How Green Was My Valley (film)

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How Green Was My Valley
How Green Was My Valley (1941 poster - Style A).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Ford
Screenplay by Philip Dunne
Based on How Green Was My Valley
by Richard Llewellyn
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Narrated by Irving Pichel
Cinematography Arthur C. Miller
Edited by James B. Clark
Music by Alfred Newman
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release date
  • October 28, 1941 (1941-10-28)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$800,000 [1]
Box office$2.4 million [2]

How Green Was My Valley is a 1941 American drama film directed by John Ford. The film, based on the best-selling 1939 novel of the same name by Richard Llewellyn, was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and scripted by Philip Dunne. It stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and a very young Roddy McDowall.


It tells the story of the Morgans, a hard-working Welsh mining family, from the point of view of the youngest child Huw, who lives with his affectionate, kind parents and his five brothers, in the South Wales Valleys during the late Victorian era. The story chronicles life in the South Wales coalfields, the loss of that way of life and its effects on the family. The fictional village in the film is based on Gilfach Goch; [3] where Llewellyn spent many summers visiting his grandfather, and it served as the inspiration for the novel. [3]

It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five, [4] famously beating Citizen Kane , Sergeant York and The Maltese Falcon for Best Picture, while Ford won for Best Director, Donald Crisp for Best Supporting Actor, Arthur Miller for Best Cinematography, and Richard Day, Nathan H. Juran and Thomas Little for Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Interior Decoration. In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". [5] [6] The Academy Film Archive preserved How Green Was My Valley in 1998. [7]


The Welsh mining village of How Green Was My Valley How-Green-Was-My-Valley-1941.jpg
The Welsh mining village of How Green Was My Valley

The film begins with a monologue by an older Huw Morgan (voiced by Irving Pichel): [lower-alpha 1] "I am packing my belongings in the shawl my mother used to wear when she went to the market. And I'm going from my valley. And this time, I shall never return." The valley and its villages are now blackened by the dust of the coal mines that surround the area.

A young Huw (Roddy McDowall), the youngest child of Gwilym Morgan (Donald Crisp), walks home with his father to meet his mother, Beth (Sara Allgood). His older brothers, Ianto (John Loder), Ivor (Patric Knowles), Davy (Richard Fraser), Gwilym Jr. (Evan S. Evans), and Owen (James Monks) all work in the coal mines with their father, while sister Angharad (Maureen O'Hara) keeps house with their mother. Huw's childhood is idyllic, the town, not yet overrun with mining spoil, is beautiful, and the household is warm and loving, the miners sing as they walk home (in this case "Bread of Heaven" in Welsh). The wages are collected, the men wash then eat together. Afterwards the spending money is given out. Huw is smitten on meeting Bronwyn (Anna Lee), a girl engaged to be married to his eldest brother, Ivor (Patric Knowles). At the boisterous wedding party Angharad meets the new preacher, Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon), and there is an obvious mutual attraction.

Trouble begins when the mine owner decreases wages, and the miners strike in protest. Gwilym's attempt to mediate by not endorsing a strike estranges him from the other miners as well as his older sons, who quit the house. Beth interrupts a late night meeting of the strikers, threatening to kill anyone who harms her husband. While returning home, crossing the fields in a snowstorm in the dark, Beth falls into the river. Huw dives in to save her with the help of the townspeople, and temporarily loses the use of his legs. He recovers with the help of Mr. Gruffydd, which further endears the latter to Angharad.

The strike is eventually settled, and Gwilym and his sons reconcile, yet many miners have lost their jobs. Angharad is courted by the mine owner's son, Iestyn Evans (Marten Lamont), though she loves Mr. Gruffydd. Mr. Gruffydd loves her too, to the malicious delight of the gossipy townswomen, but cannot bear to subject her to an impoverished churchman's life. Angharad submits to a loveless marriage to Evans, and they relocate out of the country.

Huw begins school at a nearby village. Abused by other boys, he is taught to fight by boxer Dai Bando (Rhys Williams) and his crony, Cyfartha (Barry Fitzgerald). After a beating by the cruel teacher Mr. Jonas (Morton Lowry), Dai Bando avenges Huw with an impromptu boxing display on Mr. Jonas to the delight of his pupils.

On the day that Bronwyn gives birth to their child, Ivor is killed in a mine accident. Later, two of Morgan's sons are dismissed in favor of less experienced, cheaper laborers. With no job prospects, they leave to seek their fortunes abroad. Huw is awarded a scholarship to university, but to his father's dismay he refuses it to work in the mines. He relocates with Bronwyn, to help provide for her and her child.

When Angharad returns without her husband, vicious gossip of an impending divorce spreads through the town. It is eventually announced there will be a meeting of the Deacon - the governing council of the local Calvinistic Methodist chapel - to discuss, denounce and excommunicate Angharad. This prospect enrages Mr Gryffudd, for he knows she has done nothing other than return home from Cape Town without her husband. After condemning the Deacon's small-mindedness, he storms out before the meeting intent on leaving the town.

But that evening, the alarm whistle sounds, signalling another mine disaster. Several men are injured, and Gwilym and others are trapped in a cave-in. Mr Gryffudd catches sight of Angharad, who has rushed to the mine for word of her father; and we know from his expression that he will never leave now. As she looks pleadingly at him, he calls, "Who is Gwilym Morgan and the others?"

Young Huw, Mr. Gruffydd, and Dai Bando then descend with other volunteers to rescue the remaining miners. Gwilym and his son are briefly re-united before he succumbs to his injuries.

Above, in the cold of light dawn, the women of the family - Angharah, Bronwyn and Beth Morgan - have stood vigil all night; when Beth says, just after Gwilymn's death, "He came just now. Ivor was with him. He told me of the glories he had seen!" Then the sound of the pulley announces the lift is returning from the depths of the mine. Huw is cradling his father's body, his coal-blackened face devoid of youthful innocence.

Narration by an older Huw recalls, "Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then." The movie ends with a montage of family vignettes showing Huw with his father and mother, his brothers and sister.



The script was written by Philip Dunne. He later recalled reading the original novel "in horror, turgid stuff, long speeches about Welsh coal miners on strike." [9]

William Wyler, the original director, saw the screen test of McDowall and chose him for the part. Wyler was replaced by John Ford. Fox wanted to shoot the movie in Wales in Technicolor, but it was impossible to do so during World War II. Instead, Ford had the studio build an 80-acre authentic replica of a Welsh mining town at Brent's Crags [8] (subsequently Crags Country Club) in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, California. [10]


Alternate "Style B" theatrical poster How Green Was My Valley (1941 poster - Style B).jpg
Alternate "Style B" theatrical poster

On Rotten Tomatoes, How Green Was My Valley held, as of November 2020, an approval rating of 89% based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 7.92/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Though it perhaps strays into overly maudlin territory, this working-class drama is saved by a solid cast and director John Ford's unmistakable style." [11] Tim Dirks of lauded the film as "one of John Ford's masterpieces of sentimental human drama." [12]

While the opinion among the Academy Awards committee that it was 1941's Best Picture has been disputed by some later critics, [13] [14] How Green Was My Valley continues to be well received in its own right and, in 1990, was added to the American National Film Registry. Academy Award-winning actor and director Clint Eastwood named it as one of his favorite movies. [15]


Academy Awards [16] Best Picture Darryl F. Zanuck Won
Best Director John Ford Won
Best Supporting Actor Donald Crisp Won
Best Supporting Actress Sara Allgood Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Philip Dunne Nominated
Best Black-and-White Cinematography Arthur Miller Won
Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Interior Decoration Richard Day, Nathan H. Juran and Thomas Little Won
Best Film Editing James B. Clark Nominated
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture Alfred Newman Nominated
Best Recording Sound Edmund H. Hansen Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards [17] Best DirectorJohn FordWon
1943 Argentine Film Critics Association Awards [18] Silver Condor Award for Best Foreign Film John FordWon

Other awards

American Film Institute Lists


How Green Was My Valley was adapted as a half-hour radio play on the March 22, 1942 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater , with Sara Allgood, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall, Maureen O'Hara and Walter Pidgeon. [23] [24]

It was also adapted for three one-hour broadcasts of the Lux Radio Theatre : on September 21, 1942, with Allgood, Crisp, O'Hara, McDowall and Pidgeon; [25] on March 31, 1947, with Crisp and David Niven; [26] and on September 28, 1954, with Crisp and Donna Reed. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>How Green Was My Valley</i>

How Green Was My Valley is a 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn, narrated by Huw Morgan, the main character, about his Welsh family and the mining community in which they live. The author had claimed that he based the book on his own personal experiences but this was found to be untrue after his death; Llewellyn was English-born and spent little time in Wales, though he was of Welsh descent. Llewellyn gathered material for the novel from conversations with local mining families in Gilfach Goch.

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<i>Knute Rockne, All American</i> 1940 film by William K. Howard, Lloyd Bacon

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Walter Pidgeon Canadian actor

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Donald Crisp English actor

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<i>A Time for Singing</i>

A Time for Singing is a musical with music by John Morris, lyrics by Gerald Freedman and John Morris, and a book by Freedman and Morris. The work was based on Richard Llewellyn's novel of a Welsh mining village, How Green Was My Valley. The show takes place in the memory of Protestant minister David Griffith, recalling conflict within the Morgan family over the possible formation of a miners' union within the village, and the romance between Griffith himself and Angharad of the Morgans, who ultimately marries the mine owner instead. The show starred Ivor Emmanuel, Tessie O'Shea, Shani Wallis and Laurence Naismith.

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How Green Was My Valley is a British historical television drama series which originally aired on BBC One in eight parts during 1960. It is an adaptation of the 1939 novel How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, set in a Welsh coal-mining community.

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