How Green Was My Valley (1941)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Classic cinema

Shouldn't have beaten Citizen Kane, old style isn't for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  How Green Was My Valley

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Genre(s):  Drama/Family

Release Date(s):  October 28, 1941

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Dang, Dad…This Valley is really green.

The Morgans live in a small village in Wales and work in the mines.  Times are changing in Wales and the mining industry isn’t immune to change.  The Morgans are led by their father (Donald Crisp) and Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall) watches his family as they are forced to grow and change with the times.  Life is hard in the mines, but the beautiful memories live on.

Directed by John Ford (who replaced William Wyler), How Green Was My Valley was based on the 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn.  The movie was critically lauded and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Donald Crisp), Best Black-and-White Cinematography, and Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Interior Direction with nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Sara Allgood), Best Film Editing, Best Dramatic Score, and Best Sound Recording.


Workin’ in a coalmine. Going, down, down, down

How Green Was My Valley just feels like an old picture.  The look, the style, and the acting screams of classic black-and-white cinema.  That isn’t a bad thing, but this type of picture has a habit of scaring off more modern viewers.

The story has a lot of predictability in it.  A movie about coalminers almost always includes a mine collapse and movies with big families always seem shattered.  It is this predictability that hurts How Green Was My Valley and makes it one of those movies that you can guess what will occur around every turn.  The plot actually might have been more original when the movie was made, but now it feels like old hat.


Ever see Weekend at Bernie’s?

The cast for the film is quite good.  Roddy McDowall was actually in America avoiding the bombing in England and show why he became one of the child stars of the day.  Donald Crisp holds down the family as the patriarch who doesn’t always see eye to eye with his children and the changing times but I feel Sara Allgood is a little over the top as the mother.  Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O’Hara’s forbidden romance feels a little too underdeveloped and late in the movie, but the actors do a nice job in their roles.  In general, the acting style of the movie is a very old and isn’t what today’s audience is accustom to.


We prefer Silicon Valley…

How Green Was My Valley looks great…especially considering that the initial plans to actually shoot in England and Wales had to be scrapped due to World War II.  The elaborate set was built in California (also allegedly because of the somewhat controversial union message) and the film was shot in black-and-white to hide that California looks little like Wales.  It works and even today if you didn’t know it was a set, you might think that it was an actual town.

The movie stands on its own, but How Green Was My Valley has a bit of notoriety for beating out Citizen Kane for Best Picture, and Citizen Kane has gone on to be considered one of the greatest pictures ever made.  Should Citizen Kane have won Best Picture?  Definitely, but I also feel it is a bit of a slight to How Green Was My Valley which is a good film.  The story of Huw did continue in Llewellyn’s novels Up into the Singing Mountain, Down Where the Moon is Small, and Green, Green My Valley Now which have never been made into film.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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