Sunday, December 6, 2009

How Green Was My Valley

'Citizen Kane' is considered by many to be the finest film ever made. This is the film that beat 'Kane' for the Academy Award for Best Picture! It won 4 other Oscars including Best Director for John Ford. How Green was my Valley is the touching story of the Morgans, a Welsh family in a coal mining town. Set in the heart of the industrial revolution, the Morgans must battle all kinds of adversity and hardships. Donald Crisp plays Mr. Morgan, the head of the family. He was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this film. Sara Allgood does an excellent job portraying his wife.

The film tells their story from the perspective of the youngest child, Huw Morgan. Huw is played by Roddy McDowall. He may be best known today for the 'Planet of the Apes' series, but he had a wonderful career that was kicked off in fine fashion with this masterpiece. The Morgans face the dangers of being a coal mining family. Accidents at the mine along with union-organizing activities take their toll. Also, an accident injures Mrs. Morgan and young Huw. But through all this the Morgans persevere. There is love and joy in this large family. And singing. Lots and lots of singing.

Director John Ford uses all his skills to craft this monumental movie. He gets terrific performances out of Crisp, Allgood and McDowall as well as from Maureen O'Hara and Walter Pidgeon. The script is very strong. We learn so much about family, commitment and personal strength that applies to all families. As the Morgan children grow they must move to make their place in the world. Will the coal mining tradition continue or will they move on? Daughter Angharad (O'Hara) must choose between her love for the village reverend and the son of the mine owner. Huw faces the decision of an education or staying with the family and working in the mine. While the details may be different, today's families face similar choices.

How Green was my Valley also won academy awards for art direction and cinematography. Both are well-deserved. This film is visually rich, especially for a film in black-and-white. The town, coal mine, the village street and the Morgan's home become characters in the story. The valley is transformed from a beautiful, rich homeland to a dirty wasteland over the life of Huw. The impact of this transformation due to industrial use is one our society and planet face today.

This is a magnificent film. Move it to the top of your Netflix queue today.

Filmed in 1941, directed by John Ford, written by Philip Dunne, based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn, starring Donald Crisp, Sara Allgood, Walter Pidgeon, Roddy McDowall and Maureen O'Hara.

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