Saturday, November 02, 2002


This is sort of an American anti-Mrs. Miniver, or the process by which an anti-Mrs. Miniver person becomes a Mrs. Miniver. Fay Bainter plays Mrs. Hadley, a rich Washington widow; the first scene is set at her birthday party on Dec. 7, 1941. She has a cozy little circle of friends and relatives with her, but the news of Pearl Harbor disrupts the party. Soon, everyone else gets caught up in the war effort, but Mrs. Hadley tries to ignore every aspect of it, not to mention ignoring the dysfunctional aspects of her own family life. Gradually she alienates all of her circle, so when she throws a birthday party for her son, who is off in the Army, no one shows up.

The movie is predictable, but it's still fun to see all the friends, one by one, get on Mrs. Hadley's shit list, and of course, see her eventual transformation to patriotic and caring citizen. The only question is, will it be too late for her son and daughter to appreciate her again? Edward Arnold is her confidant and ex-beau, and Spring Byington is her rich and scatterbrained friend who has a funny scene when an air raid warden comes into her bedroom to enforce a blackout--startled, she cries, "It's just like the French Revolution!" Jean Rogers (who I'm not familiar with) and Richard Ney (the son in MRS. MINIVER and real-life husband to Greer Garson, at least briefly) are the kids, and Van Johnson has one of his earliest roles as a soldier who falls for Rogers. Bainter underplays the role nicely; she could have been a scene-stealing harridan, but she's much more subtle than that. The wartime propaganda, as usual, is *not* subtle, but the 90-minute movie moves along nicely to a satisfying climax.

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