In early summer 1939, middle-class English housewife Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) happily returns from a London shopping trip to Belham, the Thames Valley village in which she lives, and is flattered that station master Mr. Ballard (Henry Travers) has named his newly propagated rose after her. That night, Kay feels slightly guilty over buying an expensive hat, while her architect-husband Clem (Walter Pidgeon) feels the same way about his new sports car. 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 (Richard Ney), 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 (Teresa Wright), granddaughter of local aristocrat Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty), 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 (Henry Wilcoxon) sermon is interrupted by news that England is now at war with Germany. While Clem, Kay and their two youngest children, Toby (Christpher Severn) and Judy (Clare Sandars), 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 Dunkirk, 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 (Helmut Dantine). 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, but then the show is 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 it is Carol who 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.

Oscar
12 Nominations
6 Awards
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Screenplay
Best Cinematography

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
“Mrs. Miniver” was a huge success upon its release, receiving raves in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Critics equally applauded it and average moviegoers, who pushed the total box office take over $5 million. “Mrs. Miniver” was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and took home six, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. Greer Garson's Oscar win and lengthy acceptance speech became a long-running joke in Hollywood -- for example, the claims that she stayed at the podium for 45 minutes or more. (Her actual acceptance remarks took around 5 minutes, still the longest-ever Oscar acceptance speech.)

A sequel was commissioned called “The Miniver Story” but due in part to the war and later to schedule conflicts, it was not released until 1950. Although many of the key cast members returned, the story has little connection to the writing of author Jan Struther and was generally regarded as more of a standard-order melodrama. Although “Mrs. Miniver” is designed primarily as a drama, it features two scenes in which the tension is thick enough to quicken the pulse.

In any discussion of the greatest Hollywood directors of the 20th century, William Wyler's name would be mentioned. Between 1936 and 1965, he was accorded 12 Best Director nominations, of which he won three: “Mrs. Miniver”; his post-war elegy, “The Best Years of Our Lives”; and the epic “Ben-Hur” (all of which also won Best Picture Oscars). Wyler's 12 nominations is easily a record - second place belongs to Billy Wilder. Wyler's three victories stands at second on the all-time list, tied with Frank Capra and trailing John Ford's four. By the time he made “Mrs. Miniver”, Wyler was already an established and respected filmmaker, but the two films he made bookending World War II (“Mrs. Miniver” and “The Best Years of Our Lives”) elevated him to a new creative peak that lasted throughout the '40s and the '50s. Of all the directors working within the studio system during Hollywood's Golden Age, perhaps only Alfred Hitchcock was as consistently "on" as Wyler.
“Mrs. Miniver” was the second of eight joint ventures with frequent collaborators Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Both were nominated for their efforts here, with Garson winning and Pidgeon losing to James Cagney for “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. At the time “Mrs. Miniver” was made, Garson's popularity was greater than Pidgeon's, although his career, which had been in a slump until “How Green Was My Valley”, was in an upswing. The easy chemistry the two share throughout the movie was evident to movie-goers and filmmakers and fueled their on-screen partnership for more than a decade. There was no off-screen liaison, although romance did blossom for Garson during the making of “Mrs. Miniver” - she married Richard Ney (nine years her junior, who plays her son) shortly after the completion of production, but the union lasted only three years.

Garson was not the only acting Oscar recipient for “Mrs. Miniver”. Teresa Wright won Best Supporting Actress for Carol (defeating fellow nominee Dame May Whitty). It's evident from her first scene that Wright is a natural. For her career, Wright received three nominations. One of those was in the Lead Actress category in 1943 for “The Pride of the Yankees” (she lost to Garson); the other was a year earlier as a Supporting Actress for “The Little Foxes”, which was her feature debut. She worked for only about ten years in motion pictures before switching to television, where she was a fixture from the mid-1950s until the 1980s.

Dame May Whitty, perhaps the most respected member of the cast at the time, was relatively new to film when “Mrs. Miniver” was made, having not begun to seriously pursue screen acting until 1937. For most of her life, she was a theatrical standout; this only changed when she moved to Hollywood as part of the large group of international performers congregating in Southern California during the Great Depression/pre-World War II era.

Another notable participant in “Mrs. Miniver” is Henry Travers, as the rose-growing Mr. Ballard. For many, the character actor is remembered for one of his last roles, as the angel Clarence in “It's a Wonderful Life”.
“Mrs. Miniver” stands taller than many of its Oscar-winning contemporaries because it has withstood the passage of time and is as effective and moving a drama today as it was when it first appeared on screens during the early days of World War II. Furthermore, its snapshot representation of the uncertainty associated with a global conflict enhances the immediacy of the film. Despite being filmed far from where it is set, the authenticity of the situations and emotions is unmistakable. Of the ten Best Picture nominees honored at the 1943 Oscar ceremony, it's hard to argue that any of the other nine was more worthy of the winning citation.