How Green Was My Valley

Editor’s note : this review is a translation of one of the first reviews to ever appear on this blog back in 2009. Those were less than a 150 words long and were written immediately after the viewing of each film. This is as aforementioned a translation and a longer edit of this original film review.

How Green Was My Valley (John Ford, 1941)
At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans, he stern, she gentle, raise coal-mining sons and hope their youngest will find a better life.

Oft maligned as the greatest steal of all time at the Academy Awards, wining Best Picture and Best Director over Orson WellesCitizen Kane, John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, that was supposed to be William Wyler’s film, is part of one of the most prolific era of Ford’s career. Along Stagecoach, The Long Voyage Home, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road, and Drums Along the Mohawk were all made between the time span of 1939 and 1941. This is almost as many films as Stanley Kubrick did in his entire career. Joking aside, Ford’s How Green Was My Valley is quite unique and personal in his career.

The name of John Ford left an imprint on the Western and the War genres. But his major themes of family, community, and fellowship of men were always the centerpiece of his storytelling. Often depicted as rude but also manly men, the characters in Ford’s stories show their friendship and love for each other in ways of getting drunk together, singing, dancing, and fighting. His best films are the ones that have this sense of community around them. With Stagecoach, the group that is traveling together forms a community that has to unite to defend themselves against the Apache attacks.

With How Green Was My Valley, Ford returned in the Ireland of his ancestors in a village that was not far from where they were before embarking for America. Funny fact, due to the War in Europe the shooting took place on a 80 acres location in California where the Irish village was recreated. Ford will finally go in Ireland later in his career to shoot one of his most interesting film; The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

On an even more personal note, Ford was a contradicted man, while his film is about the unions that could have help keeping a decent human life to those coal miners, he was a strong Republican even if he was showcasing socialist ideas and values in his films.
Arthur C. Miller’s photography is beautiful and it is a very classy classic film as an ensemble. The characters are attaching and strong just as any family drama of Ford’s filmography.

When the Citizen Kane vs. How Green Was My Valley debate is put aside one must look at John Ford’s film as a great achievement in a one of a kind career of the greatest American director of all time. Along with Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks, John Ford made genre films that are now masterpieces but also pop culture references. 

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