MGM attempted to make The War Against Mrs. Hadley their next big wartime hit, selling it as “America’s Mrs. Miniver.”1 In reality, a better description of the film would read closer to “What if Mrs. Miniver was selfish and petty, even during the war?” Fay Bainter is compelling as that American Mrs. Miniver, Stella Hadley, even if the film forces her to act absurdly self-centered prior to her inevitable redemption. When Pearl Harbor is attacked, Mrs. Hadley is in the middle of celebrating her birthday, and all she can think about is the piece of china her maid breaks. When her irresponsible son (Mrs. Miniver’s own son Richard Ney) wises up and enlists, she can’t understand and does everything in her power to stop it. When her old friend in Washington (Edward Arnold) won’t help keep her son out, she shuns him. When her patriotic daughter (Jean Rogers) marries a soldier (Van Johnson), she doesn’t even show up for the wedding. It’s a testament to Bainter’s skills as an actress that Mrs. Hadley reads as an actual complex human rather than the simplistic narcissist written by George Oppenheimer—yet somehow it was Oppenheimer that ended up with the film’s sole Oscar nomination. Films showing the war from the home front rather than the battlefield can be just as interesting, but not when they’re as simplistic and heavy handed as The War Against Mrs. Hadley.
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|1.||^||The Webster Herald, December 25, 1942, 2.|