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How Green Was My Valley is a 1941 drama film directed by John Ford. The film, based on the 1939 Richard Llewellyn novel, was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and written by Philip Dunne. The film stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and Roddy McDowall. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five and beating out for Best Picture such classics as Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion and Sergeant York.
The film tells the story of the Morgans, a close, hard-working Welsh family at the turn of the twentieth century in the South Wales coalfield at the heart of the South Wales Valleys. It chronicles a socio-economic way of life passing and the family unit disintegrating.
In 1990, How Green Was My Valley was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
PlotThe story is told through the eyes and with the voice-over narration of Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall), now a middle-aged man leaving his home, a mining town in the Rhondda Valley, and recalling the events that most impressed his younger self. The boy Huw is played by Roddy, but the voice-over is that of unseen actor Irving Pichel.
Huw’s first memories are of the marriage of his brother, Ivor (Patric Knowles), and the burgeoning, unspoken and ill-fated romance of his sister, Angharad (Maureen O’Hara), with the new preacher, Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon). Because of the forbidden nature of the romance, Angharad marries another man (whom she later divorces), and Mr. Gruffydd leaves the chapel in disgust after being subjected to untrue town gossip – his romance with Angharad is never consummated, nor do they ever marry. Still too young to work in the local coal mine like his father, Gwilym (Donald Crisp), and his five older brothers, Huw senses the seriousness of an imminent strike by the rift it creates between his father and the other boys when three of them move out of the family abode.
During the tensions of the strike, Huw saves his mother (Sara Allgood) from drowning and in so doing temporarily loses the use of his legs. As Gruffydd aids in Huw’s recovery, insisting on a positive attitude, he suggests that it is only the first of many trials the boy will have to face. Other subplots are explored in the film, which concludes with the death of Gwilym Morgan in a mining accident.
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