30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
"It makes me think of so much that is good, that is gone"
, 3 Dec. 2004
This review is from: How Green Was My Valley [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
"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.
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