Mrs. Miniver (1942, William Wyler)

Greer Garson (in Random Harvest the same year – this movie stole all of that movie’s oscars) is the slightly crazy-eyed wife of boring ol’ Walter Pidgeon (Man Hunt, Forbidden Planet). They have a happy, normal life with two little kids and one away at college. Everything’s just ducky, but what’s this about impending war with Germany? Oh I’m sure it won’t affect us.

Vin comes home from school and falls for a local girl named Carol (Teresa Wright of Best Years of Our Lives and Shadow of a Doubt), but she’s the daughter of the rich and stuffy Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty of Suspicion and The Lady Vanishes – Hitchcock runs in the family). A poor local man (angel Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life) has grown a beautiful new rose and named it the Mrs. Miniver – and he dares to enter it in the flower competition against Lady Beldon, even though she wins the rose prize every year (yes, this whole segment was lifted by Downton Abbey). Surely all this drama is of utmost importance and the just-announced war with Germany can’t compete.

But the war proves to be a bigger bother than anyone anticipated. Vin joins the RAF. Beldon relents and lets the lovebirds marry. Clarence “wins” the rose prize then is killed offscreen. And everyone expects Vin to die in combat but instead his young bride is killed by a strafing nazi plane while she’s out driving with Mrs. Miniver.

A justly-acclaimed propaganda film, made to get the U.S. to join Britain in the war. The film was praised by Winston Churchill, and its closing speech (given by vicar Henry Wilcoxon in his half-wrecked, roofless church) was printed up and dropped all over Europe. Wyler enlisted straight after the film was done, found war to be more dispiriting than he’d envisioned, and made The Best Years of Our Lives as a post-war companion/corrective piece when he got back. Miniver‘s reputation lived on, so the studio made a sequel in 1950 with the same cast minus Vin (so maybe he was killed after all).