How Green Was My Valley

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Memory... Strange that the mind will forget so much of what only this moment has passed, and yet hold clear and bright the memory of what happened years ago; of men and women long since dead.
Huw Morgan
How green was my valley then, and the valley of them that have gone.
—Last line of the novel.

A 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley was adapted into a 1941 20th Century Fox film directed by John Ford and starring Walter Pidgeon, Donald Crisp, Maureen O'Hara, and Roddy McDowell, with a score by Alfred Newman. It tells the story of Huw Morgan, the youngest son of a mining family in the Welsh village of Cwm Rhondda. Through his eyes, we see such events as his brother Ivor's wedding, the consequences of his sister Angharad's chaste romance with preacher Mr. Gruffydd (as well as her loveless and failed marriage into the mine owner's family), and a miner's strike in his town.

The film was a great financial success and later won five Oscars, including a now-controversial win as Best Picture of 1941, over a little picture by a novice director called Citizen Kane, and another little ditty by name of The Maltese Falcon. In 1990, it was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library Of Congress.

Tropes used in How Green Was My Valley include:

  • Book Ends: The scenes in the film both following mine accidents, where Gwillym cradles his son Ivor's dead body on the elevator, and where Huw similiarly cradles his father's dead body on the same elevator.
  • California Doubling: The film was originally intended to be made in the UK, but World War II made that idea all but impossible. So, it was filmed on the 20th Century Fox backlot.
  • Coming of Age
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: when the rescuers bring up Huw's father on the shaft elevator. Maybe a Pietà Plagiarism.
  • Growing Up Sucks
  • Innocence Lost: Huw's growing up includes half his family driven away for their pro-union activities, his sister marrying a man she doesn't love, being forced by circumstances to take a job with coal mine, his town elders driving away the good priest who mentored Huw, and the death of his father in a mining accident. By the end of the movie and novel, his green valley is no more. All that remains are the memories of his loved ones.
  • Mama Bear: Beth Morgan. When striking miners threaten Gwillym for his opposition to the strike, she crashes a strikers' meeting and threatens to kill anyone who harms her husband, with her bare hands. And it's very clear she's not bluffing.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: While the characters in the film are Welsh, cast members who were from John Ford's stock company use their native Irish accents. And Walter Pidgeon, a Canadian native, uses his own natural accent.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mr. Morgan dies at the end in a mining explosion.
  • Reason You Suck Speech: Mr. Gruffydd's last sermon to his congregation, who are driving him out due to groundless rumors. He strongly criticizes them for hypocritically calling down God's vengeance, while forgetting God's love. Sadly, it seems like his words don't take.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. Jonas
  • Scenery Porn: It *is* a John Ford movie, after all. And the film did win the Oscar for Best Cinematography (Black and White).
  • Slice of Life
  • Title Drop: Huw's last line of narration.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Huw's sentimental narration contrasts pretty strongly with what the film actually depicts: The disintegration of the family unit, and the end of the way of life that had sustained the town for years.

Did we mention that this movie beat Citizen Kane?