. Greer Garson, a Brit herself, is excellent in the title role, touching and real, earning her a Best Actress Oscar. Meanwhile, the adorable Teresa Wright garnered the Best Supporting Actress award for her strong portrayal of Carol. Almost stealing the film is Dame May Whitty (pictured), brilliantly acerbic as the upper-class Lady Beldon. The similarities to Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey are amusing, made all the more apparent when considering an almost identical storyline involving a flower show seems to have made its way into an episode of the British drama.


  1. Patriotism and propaganda were rife in 1942, as expected with the war in Europe near its peak. Mrs. Miniver is a splendid film showing us the English homefront during these terrible times. It may not have stood the test of time as some of its competitors, but it is easy to see why it was picked for Best Picture that year. The lovely Greer Garson was also at the peak of her career, and with Random Harvest also in theaters in 1942, her selection as Best Actress was deserved. I must say, that in hindsight, knowing she married her younger co-star (who played her son!) after the production, does make watching it a different experience. It became the first film to receive five acting nominations, winning two.

    Speaking of Oscars, a minor correction on Michael Caine's two Supporting Actor wins. His second was for a film directed by Lasse Hallstrom, not Woody Allen. However, you can add Jack Nicholson to the list. He received a Best Actor (As Good as It Gets) and Best Supporting Actor Award (Terms of Endearment) for films directed by James Brooks.

  2. Right you are. How embarrassing. I have no idea why I thought Caine's two wins were for Allen films. I'm fully aware that Hallstrom directed The Cider House Rules. That's just pure absent-mindedness on my behalf.

    Anyway, after delving further into it, Christoph Waltz is actually the FOURTH person to win twice by the same director. Along with Dianne Wiest and Jack Nicholson, we can also add Walter Brennan. He won Best Supporting Actor three times. His third was for The Westerner directed by William Wyler. His first was for Come and Get It, which was initially directed by Howard Hawks, but Wyler completed the film and is credited as one of the directors, so technically, this would also qualify.