on 14 March 2000
Classic tale of family life in a Welsh valley at the beginning of the 20th Century. It's the story of Huw Morgan, son of a Collier in a small Welsh village, and his family. It depicts life in a small mining village at the turn of the Century, and how the lives of the Morgan family changed with the times. It also shows how the mines changed the Welsh landscape.
A film with humour, romance, courage, hardship and sadness, this film is one of all the time classics, and a must to watch.
Excellent performances by Walter Pigeon, Maureen O'Hara and the young Rodney McDowell, amongst others.
"How Green Was My Valley"(41) is almost a companion piece to Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" made a year earlier. They both wrestle with the big themes of social injustice and family bonds. They are also both based on famous novels. How Green is based on a famous novel by Richard Llewellyn, who strangely enough was an Englishman. This film chronicles the lives of the Morgan family in the South Wales coalfield at a time of great social and economic upheaval. We follow the loves and many hardships as their fortunes fluctuate. Again we see the close family bonds that John Ford the director was so concerned with throughout his long career in Hollywood. Walter Pidgeon and that Ford female stalwart Maureen O'Hara star with the youngest family member played by a young Roddy McDowell providing the narration.
The film was interestingly made in Hollywood due to WW2, which does give it a rather false look. The Welsh accents are a strange Hollywood Welsh, like nothing I have heard in the Valleys. Funny that the same happy band of actors from Ford's stock company took those very same accents to Ireland for "The Quiet Man" eleven years later. This was actually filmed on location and you can see the difference! "How Green Was My Valley" is probably a little over sentimental for my tastes which is why I cannot give it 5 stars. It is also not as fine a film as Ford's classic "The Grapes of Wrath" which I have given 5 stars. It is however a very good film and well worth watching.
"How Green Was My Valley" is one of John Ford's best films, the sentimental story of the Morgans, a family of Welsh coal miners. Adapted by screenwriter Philip Dunne from Richard Llewellyn's best-selling novel, this is the story of a close-knit, hard-working family at the turn of the last century that sees its livelihood at the mine start to slip away and the family starts to fall apart. The story is told in flash back by the youngest boy, Huw (Roddy McDowall, with the actual narration by Irving Pichel), who wants to grow up to be just like his father (Donald Crisp, in his Oscar winning role) and older brothers, at a time when that way of life is no longer viable.
This is a gloriously beautiful black and white film, with several foundations for that beauty. First, there is the Oscar winning set design of Richard Day, Nathan Juran and Thomas Little, who recreated a totally believable Welsh town on the side the Santa Monica Mountains at Brent's Crags, near Malibu (plans to film the movie in Wales were abandoned when World War II broke out). This is one of the most memorable built sets in Hollywood history. Second, there is the Oscar winning photography of Arthur C. Miller, who would go on to win Oscars for cinematography of "Song of Bernadette" and "Anna and the King of Siam." Third, there is the singing of the Welsh Singers, who set the tone during the opening credits of the film (the same song that is song in a great moment in "Zulu," except this time it is sung in Welsh). Fourth, there is the young Irish actress Maureen O'Hara as the one daughter in the Morgan household. The only regret that this film is not in color comes from being denied the sight of O'Hara's red hair.
Beyond director Ford, who also won an Oscar, the key to this film becomes McDowell in terms of both his character and his performance. Huw is the character that brings the various episodes and plot threads together, and despite the deaths and departures that come during the film, the greatest tragedy in the film belongs to Huw. McDowell's simple and earnest performance is indeed the lynch pin of the film. The socio-political tone of the novel with regards to the labor union issue is toned down considerably, although the harsh realities faced by these Welsh coal miners are clearly represented.
"How Green Was My Valley" was the film that beat out "Citizen Kane" for the Academy Award for Best Picture (not to mention "The Maltese Falcon" and seven other films), although if you know the story of Orson Welles' masterpiece then you really have to be surprised the film was nominated (I bet it would not have been if there had been only five nominations allowed). This film was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990.
Who would know now that this film picked up the oscar for movie of the year in 1941 (maybe '42 when the ceremony was held)? It doesn't seem to have stayed in the public conscious like other classics from the era.
The story told in flashback, is one of nostalgia and longing for childhood and the love of family. The narrator misses a simpler, more innocent age. He educated himself out of his humble coal mining background, yet now, that is all he wants. In our time, we can feel the same about our childhoods, long after this film was even made. For me this laces it all with a double irony, and speaks volumes about human nature.
Yes, it is sentimental, and tugs on the heart strings, but it is honest and faithful in it's intentions. The parents, played by Donald Crisp, who picked up a supporting role oscar, and Sara Allgood are wonderful characters. They raise their family with much love and discipline, and an overpowering sense of belonging.
One flaw for me in the movie is the dodgy Welsh accents. As an Englishman they grate on me, so I can imagine it is worse for the Welsh. If you can get past them, then this is the perfect old movie.
Nostalgia aint what it used to be, or maybe it is for a lot of us.
on 19 December 2014
I am 100% Celtic,nearly all Welsh but one of my great grandmothers' was Scottish..Welsh people have something in their hearts that no other nation has with a possible exception of New Zealand.That something is called "Hiraeth".This one word stands for a very deep longing,almost hurting,a love like no other that will never leave you..All Welsh people who see this film will shed tears of Hiraeth,as it is as inborn in us as is our love for natural stone or our craggy mountains or the dancing wild streams after a rainstorm.Who doesn't like to see the wonderful views of the valleys far below from the loftiest heights, home to the beautiful Kite,the Peregrine falcon and the soaring Buzzards.
The book "How green was my valley" was written by a cousin of my father.It is this story that was adapted by Hollywood into the now legendary film.The theme of the film centred around the Morgan family of Cwm Rhondda..The stars were famous in their time,sadly most are now long gone from this World,but the story they bequeathed in this film will live on in people's hearts for generations.The love story that runs throughout the film was beautifully played between the late Walter Pidgeon and the beautiful Maureen O'Hara(The latter is still alive,aged 94yrs, and living in Ireland)
Even though the accent throughout the film by the main actors and actresses was not always the Welsh accent,being more like Irish,some of them managed to get it right,and the lilt in the voice to some extent was true.The scene of Dai Bando,the local boxer,entering the school and giving a lesson to the "English" teacher following his cruel beating of the young Huw Morgan played by Roddy McDowall was unfogettable. Welsh was denied the youngsters in school,even though it was their mother tongue.Speaking Welsh in school was forbidden to my parents,and any student caught speaking Welsh was beaten.It is ironic that one of the oldest languages of Britain has survived all English efforts to stamp it out,and in many rural areas,it is still our first language in 2014 and still spoken freely throughout Wales today.
Even though this film was made in Hollywood,it captures the scenery very well,the way of life,the importance of the village chapel including the Minister,the hypocrisy of the elders or Deacons of the Chapel,the dangers to the men in the deep mines beneath the terraced houses,the difficulties faced when the men were out on strike.Not forgetting the one things that binds all Welsh people together,our inherent and deep rooted love of singing.
The coal mines are gone now,the hills are green once more the black slag tips removed....How green was my valley will live on in our hearts forever,an unforgettable film that still holds the magic after all these years.
A triumph on Blu Ray!
Fox have gone the extra mile and produced a stunning blu ray release of this intensely moving, award winning production, of Richard Llewellyn's famous novel about industrial change in the mining valleys of South Wales.
No, this is not a "realistic" portrayal of the harsh realities of life and although the film is far less hard edged than the novel, and has a significantly changed ending, for what it is, it's still highly impressive and enjoyable. Expect Hollywood not Ken Loach and take it on its own terms and you will best appreciate its achievement. The performances are uniformly of great quality under John Ford's masterful direction (remember Maureen O'Hara was only 19 and this was Roddy McDowell's breakthrough film) and he won the 1941 Oscar for his achievement, even beating "Citizen Kane" to the finishing line!
The blu ray transfer is crisp, detailed with appropriate grain structure and excellent black levels. The audio is equally impressive with the added surround track giving greater depth to the experience and not detracting in any way from the authenticity of the original film. For purists there is a mono track too.
Initially intended to be a three hour technicolour epic, to rival Gone With The Wind, the fact the studio ended up with a two hour film shot in black and white is probably all for the best as the format is ideal for the subject matter. Although the production was not filmed in Wales, ironically its almost surreal sets create a theatricality and lyricism that really pack a considerable emotional punch.
Extras - though limited- are interesting and I cannot recommend too strongly this addition to your HD library!
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (36.00 Mbps)
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.37:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English: Dolby Digital Mono
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Finnish
50GB Blu-ray Disc
Single disc (1 BD)
on 4 December 2006
Fords classic, this is just what you want to watch when your curled up on the sofa feeling low,if you dont feel better after watching these classic actors and the great director you had better give up!!
on 8 May 2013
I can't fault this film. A true classic! Great Blu Ray picture quality, which does justice to the beautiful black and white cinematography. The performances are honest and moving. Alfred Newman's score is one of his best.
on 17 December 2006
How Green was my Valley is a tale of the joys and hardships ( mostly hardships ) experienced by a mining community in the Welsh Valleys in the late Victorian era.
The story centres on the Morgan family, an archetypal Welsh mining family consisting of a strict but loving ( in his own way ), father, a subserviant but nevertheless strong-willed wife and mother, many strong sons and the ubiquitous semi-servile daughter but still with a mind of her own, and of course, a far younger son, the baby of the family.
On first viewing, anyone who does not know the director, will soon know it is John Ford by the classic Fordesque characteristics screaming out at them. In fact, it could be said to be the pre-cursor to his even more lauded The Quiet Man, made some years later. Taking both films together, it is obvious that Ford could and did utilise to maximum effect the characteristics and foibles we all rightly or wrongly associate with the two communities featured, both Gaelic, and both alien to and alienated by their current or former Masters in Whitehall. But Ford does this magnificently across the two films as he does have to highlight the differences. With this film, he glories in the work-ethic heavy, dour, chapel influenced life of the Welsh at that time, with what humour there is very sparse in contrast to the rain, grime and coal dust tinged production for the most part. Later, in The Quiet Man, he had to turn this on its head and portray the work undertaken by those featured to be nothing but a vehicle for enjoying life to the full once the hooter went. Whether Ford believed fully in these sterotypes is hard to say, but whether he did or not, let us be thankful how he knew to best maximise both blarney and misery to bring us two great films. Before I return to this film alone, I would like to add that although circumstance at the outset, his casting of several of the same people from the 'stable' in both films, cultural differences in the stories notwithstanding, was an act of sheer genius.
So, I've digressed enough.
The plot of How Green was my Valley is heavily dependent on the fact that the Establishment virtually owned people; I know people would say 'what's the difference now?', well, maybe they are right, but in this era, in this place, it was more evident than most other places of any era. Despite this, the film is not overtly party political as many people mistakenly believe, but it does in part act as social comment, with the Establishment manifesting itself in the all powerful mine and mine owners; and in this region in this era shows them as only too willing to take advantage of the strong work ethic of the family Patriarch, who will not sanction action despite suffering greatly himself, at the hands of his employers.
Now, I have to disagree with another reviewer who said that Ford cleverly kept the film devoid of Pathos and over-emotion. Well, there are some scenes that I think lessen the film, and these are when the whole village gather at the family's gate with a song in store, for anything from someone from the Morgans breaking wind, to getting wed, this lacks logic and will scream out at you the first time you see this.
One other thing of note, the mining scenes are brilliant, and capture the conditions, frequently dangerous ones. You feel as if you are there, getting blackened, soaked and at times chilled to the bone. And, gate-gathering not withstanding, the miners' choir will have you wanting to sing Bread of Heaven as loud as you can on the mearest hill side you can find.
All in all, a great, great film, if you haven't seen this, then do so.
Richard Llewellyn's poignant, nostalgic novel "How Green Was My Valley" appeared in 1939. Hollywood was quick to work on a film adaptation, requiring a top director and producer, the recreation of a Welsh mining village in California, assembling a Welsh male choir and all the other essential requirements. Its success might be measured by the swag of academy awards and nominations it received, triumphing over such contenders for best picture as "Citizen Kane" and "The Maltese Falcon".
There is an appeal to the heart here. Homely, sturdy values and speech idioms of long ago are displayed in their best light. There is also an appeal to the mind. Political issues are examined, as are the effects of capitalization, worker exploitation and unionism.
Because a reading of the book and a viewing of the film have always moved me deeply, I have avoided them for many years. I recently watched the DVD version however, and can report that the DVD remastering has been completely successful. Although 1941 was a good year for cinematography, sound track quality was far from satisfactory. Some slight enhancing has been done here to render the choral singing and orchestral sound at least tolerable. Dialogue is clear.
The film immortalizes the work of veteran actors Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood, who play the parts of Gwillym and Beth Morgan, the parents of the mining family. It also best shows the child acting talent of Roddy McDowell, then aged 13. And it is Irving Pinchel who provides the unforgettable narration.