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Our intrepid duo of hosts face off against an undeniable classic, the John Ford-directed family drama How Green Was My Valley, which beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture at the 1941 Academy Awards. It’s a charming nostalgic story of a family of coal miners in Wales at the end of the 19th century seen through the eyes of a young boy (pre-pubescent Roddy McDowall) who watches his beloved green valley turn black and icky because coal mining generally sucks for the environment. Of course we don’t actually see the green of the valley because the picture is shot in black and white, a decision ultimately made because Adolf Hitler just had to have Poland. The film touches on the hazards of fossil fuel extraction, the environmental cost of “progress,” and the relationship between environmental problems and labor strife.
How did Wales’s coal fuel the rise of the British Empire? Was being endowed with generous coal deposits Britain’s fortune or its curse? Can falling through thin ice and catching hypothermia really render you a paraplegic? How do you pronounce “Angharad”? Was Walter Pidgeon a beefcake in 1940 or more like a creepy old man? How did the guy who shot this picture win an Academy Award for Best Cinematography when his competition shot Citizen Kane? How do you get Malibu to look like Wales? Why do these miners always sing in such perfect harmony, and more importantly, why won’t they stop? These are the burning questions on the table in this inappropriately age-paired and unexpectedly musical episode of Green Screen.
Original 1941 trailer for How Green Was My Valley.
Wikipedia page for the 1975 follow-up novel Green, Green My Valley Now (quoted in the episode): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green,_Green_My_Valley_Now
Below is (unfortunately silent) footage of the 1942 Academy Awards ceremony and some of the stars in attendance. Donald Crisp, winner of Best Supporting Actor for this film, is pictured at 0:35 on the far right; note his Army uniform.
Link to the novel by Richard Llewellyn: https://www.amazon.com/How-Green-Was-My-Valley-ebook/dp/B07H194X9L/
The “valley” of the film and novel is based on the real town of Gilfach Goch in Wales. Here is a view of the real place on Google Maps.
How Green Was My Valley (1941) on IMDB
How Green Was My Valley (1941) on Letterboxd
Next Movie Up: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
3 thoughts on “Episode 4: How Green Was My Valley”
I reblogged this probably because it’s John Ford, beautifully written and acted, and believe it or not, the Welsh actually DO sing like that. If you have to inherit something, the ability to form a choir anywhere from anyone nearby is pretty hard to beat. We are fans of the movie, sad though it may be.
Both of us dislike the very arch Citizen Kane. Very artistic without a trace of heart or soul. I understand how great everyone seems to think it is, but neither of us agrees.
I wish you’d written more about the movie.
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