How Green Was My Valley

The day was Easter Sunday. The Dinner was Chinese take away from Lin’s Garden, a family tradition. The movie was How Green was My Valley.
It was gonna get a bit Welsh.
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Darcy says:
*In the interest of full disclosure, Darcy’s email to me containing this review had the subject line “How Green Was My Valium.”*
Uncle Ianto’s Cabin, I mean,
How Green Was My Valley, won best picture in February 1942, three months after Pearl Harbor. Since the Germans were bombing the hell out of Wales the movie was shot in Hollywood. It’s hard to make Hollywood look like Wales so they shot the film in black and coal mine. Did no one think to look at eastern Pennsylvania where all those Welsh immigrants settled because it reminded them of the slag piles back home? Anyway, the fake sets were a good backdrop to a story told by a ten year old with all the insights of a nine year old, who was, as Devo put it,
Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
My guess is the movie and the subsequent award were by way of an apology to Great
Britain for letting them dangle under Hitler’s Luftwaffe for two years before the Japanese shoved us into the fray to save freedom’s bacon. As Churchill supposedly said,
“Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted
all other possibilities.”
So, at the outset we see the scaffolding over the mine and we know without doubt at
some point there will be a disaster underground but heigh ho, heigh ho, those funny jolly
Welsh go down to the pit.
We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don’t know what we dig ’em for
As my Welsh granny used to say, “If I knew what was going to happen I would have
stood in bed.” The soul of a people is hard to put on film without it being maudlin and somehow insincere. These were gentle lives lived in difficult times and somehow it gets treated like the people’s story in a Soviet era propaganda film. What might a remake say that this film was unable to voice?
My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.
I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.
Dylan Thomas
This one gets around a 3 because it could have been so much better. Many of the
actors were superb the story was worth telling but something made it feel like Hollywood presentations of the antebellum south – they just didn’t get it. I truly loved Roddy McDowall providing window dressing as he recovered from the mysterious malady one contracts while flailing around in icy water with his mom – they were on the bridge and then whoops they’d fallen in the water. Walter Pidgeon’s character supposedly arrived from Cardiff – by his accent we assume it was Cardiff by the Sea in sourthern California.
As to the rest, they tried. The Welsh National Choir did jolly well and some of us even
sang along.
Cymru am byth!
~~~
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Eric says:
How Green was My Valley – 1941
There was singing in Welsh! And Darcy knew some of the songs and sang along and that was wonderful.
Approximately 2 days later this movie finished up. For being under two hours, this film seemed to last for days. There were real moments of cinematic beauty. The tableau of the boxer and his side kick sitting under the wall…the one at the end with Huw holding his father’s body in the coal elevator…real powerful, and beautiful stuff! And there was some real humor and emotion at times. Beth Morgan, the matriarch of the family, was a great character. I loved how she went from a one dimensional background character to an emotive, bold, amazing character through the film.
Then we made the mistake of looking at what this film beat in 1941. Only a couple of no-name pictures I’m sure you’ve never heard of…Citizen Kane, and The Maltese Falcon. At this point I checked out. NOPE.
No way. This is a fine example of a kind of sentimental, period piece. How it can stand up to the film making of the two films mentioned above is beyond me. This film pales by comparison.
So, is it worth watching? Sure. If you like classic cinema, give it a go. It feels a hell of a lot longer than 2 hours. Will I watch it again? No, but I WILL watch Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon again, so that should tell you something.
Rating 5/10 (mostly because of the singing, and frank discussion of socialism and union organization)
~~~
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Bethany says:
How Green was my Valley (1941) – was nominated for ten Academy Awards, famously beating Citizen Kane for Best Picture along with winning Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor
Things I liked:
Well, it was about Wales and I come from Welsh extraction so I was initially interested in the general story.
There was lots of music & singing which I enjoyed. As a minister’s daughter many of the Welsh hymns seemed familiar to me.
Favorite scene: After a beating by the cruel teacher Mr. Jonas , Dai Bando (a boxer from the village) avenges Huw (our young narrator & main character) with an impromptu boxing display on Mr. Jonas to the delight of his pupils.
Things I did NOT like:
This film is much too long. I found myself lying on the floor at one point crying ‘I don’t care about my heritage anymore.’

Spoilers: Ivor (Huw’s oldest brother) marries a woman named Bronwyn. On the day that Bronwyn gives birth to their child, Ivor is killed in a mining accident. All of Huw’s other brothers leave the country because they can’t find work. Angharad (Huw’s only sister) submits to a loveless marriage to Evans (the son of the mine owner), and they relocate out of the country. Huw is awarded a scholarship to university, but to his father’s dismay he refuses it to work in the mines. I don’t even want to talk about how Huw who is like what? Maybe 12 at the time decides to move in w/ his brother’s widow to help provide for her and her child. As if all of that isn’t depressing enough at the end of the movie Huw’s dad dies in a mining accident. So basically the only good thing about the damn valley was that it was green and by the time our dear Huw is finally leaving it’s not even green anymore.
Rating: 4 out of 10. It wasn’t great. I probably will not watch it again. How in the hell did this beat Citizen Kane?

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