The film was a great box office success, making a net profit of $2.2 million on its initial release and was 20th Century-Fox's top-grossing film of 1941. It was also warmly received by the critics and was nominated for ten Academy Awards winning five, including Best Picture (famously beating out 'Citizen Kane') and Best Director for John Ford who thus established a record by becoming the first director to win two consecutive Oscars. In fact it was his third Best Director win in six years - after he had won earlier for 'The Informer' in 1935 and 'The Grapes of Wrath' in 1940.
In 1990 'How Green Was My Valley' was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
PlotThe film describes the social and family changes that economic hardships bring to a tight-knit Welsh mining village around the end of the nineteenth century. The story is narrated by Huw Morgan and concerns his family: father Gwilym Morgan, his wife Beth, and their six sons and a daughter. Huw reflects on his now-distant childhood in the village and he recalls, not just the hardships, but the warm, loving sense of community which was lost forever when wage cuts brought strikes and conflict.
Roddy McDowall oozes charisma as young Huw and the narration is by British actor Irving Pichel as the adult, unseen, Huw. The rest of the cast give excellent performances, headed by Walter Pidgeon as the local church pastor who falls in love with Angharad, played by Maureen O'Hara, whose youthful beauty is riveting. Donald Crisp, as the Morgan patriarch also gives a first class performance which deservedly won him the Supporting Actor Oscar.
ProductionThe movie was based on the 1939 best-selling novel of the same name by Richard Llewellyn. The movie rights were purchased for $300,000 in 1939 by producer Daryll F. Zanuck, who originally intended the film to be a 4 hour Technicolor epic to rival 'Gone With The Wind' and to be filmed on location in Wales. Due to Britain's involvement in World War II, however, production remained in the United States.
Zanuck envisaged Katharine Hepburn and Tyrone Power in the lead roles and William Wyler was his first choice to direct the movie. However studio executives had doubts about Wyler's ability to stay within budget, and Zanuck replaced him with John Ford. Numerous other casting options were discussed, with George Arliss and Laurence Olivier possibles at one time and artists such as Ida Lupino, Wilfred Lawson and Gene Tierney also considered. Zanuck realised the importance of star names and Walter Pidgeon was borrowed from MGM for the production, and Warner Bros. loaned Donald Crisp.
The film marked the first appearance of several actors who became regulars in the John Ford Stock Company, who worked with him in film after film. Among those first associating with him with him here were Donald Crisp, Maureen O'Hara and Anna Lee.
Art Director Richard Day constructed a monumental set, at a cost of $110,000, including a replica of a Welsh mining town spanning 80 acres of Los Angeles coast at Brent's Crags, in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, California. The village design was based on real Welsh mining villages of Cerrig Ceinnen and Clyddach-cum Tawe, both in the Rhondda Valley.
To enhance the feeling of authenticity, Ford had real blocks of coal brought in - some weighing over one ton each, and the Malibu hills were painted black, using twenty thousand gallons of paint. To make the illusion more convincing (and to save on costs), the filming was switched from Technicolor to the more forgiving black and white.
The entire film is colored by bittersweet remembrance; by the loss of family, childhood innocence, one's country, and a stern but fair father. It is clear that Ford idealises this world but that is what makes it so effective.
The whole movie is magnificently staged by John Ford and is deeply moving. The cinematography is unforgettable, complemented by a lovely score by Alfred Newman and by a number of beautiful songs such as "Men of Harlech" sung by a Welsh choir. 'How Green Was My Valley' is a beautifully made adaptation of a wonderful novel and has rightly come to be regarded as a Hollywood classic.
Main CastWalter Pidgeon ... Mr. Gruffydd
Maureen O'Hara ... Angharad Morgan
Anna Lee ... Bronwyn, Ivor's wife
Donald Crisp ... Gwilym Morgan
Roddy McDowall ... Huw Morgan
John Loder ... Ianto Morgan
Sara Allgood ... Mrs. Beth Morgan
Barry Fitzgerald ... Cyfartha
Patric Knowles ... Ivor Morgan
Morton Lowry ... Mr. Jonas
Arthur Shields ... Mr. Parry
Ann Todd ... Ceinwen
Frederick Worlock ... Dr. Richards
Richard Fraser ... Davy Morgan
Evan S. Evans ... Gwilym Morgan
James Monks ... Owen Morgan
Rhys Williams ... Dai Bando
Lionel Pape ... Evans
Ethel Griffies ... Mrs. Nicholas
Marten Lamont ... Iestyn Evans
CreditsDirector ... John Ford
Producer ... Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay ... Philip Dunne
Based on ... The novel "How Green Was My Valley" by Richard Llewellyn
Music ... Alfred Newman
Cinematography ... Arthur C. Miller
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release date ... October 28, 1941
Running time ... 118 minutes
Academy AwardsFive Wins:
Best Picture ... Twentieth Century-Fox
Best Director ... John Ford
Best Supporting Actor ... Donald Crisp
Best Cinematography ... Arthur C. Miller
Art Direction/Interior Decoration ... Richard Day, Nathan Juran/Thomas Little
Five Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Supporting Actress ... Sara Allgood
Writing (Screenplay) ... Philip Dunne
Film Editing ... James B. Clark
Music (Music Score of a Dramatic Picture) ... Alfred Newman
Sound Recording ... 20th Century Fox Studio Sound Dept, Director E. H. Hansen