How Green Was My Valley (1941)

How Green Was My Valley (1941), directed by John Ford.

Another love letter to the Celts, although more sad and bitter than The Quiet Man (1952).

At first the childhood reminiscences are idyllic: a large loving family in a Welsh coal mining town, before the mines grew to absorb the whole valley. Wide-eyed Roddy McDowall is an outstanding child actor, bringing our own innocent age back to us.

It can't last: strikes, family disputes, illness, mine disasters, death, frustrated lovers, loveless marriage, cruel church deacons and the damage caused by spiteful gossips.

And yet: the family remains stalwart and loving, with Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood as the parents who keep it together, although dada seems beaten down by life. Their sons are scattered across the globe.

Walter Pidgeon as the local pastor is warm hearted and upright throughout. His blistering final comments to his congregation contain more explicit religious sentiments than I remember hearing from John Ford before.

Also more Code-compliant sex talk than usual. Maureen O'Hara (age 21 and -- can I say it? -- luminous in her beauty), speaking of an unwed mother damned to outer darkness by vicious churchmen, says something like "That could be me. A woman who loves completely gives up everything".

A favorite bit: the despairing father is sitting alone at table with his youngest son, who makes small motions and sounds with his plate and cup. Father, quietly: "Yes, my son. I know you are there".

This film won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director. For Best Picture it won over:

Available on Blu-ray with a rather fine image. The whites look a bit bright in some scenes.

I was not able to make my own thumbnails this time and the images below are adapted with the kind permission of Gary Tooze from his full-size screen shots at DVDBeaver: How Green Was My Valley Blu-Ray - Maureen O'Hara