After the triumphant success of the 1942 smash hit Mrs. Miniver, Greer Garson was forever cemented as the amiable and resolute housewife who inhabited a unique valour that made her the epitome of heroism.
With all that warmth, vitality and zest for life that was abounded by her courageous spirit, Kay Miniver not only became the pillar of strength for the nation, she evolved into an inspirational figure that was largely talked about around town.
In addition to the cordial reception she received in Belham, Hollywood wanted to capitalize on the critical acclaim of the most renowned movie mum, and eight years later The Miniver Story came to the fore.
The Miniver Story is a lot different in comparison to Mrs. Miniver. Instead of being another wartime propaganda, the story explores Kay’s life after the blitz and focuses on the homecoming of the rest of the family.
Both films are also two disparate vehicles. Sidney Franklin continued on as the producer, but while William Wyler attained the Academy Award for his directorial efforts in Mrs. Miniver, his masterful craft is not visible in the latter. Replacing Wyler as director is H.C Potter, who only had a condensed body of work.
To many people the plot is very dreary, but to me it is very melodramatic. The film opens on VE Day in 1945 and follows the journey of Kay Miniver ( Greer Garson ) after the war. Along the road she faces an array of problems. Her daughter Judy has just returned from Cairo and is planning to elope with Steve Brunswick ( Leo Genn ) and her husband Clem ( Walter Pidgeon ) has arrived home from Europe with a strong desire to relocate to Brazil, but while these plans are in the midst of being finalized, Kay is hiding a dark secret that will prevent any future happiness.
Considering that most remakes and sequels are disastrous, The Miniver Story holds up relatively well. Apart from a few major flaws and H.C Potter’s shortcomings as a director, it’s a commendable piece of work, but unlike Mrs. Miniver, it’s no masterpiece.
The films most evident fault is the missing plot gaps. In The Miniver Story there is so much unanswered for. While one of the main foundations in the original is the eldest son Vin and his relationship with Carol, but in the latter Vin is absent from the entire picture with not even a single reference made to him. Of course the reason for this is obvious. During filming of Mrs. Miniver, Greer Garson and Richard Ney fell in love and married the following year. However the marriage was doomed from the start with the couple enduring months of altercations until divorcing in 1947, so it’s understandable that she didn’t want to see him, but none of this can’t account for the fact that his existence is obliterated from the film. We can only assume that Vin was killed in the war.
Another major factor in the film is Kay’s illness. Never once does she disclose what she’s dying of. Even when she finally breaks the news to Clem about her impending death does she say what the cause is. Sometime during the war Kay developed a serious cardiac condition, but all this remains a secret in The Miniver Story.
The strongest asset is the undeniable chemistry between Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. It is both of these two stars and the indelible performances they draw that make the film worth watching.
All in all, The Miniver Story is not totally erroneous. It does contain some effective sequences, most notably towards the end when Kay finally tells Clem about her diminutive life span while their reflection is glowing in the water.
As with the case of all remakes and sequals, The Miniver Story didn’t reach the pinnacle that Mrs. Miniver attained.
Not that you’ve read this I would highly encourage you to read my article on Mrs. Miniver that I wrote the other day. Below is the link.
In a crucial scene in a restaurant, a pianist is playing the song “Ol’ Man River”, from the Broadway musical “Show Boat”. As “The Miniver Story” went into release, MGM, which filmed it, was preparing to begin filming their Technicolor remake of “Show Boat”, which would be released in the summer of the following year (1951).
The film debut of James Fox.
Kay Miniver: “Death can be easy. It’s living that’s difficult.”
Clem Miniver: “1946… twenty years, 1966… then… we’ll be like Ol’ Man River. We’ll just keep rolling along.”
Greer Garson: Born Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson on September 29th, 1904 in Manor Park, London. Died: April 6th, 1996 in Dallas, Texas. Aged: 91.
Walter Pidgeon: Born Walter Davis Pidgeon on September 23rd, 1897 in Sain John, New Brunswick, Canada. Died: September 25th, 1984 in Santa Monica, California. Aged 87.