Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Miss Beldon, may I ask whether this is an open competition?"

The "Oscars" are on tonight which means that TCM is showing a mess of winning movies throughout the event's history. Below is a conversation between characters in the powerful 1942 film "Mrs. Miniver," in which Vincent Miniver (Mrs. Miniver's son) challenges an aristocrat (Carol Beldon) when a request is made to have a commoners rose be withdrawn from a gardening competition.

It's a wonderful movie. Terrifyingly emotional for me personally because of my grandmother's role in the war but I thought this conversation provided a sort of abstract insight into the English condition regarding open competition.

How do you do, Mrs. Miniver? I'm Carol Beldon.

How do you do, Miss Beldon? This is my husband.

How do you do?

MM: And my son Vincent.

How do you do?

MM: Just in time for tea, Miss Beldon.

CB: Thanks, but I've just had some.

MM: Sit down anyway.

CB: I can only stay a moment.

MM: Please, do sit down.

CB: You really must excuse me for invading your house like this... but frankly, I've come to make a request. A personal request, and as a great favor.

CM: Well, please, sit down.

CB: Thank you. You see, my grandmother doesn't know I've come. I'm afraid I'm not very good at breaking things gently... so I'll get straight to the point. It's about the rose.

CM: The rose?

CB: Yes. The one Mr. Ballard grew. "The Mrs. Miniver." [Mr. Ballard named it after Mrs. Miniver] I hear he's going to enter it in the flower show.

MM: You mean, for the Beldon Challenge Cup?

CB: Yes. But no one ever has entered.... That is-- No... no one has ever entered a rose in competition with my grandmother. And that's just the point. It's become a tradition for her to win the cup and her roses mean so much to her. I know it seems an awful thing to ask, but I thought you might, perhaps, as a favor persuade Mr. Ballard to withdraw his rose from the competition. You see, to be frank, it's such a beautiful rose it might easily win, and, well--

VM: Miss Beldon, may I ask whether this is an open competition?

CB: Yes, technically--

VM: Technically, yes, but actually... no.

CB: Yes, I suppose that's it. You see--

VM: I see only too well, Miss Beldon. Because Mr. Ballard is not of the ruling class... is a mere vassal, as it were--

MM: Now, Vin, please. Let Miss Beldon explain.

VB: But, Mother, Miss Beldon doesn't have to explain, not to me. I'm aware of the influence of the feudal system in this village. These are orders from the manor. Her ladyship must have no competition.

MM: You must excuse my son. He's just down from Oxford.

VM: Don't apologize for me. I mean everything I say.

CB: Well, I'm glad to hear it, but do you do anything about it?

VM: Do? Why, what do you mean?

CB: If you feel something is wrong, what are you doing about it? I've spent holidays the last few years doing settlement work in the slums of London. You wallow in luxury all the year...

VM: I don't wallow... and think a few weeks playing Lady Bountiful...

CM: Come, Vin.

CB: It's not much, perhaps but it's the only thing I know. What have you been doing?

VM: I? Well....

CB: I see. Just talk. That's all right. It's easier.

VM: Listen, I didn't say--

CB: Oh, don't apologize. I know how comfortable it is to curl up with a book full of big words... and think you're going to solve the problems of the universe. But you're not. A bit of action is required now and then.

VM: Action? If that's what you and your class are asking for - maybe you'll get it one of these days.

CB: Maybe. But not from the talkers.

MM: Vin. Remember, Miss Beldon is a guest. If you have any manners at all...

VM: Manners? A humble working man is denied the reward of his artistry to gratify the vanity of an aristocrat--

MM: Quiet. This isn't your concern.

VB: I beg to differ. I'm concerned for a fellow man's dignity. And the indignity that's heaped upon him.

MM: You'll excuse me, I'm sure, Miss Beldon.

CB: Certainly.

No comments: