Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mrs. Miniver (1942)


A classic film, often on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Mrs. Miniver gives a view of rural England that is hard to beat. Made in 1942, it put American in empathy with British people suffering the Nazi Blitz or Battle of Britain. A minivermajor element of World War II, Hitler’s mazing and unexplained abandonment of the Battle gave the British a breather and allowed the move toward victory. Some historians see Hitler as winning this battle had only he continued it.

The Miniver family lives in Belham. Belham is fictional as none exists, but it is clearly on the River Thames and in southeast England. The armada of small ships and the heaviness of the Nazi air attacks yield a conclusion that Belham, though fictional, is a model of many places in rural southeastern England. An airbase is nearby and the bombing begins early after the war begins. That bombing is very heavy. This eliminates the North. Their easiness and regularity of travel l to London further indicates a site near London. One can make an assumption that British travel is so superior at this time that sites further out could have been created, but nearness to London is just the natural assumption one wants to make.

The geographic elements shown of British life then and now are numerous.

1. Note that gardening is important. You will find it here, and in many of the British comedies shown on American public television. People are very involved in this in England.

2. Rural roads will tend to be tree lined. While modern highways exist and look like those here in basic respects, the rural roads often are tree lined and would seem compact to Americans.

3. Class system tension existed and still is present. Early in the film, young Vincent Miniver and Carol Belham argue slightly over the role of class in society. The older system of nobility has been in decline and the fading elements of it that remain are a subject for discussion. Should a mere stationmaster be allowed to enter, much less win, a contest on roses? His winning would upset the local lady.

4. The nature of the Thames River is shown. Boats 30 feet and longer are called into service. Note how many show up. A 30 foot boat would be hard to find in Minnesota or most states. But that the river can handle them and allow them ocean access is clearly presented.

Mrs. Miniver is a classic film. Watch for it in the regular schedule around Oscar time. For the historian it has numerous elements of the war period. For the geographer it has a quaint slice of pre-war and wartime British life.

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