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How Blu Was My Valley

Newly released on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox is How Green Was My Valley, the Best Picture Oscar winner from 1941 and one of director John Ford’s finest achievements.

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In the documentary Becoming John Ford, the screenwriter Lem Dobbs makes an interesting observation about John Ford’s 1945 film They Were Expendable: it is unusual, he says, that the title is in the past tense. This was, after all, a movie about World War II, made during World War II, and Dobbs believes that most other Hollywood filmmakers of the time would have wanted to conjure a more present-tense sense of urgency by calling such a movie either They Are Expendable or just plain The Expendables. (Needless to say, Dobbs’ observation was made, amusingly, several years before Sylvester Stallone’s action franchise ended up adopting the latter title.) Dobbs believes that by calling the film They Were Expendable Ford is saying these characters have already “passed into myth,” a good insight into Ford’s approach to history. One of the most prominent themes across Ford’s vast filmography is the discrepancy between the reality of a historical event and how it is perceived after the fact. This is an implicit theme in Young Mr. Lincoln, an explicit theme in Fort Apache and is perfectly encapsulated in the famous line of dialogue from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Looking at Ford’s movie titles alone, it is striking how many of them are in the past tense: How the West Was Won, Two Rode Together, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, They Were Expendable, and, Ford’s ultimate “past tense” movie, How Green Was My Valley. Valley tells the story of a 13-year-old boy, Huw Morgan, but it is his story as seen from the vantage point of the character as he remembers that time at the age of 50. As in Miguel Gomes’ recent Tabu, this means that Ford’s images are not “reality” so much as the decades-old memories of Huw’s off-screen (and perhaps unreliable) narrator-self. The subjective nature of the storytelling also helps to explain why the child protagonist (portrayed by Roddy McDowell in one of the finest child performances ever) doesn’t seem to age even though the film seems to span several years. This is similar to the poignant use of the superficially “too old” appearances of John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart in the flashback sequences of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in 1962, Ford’s last great “memory film.”

how green was my valley

Ford once claimed that How Green Was My Valley was his most autobiographical movie, which is ironic considering that he joined the project as a last-minute replacement for the original director William Wyler. Wyler had already worked on the script with screenwriter Philip Dunne, overseen the construction of the sets on the Fox ranch in the Malibu hills and even cast the film. Perhaps it’s surprising that the movie seems as “Fordian” as it does considering how late Ford came on board the project. Then again, perhaps it’s surprising that Ford was not offered to direct the project originally, given how similar the subject matter is to The Grapes of Wrath (which had netted Ford a Best Director Oscar one year earlier). Like Grapes, a film that had arrived with the same instant prestige – and controversy – as John Steinbeck’s source novel, How Green Was My Valley was based on a current best-seller by Richard Llewellyn. Both books had been published in 1939 (an indication of how much quicker things got done in Hollywood at the time) and they tell similar stories: they are period dramas depicting the disintegration of a family, set against the backdrop of a labor struggle. How Green Was My Valley is set in Wales and the main characters are coal miners (as opposed to the Okie tenant farmers in Grapes) but the portrait of family life in each is strikingly similar.

Daryl Zanuck, the head of Production at 20th Century Fox, was a conservative Republican and, as had happened with The Grapes of Wrath, was made uneasy by some of the political themes of How Green Was My Valley, such as the workers’ struggle for the right to unionize. Zanuck commissioned screenplays for the film from two different writers and rejected both of them because he thought they focused too much on the unionization subplot. In a memo referring to an early story conference, Zanuck wrote: “I was very disappointed in the (Ernest) Pascal script mainly because it has turned into a labor story and a sociological problem story instead of a great human warm story about real living people. I got the impression that we are trying to do an English Grapes of Wrath and prove that the mine owners were very mean and that the laborers finally won out over them. All this might be fine if it were happening today like The Grapes of Wrath but this is years ago and who gives a damn? The smart thing to do is to try and keep all of the rest in the background and focus mainly on the human story as seen through Huw’s eyes.” The third draft, written by Dunne, did downplay some of the more radical political elements of the novel but it is still remarkable that the movie got made at all.

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Part of the reason why Zanuck first approached Wyler and not Ford to direct is because his original concept for the film was different from what it ended up becoming. The initial idea was to make How Green Was My Valley Fox’s Gone with the Wind. Zanuck was jealous of MGM’s success with their 1939 Oscar-winner and his plan was for How Green Was My Valley to “outdo” Gone with the Wind by being a four-hour Technicolor epic, shot on location and featuring an all-star cast that would’ve include Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Tyrone Power and Greer Garson. None of those things ended up happening; war broke out in Europe, which made location shooting impossible, and the top brass at Fox balked at the proposed budget as well as the choice of director (Wyler had a reputation for being an extravagant perfectionist who required many takes). When Fox cancelled the project, Zanuck fired off an angry letter to the front office saying that Dunne’s script was the best he had ever read and if he couldn’t make the movie now, he was going to make it later and would take it to another studio if necessary. The powers that be at Fox relented on the condition that Zanuck make the film in black-and-white and bring it in at a running time of under two hours. That’s when Zanuck brought in Ford because Ford’s reputation was the opposite of Wyler’s – he was able to get most of his shots in only one or two takes and was known for bringing his movies in on time and under budget.

The finished film was, as I’ve indicated, highly personal for Ford, who based a lot of its images on his own childhood memories. Coincidentally, Ford had been the same age as Huw Morgan at roughly the same time in history: Ford was born in 1894 and reached adolescence in the early part of the 21st century just like Huw. Further, Huw is the youngest son in a large Welsh family and Ford was the youngest son in a large Irish-American family (his parents had migrated, separately, from Ireland to America, where they first met and got married). Ford said he could identify with being the “fresh young kid at the table” and this identification is evident in the many poignant reaction shots of Huw sitting with his family at the dining room table. More importantly, Huw becomes sick in the movie and has a lengthy convalescence during which he discovers his love of books. The exact same thing happened to the director; Ford contracted diptheria when he was 12 and was quarantined at home for a year. During this time he missed a year of school but discovered his own love of literature and read classics like Ivanhoe, Treasure Island and the novels of Mark Twain. Oftentimes, one of his sisters would read to him, an event that is recreated in the film with Huw and his sister-in-law Bronwyn (Anna Lee who, like cast-mate Maureen O’Hara, was working with Ford for the first of many times).

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Ultimately, what makes How Green Was My Valley a masterpiece, and arguably Ford’s finest pre-War film, is the deeply felt, deeply Fordian depiction of family and the lament for its inevitable dissolution. Ford sees the family itself as a microcosm of the broader Welsh society and, as the family goes, so too goes the mining town. The movie is ultimately a tragedy because the intellectually gifted Huw Morgan refuses to leave his hometown and pursue an education, preferring instead to stay behind and do the same backbreaking work in the mines as his father and brothers – even as the “green”-ness is leaving the valley for good. But if there is a silver lining to be found, it is in Ford’s sense of spirituality and the notion that, as Peter Bogdanovich put it, “death is not the end.” This spiritual sense is depicted nowhere more strongly nor movingly in Ford’s entire canon than in Valley‘s climactic moments: after Huw’s father (Donald Crisp) has died in a mining accident, his mother (Sara Allgood) speaks of seeing him in a vision: “He came to me just now . . . He spoke to me and told me of the glory he had seen.” We then see all of the film’s characters, dead and alive, together on a grassy hillside, happy and smiling, as if reunited in paradise. “Men like my father cannot die,” Huw intones in voice-over as an adult. “They are with me still, real in memory as they were in the flesh, loving and beloved forever.”

After The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley was another big critical and commercial success for 20th Century Fox. It won Ford his third Academy Award for Best Director and it won Zanuck his first Oscar for Best Picture. The fact that its main competition that year was Citizen Kane (which had to settle for the Best Original Screenplay trophy only) has sadly caused some critics and cinephiles to downgrade Valley in hindsight, many of whom see it as the ultimate “proof” of the Oscars’ irrelevance–the cinematic equivalent of the Grammys not honoring Elvis, The Beatles or Bob Dylan for their best recorded work. I mean, the film that beat the Greatest Movie of All Time™? How good could it possibly be? Personally, while I yield to no one in my love of Welles, I have no qualms about saying that the Academy Awards actually got things right that year. The ultimate tribute to Valley came from Welles himself, who clearly modeled the gossiping housewives in his 1942 production of The Magnificent Ambersons on a scene involving similar characters from Ford’s film (not to mention identifying Ford as his favorite director in later interviews).

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About the transfer: How Green Was My Valley is presented by Fox on Blu-ray in a new HD transfer based on restored film elements. I do not believe this involved the same sort of extensive digital overhaul as last year’s brilliant Grapes of Wrath Blu-ray, which means the upgrade over Fox’s previous DVD version is not comparably dramatic. It is, however, still an upgrade — especially in the areas of detail, clarity and contrast. The amount of detail in close-ups in particular, such as the fine hairs on an old woman’s face, is extremely impressive. Arthur Miller’s gorgeous high-contrast/deep-focus black-and-white cinematography is comparable to Gregg Toland’s work on Grapes and likewise utilizes a lot of low-angled long shots; the film’s cinematic qualities come through better than ever on this new edition. Fortunately, all of the DVD’s welcome extras (especially the insightful commentary track with Anna Lee and Ford biographer Joseph McBride) have also been ported over here intact. How Green Was My Valley is one of my top three favorite Ford films, along with The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and I consider it an essential addition to the library of any Fordophile — or cinephile.

    Works Cited

1. McBride, Joseph. Searching for John Ford: A Life. New York: St. Martin’s, 2001. Print.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

26 responses to “How Blu Was My Valley

  • Mitchell

    Hi Michael,

    Wonderful post on How Green Was My Valley and Ford in general. Ford is probably the greatest poet of cinema, but that is so at odds with the macho, hard-drinking, bluff ‘manly man’ figure that he presented to the world. Similar to the way that the true Hitchcock, the serious psychologist, the great portrayer of the tensions between men and women, is quite different from the persona wicked cherub that he cultivated. When will we finally be able to move past the ‘Master of Suspense’ label that does such a disservice to what is truly great in Hitchcock?

    Ford is truly the master of the mediatation of time passing. I feel we see this so strongly in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, as you can tell from my post comparing it to advantage with Tree of Life. I would have to say that Yellow Ribbon would knock out Liberty Valence in my top three, but then again, I would never limit myself to a number when it comes to discussing Ford.

    I am glad you made reference to Welles’ love of Ford. There is the famous quote about how he learned his cinematic craft. He said he studied ‘”..the old masters by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.” And I think you are very astute in saying that How Green Was My Valley’s stock sank because of undeserved backlash at winning the Oscar over Kane.

    The greatest thing about loving great art is never having to choose! Let’s have Valley and Kane!

    • michaelgloversmith

      Funny you should bring up Hitchcock as “serious psychologist.” I will have something to say on this topic very soon . . .

      • Mitchell

        Great minds……

        Looking forward to reading what you have to say. Hitchcock is the must misunderstood of the giants, I think, mostly through his own devices such as his TV persona. The real man is a genius for the ages…………

      • Mitchell

        and where is the Hitchcock as Psychologist article? Can’t wait to read it!

      • michaelgloversmith

        My Hitchcock as psychologist thoughts appeared in a paragraph in my review of Resnais’ You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet – not as an article in its own right. I haven’t yet read your Paradjanov piece but will soon and will get back to you with my thoughts.

        Cheers!

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  • Andrew Muzio

    John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley” (1945) is a great tale of a real-life experience. Ford brings in his own personal experiences into this film through little Huw Morgan. Per the article, though Morgan never ages throughout the film, he ages in mind. A smart kid, who later takes the route that his father and brothers did in the coal-mining business is what he wanted, due to the dismay of his fathers wishes of him wanting him to attend the University. It was great seeing Donald Crisp again since the first film we saw this semester, “Broken Blossoms” (1919). Also, on the brief note of your article, I do have to disagree with this film being better than Welles, “Citizen Kane” (1941). Welles masterpiece should’ve gotten more praise, but you also can’t take away from John Ford. Ford’s ending was a spectacular array of family togetherness that the filmed brought together in the beginning at dinner.

  • Caroline Graczyk

    “How Green Was My Valley” is a timeless film and John Ford does a fantastic job of representing the good and bad sides of family life. I agree that the main focus of this film was the Morgan family and how it slowly fell apart. I found it interesting how, in the beginning, everything goes very smoothly with everyone getting along and working together, but then everything changes abruptly when the older sons threaten unionization and are ultimately kicked out of the house. Soon the only ones left are the mother, father, sister, and of course little Huw who has little to no idea what is really going on. Watching Huw react to his brothers’ departure and the slow disintegration of his whole family is very realistic because everybody goes through this. In our memories, it feels like everything was great and then suddenly everything changes and your family starts moving on without you. This seems to be part of the reason why Huw decides to stay in his home town instead of heading off to university. He does not want his family to be broken apart anymore and wants to preserve what he has left while he can, which is why he takes that job in the coal mine.
    The fact that Huw never really seems to age is also very realistic though because, in memory, it is common to be unsure of exactly how and when things happened. To Huw, all of this happened when he was a small child in his mind when, in reality, it most likely happened very slowly over the course of many years. When we see him go to his sister-in-law’s house to ask to move in with her, he is still depicted as a small child when he is most likely in his mid to late teens. The inability to age just solidifies the fact that this film is made in memories and memories are never to be fully trusted since they can be influenced over time. As Huw aged, his memories clumped together which is why he probably remembers all of this happening within a small time frame when he was around 8 years old.

  • Pawel Wiech

    The John Ford’s film “How Green Was My Valley” is a great example of how the family changes throughout years. On the very beginning, we could see that whole Morgan’s family sits together by the table during dinner time. Later, family table starts to get empty seats when the oldest son gets married to the Bronwyn (Anna Lee). Next, older sons oppose father’s view on unions and leave the family house. After that, daughter-Angharad (Maureen O’Hara) gets married and also leaves family home. Then, there is only the youngest son-Huw (Roddy McDowall), father-Gwilym (Donald Crisp) and mother-Beth (Sara Allgood) by the table. On the end father dies in the mine. This depicts also how the whole valley gets worse and worse because of the reducing mining salaries that in turn leads to conflicts and also because of the accidents in the mine that cause many deaths including death of oldest Morgan’s son and death of the head of the Morgan’s family-Gwilym. That directly refers to the title of the film “How Green Was My Valley” which suggests that valley was once great but it started to change for worse.

  • Javed Lukovic

    From getting the call last minute to be the director of “How Green Was My Valley?”, John Ford did not miss out on the opportunity to show that his previous pieces such as “The Grapes of Wrath”(1940) or “Stagecoach”(1939) were not flukes. Not only did the money generated from this movie show evidence of his expertise but as touched on in your article, it won best picture over THE “Citizen Kane”(1941). Also, in your article you mentioned a thought that was going through my mind towards the end of the film of how spiritual John Ford really is. To add to the fact, he was also considered to be one of the greatest poets in cinema history, displaying his at home connection with his inner self greatly. To comment on his film, it was one of the more dramatic and eye opening films when it comes to making the more humble decisions in life. For example, when Huw Morgan did not choose to finish his degree and become a Lawyer or a Doctor, but chose to do the more gritty work like his father and brothers, it just showed that sometimes your family connection can outweigh any big decision. Overall, for a film that was made with improvised decisions, I personally believe that it deserved every award and that it was more enjoyable to watch than Citizen Kane.

  • Kevin Gau

    After having to watch the film screening “How Green Was My Valley” directed by John Ford in 1941 was an interesting life story of a lad named Huw Morgan. This film was very interesting because it revealed all of the different aspects that life has to offer; as I can see though from a previous film screening with Citizen Kane it revealed how they were basically both in competition with each other but different plots. From reading the article above, one may notice the pain, hardship, and dilemmas life has to offer. By using this mentality and as Huw looks back into the past to remind himself that one day they would be together again.

    Also after from reading the article above, it made me remind myself that there was another film (like M) that involved the ethics and sociological aspects of life. The reason I mention this is because from this film directed by Ford, shows how life has many decisions that you must encounter and it is important that we take the time to review them wisely. Throughout the film there were talks about work, unionization, schooling, marriage, and living in the family home. It is also important to note a political aspect as well, marrying corporate owner’s family members and as well as the amount of jobs, leading to salary, and (hopefully) unionization.

    Ultimately in the end, even if it was produced in 1941, all or at least most of the aspects still apply today which also makes me really want to read the book soon. By the way, National Library Week is Next Week (4/10/16 – 4/16/16) – Woot Woot!

    *Quoes will replace / stand for Italics.

  • Vanessa Kostopoulos

    John Ford created an exceptional film with “How Green Was My Valley”! He managed to create a steady home life with good and bad sides clearly representing themselves. I feel as if Ford wanted his audience to realize how family can drastically change throughout the years. Although, everything starts off smoothly within the family, things are quick to change when some of the older sons part ways from the household.This film was about the significance of unity and how a family can easily lose it’s way in life because of destruction in a hard time environment and the effects of family and work intertwining.
    I feel as if the title is a total giveaway as well! “How Green Was My Valley” only indicates that it WAS once green and now has begun to change for the worst. Another interesting thing I’ve noticed from the film was that Huw never actually ages, this seemed so odd at first but then I grasped the thought of Huw not being able to know when situations in his life actually represented themselves, so in turn this all happened when he was a young boy in his mind. The fact that Huw never ages also brings me to say that it symbolizes the ideas of memories and that they will continue to live on in his mind no matter how old he may get. I think that Ford wanted us to figure that out for ourselves, kind of like he has a hidden agenda for his audience. Overall, incredible film and I hope to watch another of John Ford’s films one day!

  • Jelan Voltron

    WOW!!! What an amazing experience is to watch ” How Green Was My Valley” by John Ford. Orson Welles once said ” A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet” , and that holds true for Ford. The film is perfect snapshot of a small Welsh mining village in Wales at the turn of the Century. We follow a small boy by the name of Huw Morgan who has now started on his passage into manhood. Mr Morgan played by Donald Crisp who also starred in “Broken Blossoms” directed by D.W Griffith, shows his true range as an actor. From Battling Burrows a Boxing drunken braggart and abusive father of one to a God fearing, loving husband and father of seven. Its is very evident that Ford put a great deal of his own personal life experiences into the making of this film. Ford touches on many topics such as family, community, politics, marriage and faith in God. I honestly believe if there were more family’s with strong moral fiber, and structure like the Morgans the world would be a better place.

  • Kevin Gandhi

    “How Green was my valley” directed by John ford is great movies for family. This movie going to be top ten in my list. Ford joined the project as a last-minute as replacement for the original director William Wyler. Ford is known for bringing his movies in on time and under budget; also, his get most of his shots in only one or two takes. That was amazing work done by ford in this movie. Movie begin on the dinner time as full family member and end with few family members. As the title said “How Green Was my Valley” That happen with big family almost all the time. Give you example of my dad family. There were three brother and one sister staying all together 25 years ago. Today they are all in different place. Next, I was so impress by Huw Morgan acting. He was bully by teachers and students because he was from small valley. First day of school and hit by other students, I felt sorry for him. Because I been in this situation and I have to learn boxing too. Additional, one of my best seen is when Dai Bando teaching boxing to the teachers was so funny. Finally, When Huw father dies in the mine was sad path of the movies and I felt valley turn into dark colors. After his death minimum wage was going down and valley people were moving out. Grate move watched after long time.

  • Jarrett Schroederus

    I think its interesting that the final version of “How Green Was My Valley” wasn’t what Zanuck envisioned at first, especially because it turned out so well. he originally wanted the movie to be 4 hours long and in color. this is interesting to me because although i can understand why he would want color, as the visual poetry in the movie could have been enhanced possible by the color. however a longer movie i think could have taken away from his success. The movie expressed many themes over its 2 hours, unless there was much more to the story a longer movie simply would have been to much, to many details would be added for each subsection of the story, that ended up being shown perfectly in his final version.

    I wonder if the reason for wanting to make it longer is because of his similarities with Huw, he experienced being ill, and being raised in a similar family environment. he went so in depth that like was stated in class the film is like poetry you almost have to assume that he can directly relate to a lot of the story.

  • Esho Youkhana

    “How Green Was My Valley” is a one of a kind of film that brings up so many issues of society and mixing it in with family problems. The main story line of the film is focused on the the Morgan family. In the beginning of the film we see what a lovely family the Morgans are. They are all very well raised and disciplined. For example, we see how the coal mining industry keeps giving lower wages and the workers are fed up with it. The movie turns political when the word “union” gets brought up. It is very funny how Ford has the a scene where on the characters in the film relates unionization to communism. However, later on we see issues of society coming up. I believe Ford really tried making a point in the film by having time pass on and things going wrong. Hew and his mother get injured, his brothers move out and one of his brothers gets married. Ford clearly illustrates to how not everything can be like it used to be. As time passes on, things change and so do the people. In the end we get the point of how not everything was gonna be rainbows and smiles like it used to be. In my opinion, Ford is a genius by leaving Hew the same age because it shows us the changes that time brings with it. Its sort of like we are watching the Morgans life story through the eyes of Hew. Some things and characters change but Hew does not. Stew stays the same in every aspect and I think Ford did it for a very good reason. Ford shows the mining industry getting more and more greedier while the people suffer more. He shows how a man and woman who want to be with each other can not because of their two different lives.How a man of God wants to be with a woman but still stays true to his duty. I believe Ford really wanted to show the views of the film how life will not always be like you wanted it to be. Not everything goes according to plan and not everything are rainbows and smiles. In the end we get a clear picture of things were and how much they changed. To be honest it was very sad but it also what Ford wants us to feel and realize. Reading the article above made me realize that this film was so well kind of accidentally even though so many things went wrong. War breaking out was one problem and the budget crisis was another problem. Even under all these circumstances the film was still very well made.
    -Esho Youkhana

  • Maygan Braddy

    I thoroughly enjoyed watching John Ford’s film, “How Green Was My Valley.” John Ford did a fantastic job in portraying the realism of life within a family, and I find it interesting that he did this in parallel to his own past experiences. By doing this, I think I was able to empathize more with Huw Morgan’s family. You really get a feel for the tribulations that the family had to endure and overcome, and I think that is very relatable for families everywhere. As the film moves forward, you witness the disintegration of the Morgan family as problems arise one by one: their wages lessening, Huw and his mother falling ill, two of Huw’s brothers losing their jobs and moving to America, Ivor dying in a mine accident, the two other brothers getting laid off, and the death of Huw’s father. These are part of the many obstacles the family encounters within this film. I was heartbroken by the ending of this film. After Mr. Morgan’s death, I felt like this film ended on such a sad note. I agree that a spiritual aspect was introduced at the ending as Huw seems to reminisce of the pleasant times in his life. This, however, did not make me feel any better about the way the film concluded. I also noticed the title of your article(“How Blue Was My Valley”), and I found it more true than the title, “How Green Was My Valley” because the film really focuses on the struggles the Morgan family faces. Overall, I appreciate watching this film. It really hits home for me, and helps me realize that, although it is inevitable for difficulties to happen, this is the way of life, and it must be learned to be accepted.

  • Seila Jakupovic

    “How Green Was My Valley” was a film that represented not only the life of the people living at the time, but also Ford’s life. The movie was named in the past tense because Ford wanted to show the history after the fact. It’s weird to think this film was an autobiography because he became the director so last minute. It goes to show how the lives of people at the time were so similar that it even was the same for the director. The mining industry was a big part of their lives and when the dad dies at the end, the mining industry kind of dies also.

  • Narmina sada

    Wow, a lot of things kind of hit me while watching this film! First of, family is such a big deal to me and this movie is one of those that everyone should watch. The title of course gives a strong sense of past tense which I definitely admire giving me a sense of what is yet to come and how it became about. As the family go through ups and downs, as every family does, you cant help but to relate deeply and feel super compassionate towards them when things go wrong and they become not so close to one another. I feel like this film highlights the flaws we have even today in everyday life as we all work and become so involved with making money and trying to survive/live comfortably, we begin to loose the real importance. I think that was exactly what Ford was trying to help the audience acknowledge. I definitely left with a better understanding of the real importance. I’m actually really upset I have never watched one of Ford’s films before and will definitely look into his many other popular “past-tense” movies.

  • emina nesust

    How Green Was My Valley is an exceptional film! I’m glad I was introduced to this film in class, and got a chance to see it. The deeply felt depiction of the family, as you mention, is what really made this movie great for me. The family order was also interesting, and it’s something we really don’t see anymore, or it’s not emphasized as much as it is in this film. The father was the head of the household, and all the kids, even the older ones has to show respect. For example, getting permission to speak. What really stood out to me, was the respect their father showed them as well. I expected him to be controlling and demanding, but he was just really supportive. My grandmother, who was also raised in an almost identical place and time, told me many stories about her life as a kid and young adult. Based on how she described living conditions and family order, I feel like this film brought those images to life for me. I also found all the similarities you listed between Ford and Huw interesting and a bit odd how so many things add up; especially that both were sick and stayed home for a year where they developed their love of literature. The sense of spirituality; death is not the end, is extremely powerful in this film, and brought tears to my eyes as I watched the last scene.

  • Hank Besser

    It was interesting reading this blog post because without getting a feel for John Ford’s similarities to the character Huw Morgan (and the Welch culture in general), I personally do not think the constructed emotional aspects of the film (which entailed joy as well as sorrow) would have been as gripping to the viewer watching “How Green Was My Valley”. I would have to agree with you when talking about the Academy Award competition between Welles’ “Citizen Kane” and Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley”. I have seen “Citizen Kane” a few times and am positively stunned by the “renaissance-esque” directorial work and acting of Welles himself. However, the overall film, “How Green Was My Valley”, emotional captivation combined with beautiful scenery in most of the shots (whether the backdrop or main focus) was masterful.

    I really like how you bring up the notion that the film’s script turned away from a focus “on the unionization subplot” and rejected an overwhelming emphasis on sociological issues– like that in “Grapes of Wrath”. Consequently, what I personally enjoyed about “How Green Was My Valley” were the deeply-connected relationships and loving care among the Morgan family members that, in spite of the negative sociopolitical changes throughout film, always remained.

  • Roza Pirsch

    The film “How Green Was My Valley” by John Ford shows a great example of how families grow apart over the years as well as how social issues and poverty affects the family structure. Ford experienced this first hand and through this movie he showed the nostalgia for a whole family. He was able to convey the longing that the narrator had along with the heartbreak and anxiety when his loved ones disappeared from the picture. Director Ford made the scenes when the family was together and coming apart very realistic and even relatable to this day. In tough times some families have to split for survival. Daryl Zanuck’s decision in the end to bring Ford was on point because Ford executed this film with utmost mastery, because of his personal insight. This was an amazing movie that I was able to connect with on a personal level.

  • Danyal Tanweer

    The film “How green was my valley” showed how life was like for the factory and mine workers in the era without unions and regulations. This film illustrated how vulnerable and under appreciated the workers in the mines were. The scene where the brothers get there wages cut is a very powerful scene exemplifying this. They were the best workers in the mine and got compensated the highest. They were the first to get cut because there were more poor people willing to fill the gap for less. This is a vicious cycle and this practice has broken families for decades. Another powerful scene is when the father dies. Do to poor safety regulations and inability to punish the mines the father was a victim to a company that had no human empathy. In our day and age it would never go down like that because we have the right to sue the mines for millions so they will think twice before cheaping out on safety. The films ending was more symbolic than concrete and I like that because thanks to whistleblowers and films like this one we are able to live in the more aware and empathetic world we live in today.

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