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How Green Was My Valley

"How Green Was My Valley" on DVD

Familys Valued

John Ford's "How Green Was My Valley" tells the sad story of the beginning of the end of an era in a small Welsh coal mining town.

Told through the eyes (and narration) of young Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall), the plot focuses on his family, a decent, strong, closely-knit and hardworking clan who, at the film's beginning live together under one roof.

Every morning, the men trudge up the hill to the colliery to work underground mining coal, and every evening they trudge back down again. The Morgans love life, and each other, and one of the sons loves to sing and has assembled a Welsh choir around him that regales the town with song as the workers make their daily way from work.

In all, it's a satisfying life for the townspeople and the Morgans, but we wouldn't have much of a movie if it stayed that way, would we?

So the mining company starts messing with the workers' wages, causing the workers to flirt with unionism. This causes a rift not only between workers and management, but between members of the Morgan family themselves as patriarch Donald Crisp (who won a well-deserved "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar for his portrayal) fights the creeping socialism infecting his sons.

Eventually the workers strike and it's a long, cold, and bitter winter. Even when it's settled, there isn't as much work, and some of the sons decide to make a bid for the green hills of America.

Meanwhile, young Huw goes to school and it turns out to be a very humbling experience, while his sister enters a loveless marriage and - well, you get the picture.

Unfortunately, this description of the plot borders on trivialization and doesn't come close to doing "How Green Was My Valley" justice. It's a powerful, unique film that is, on the whole, quite depressing, though it keeps you rooting for the Morgans despite all that unfolds.

This is ultimately a movie about life and dreams, and the struggles they bring on.

Walter Pidgeon gets top billing (though his part isn't really any bigger than Crisp's) as the minister whose unrequited love for the Morgans' daughter (Maureen O'Hara) causes both of them no end of trouble. The other cast members (this is far more of an ensemble piece than a "star" and "supporting actor" film) include Sara Allgood, Anna Lee and John Loder.

"How Green Was My Valley" won either five or six Academy Awards, depending upon whether you read the DVD package blurb or the supplementary material. It definitely won for Best Picture, however, which is quite an achievement in a year that also saw the release of "Citizen Kane." Other Oscars, besides for Crisp's performance, included Best Director (the great John Ford), Art Direction/Interior Decoration and Cinematography.

The DVD is in fullscreen, naturally, and the black and white picture looks very good (though because of the B&W film you can never tell exactly how green the valley was…). Audio is Dolby Digital mono, and its quality is okay considering the age and genesis of the source material. Extras include chapter stops, theatrical trailers, and a photo gallery.

How Green Was My Valley, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
118 minutes, Fullscreen Black & White, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall and John Loder
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, Screenplay by Philip Dunne
Directed by John Ford


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Updated May 13, 2006