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How Green Was My Valley
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Sixty year-old Huw Morgan looks back on his life as a boy (Roddy McDowall) in a small Welsh mining town. His reminiscences reveal the disintegration of the closely knit Morgans, and his devoted parents (Donald Crisp, Sara Allgood), while capturing the sentiments and issues of their time. Maureen O'Hara and Walter Pidgeon co-star in this acclaimed screen classic, the story of one family's dreams, struggles and triumphs.
- Audio Commentary by Anna Lee Nathan and Film Historian Joseph McBride
- AMC Backstory Episode
- Still Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
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The film tells of a very close-knit mining family in a small Welsh village. As economic times weigh heavy on the town this family finds themselves being torn in two by their surroundings. When the miners go on strike it poses problems for this family, as the patriarch wants no part of it. The film basically tells nothing more or less than this one family's story of survival in a world very real.
As their story is painted across the rich black and white backdrop (whoever says that black and white film is secondary to color has just seen the WRONG black and white films) we meet every nook and cranny of their extended family, from drinking buddies to employers to village preachers and grade school teachers. The family suffers from disagreements within their own household (especially with regard to their working situation), from death and sorrow as well as a fair share of scandal (involving a handsome young preacher at that), but it is how this family stays together and actually grows stronger that makes for the most compelling and richly developed story.
Told through the eyes of young (well, old now) Huw, `How Green Was My Valley' is a beautiful tale of youth and family and the wonderful way that memories can create in us a nostalgic look at times past. Despite all the `hard times' this family (their surname is Morgan by the way) remained together and never lost the love they had in the beginning.
`How Green Was My Valley' is a very reflective piece, exposing the beauty of childhood and the sheer importance of a loving household.
The performances by the ENTIRE cast are spot on, but the Oscar's got it right nominating Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood. They are the true standouts here, mastering their take on the paternal graces of the Morgan family. Crisp well deserved the Oscar he received and I applaud the Academy for making such a beautiful choice. Maureen O'Hara, Walter Pidgeon and young Roddy McDowall are all standouts as well, delivering stunning examples of control and charisma. O'Hara is stunning in every scene, even when she's merely there in the background, and McDowall has a very strong presence for such a young boy. Each actor compliments the others around him and they all contribute such delicate strength to the overall effect of Ford's masterpiece.
Some have baulked at this film winning the Best Picture Oscar over the likes of `Citizen Kane', a film that is considered by MANY to be the best American film of all time. The two films are hardly comparable when you think about it since they are both drastically different in design, scope and subject; but there is no doubt that BOTH films are classics. I adore them both and consider them to be brilliant portrayals of the `craft' of filmmaking. Orson Welles was a genius, as was John Ford, and while they each had their own unique and very different style of approaching filmmaking, they both nailed their craft. I cannot say which film I prefer at the moment, since both are so unique and so marvelously done. They both also carry a very weighty message (this one being the importance of family and `Kane' being the importance of individuality) and so as wonderful and pristine as each film is, they are also very important films.
See them both; that is all.
This is an excellent film with a great cast, but for a film that isn't a musical, there is a lot of singing in this one and it becomes a little annoying! This is well worth your time, unfortunately I have seen better films from the era. I caught this on cable and I'm not sure if the DVD is top quality.
The point of view is that of Huw (Roddy McDowell), the youngest member of the Morgan Family, who recalls it all in retrospect as he is about to leave years after the events of the story. Putting such a major picture on the shoulders of a boy who had done only one major film in America was taking a great risk, but he was up to it. He was also supported by an excellent cast including a nineteen year old Maureen O'Sullivan as his older sister, Sara Allgood as his mother and Walter Pidgeon as the local minister. The Welsh are known for their choral singing, and there is a great deal of it in the film by a genuine Welsh choir. It's as much singing as you'd find in most musicals, though it is used in an entirely different way. The film is also supported by one of Alfred Newman's sweetest and most well thought of scores, full of the high string passages he was known for. Twentieth Century Fox built a Welsh Village on eighty acres in the hills above Malibu and the cinematography and art direction also won Academy Awards. If you enjoy classic black and white films, this is one of the great ones of the era and is not to be missed.
EXTRA: Refuting the unfair criticism of How Green was My Valley.
Despite the continued praise, this film comes in for some heavy, and most often misguided criticism from people who don't seem to understand the film's era and criticize it for not being the type of film made decades later, in essence criticizing it for being a Forties film. Some pan it for its sentimentality, its sweet vignettes of daily life and even its sweet score, saying it should be grittier, meaner and "more realistic". I've even seen criticism that said it should be like the gritty British "kitchen sink films" of the early Sixties, as if it didn't take two decades for those films to be possible. This is an early 40's film and it contains all the feelings, style and conventions of a 1940's film and if you don't get that you're being clueless.
The film is hated by some, especially film students, because it won the Best Picture Oscar over Citizen Kane. But How Green Was My Valley was exactly the kind of film that everyone loved and was just the type of film that would win and is of the highest standard in every department and no embarrassment as some winners have been in retrospect. Citizen Kane is beloved as a directorial accomplishment by people powerful in the film world: critics, directors and ardent film buffs, but it has never been taken up by the public and garners more respect than love. Kane was not a big hit film and its reputation was gained only as years went by. How Green Was My Valley also won the New York Critic's award for 1942.
Other criticism is clueless. Those who have read the book say the book had so much more in it. Of course it did. It's the book. The book always has a lot more than the film. This was a sprawling novel that was originally planned as a Gone Like the Wind, four-hour film but which was later cut down. There is a valid argument that the adaptation is weak in parts. The characters make important life decisions seemingly without any motivation. People who have read the book have explained to me why they did these things, and a few sentences in the film could have cleared things up. This is an oversight by the film's creative team, likely because they were so familiar with the material.
More criticism is nit-picking. "It wasn't shot in Wales!" It was originally planned to be but a little thing called World War II got in the way. "The accents aren't Welsh". Hollywood only had about three accents to cover all of America at a time when regional accents were much stronger than they are today. They just weren't interested in such details, and if they didn't get the U.S. right, I wouldn't expect them to get the British Isles right, either. Besides, outside the U.K. virtually no one knows what a Welsh accent sounds like anyway.
Roddy McDowell shouldn't have been the only actor playing Huw. This does create problems. Though the film takes place over several years, he never ages. On top of that, though he was thirteen, he looks ten throughout. This has the effect of making it seem it all takes place in one year and also creates questions why a child is doing some of the things he does. In the original four-hour idea, Tyrone Power was going to play the grown up Huw. But they decided to do one section of the book and it was probably thought that the continuity of one actor was better than two or three young actors.