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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Costly Progress

How Green Was My Valley (1941) on IMDb

Plot Overview

home readingHuw Morgan reminisces (in 12-year-old Roddy MacDowall) about his origins in a stone age Welsh mining community that time forgot. His memories of it are peopled by his five older brothers, his sister Angharad (Maureen O'Hara), his parents (Donald Crisp & Sarah Allgood), and various other personages in a village that eventually succumbed to changing times, i.e. the iron age. Though he'd been schooled, “the scholar” passed up opportunity to improve his lot else­where. He was steadied in his resolve by his old time religion.


The miners turn in chits for their daily pay (based on their production), return home en masse singing in Welsh, and the Morgans deposit their pay in a common pot held by their mother. After scrubbing up, eating dinner (“always a baron of beef or leg of lamb”), the father divvies out spending money to his boys under the philosophy that it should get spent with the same zeal it was made. Even young Huw gets a mite of allowance.

There doesn't look to be a lot to spend it on in their spartan village. Huw goes to the store for a piece of taffy. We see the father off one day to get drunk at a public house. One of their circle Dai Bando (Rhys Williams) is a prize fighter, familiar enough with the boys that we imagine they attend his bouts (gambling?). The boys have enough to pay for external lodgings when things are too tense for them at home. And they save enough to eventually head to America.

Then there's the church, well attended, I mean it's packed. Some money should go there. (Prov. 3:9-10) “Honour the LORD with thy sub­stance, and with the first­fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” In this movie it's presented as manners rather than a sermon. God blesses them with bounty and it's only good manners to return some of it to him, and then he blesses them more.

Then come labor troubles. Their wages are to be cut, a few shillings at first. The Morgan boys want to organize, form a union so they have more power. Their dad thinks its bad manners to broach the subject at meal­time, but the boys feel compelled (“We are not questioning your authority, sir, but if manners prevent our speaking the truth, we will be with­out manners.”) They go their separate ways. We suppose the dad thinks God will be mannerly enough to some­how provide though the mine management is slack.

We don't see the name on the front of the stone church, but what looks to be the service time (in nautical terms): Three bells. That works out to 9:30. An odd number of bells trans­lates to a half hour time. They don't have the whole number time, like 10:00. And they are a few shillings shy on their usual wages. One wonders if they've been stiffing the Lord on his usual tithe (10%).

At any rate the new preacher Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon) is “all in.” He preaches the word, prays for the congregation and does visitation. (1Tim. 5:17-18) “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” He has not been rewarded adequately for his labor, which he is willing to put up with for him­self, but his poverty scuppers his aspiration to have a wife. How could he support her adequately when he is dependent on the charity of others, neglected charity at that? His congregation doesn't live up to his goals for them, either; they are, most of them, gossipy and judgmental rather than full of the love of Jesus. It puts him in a bind where he's likely to leave town just as were the men when regular work ceased.

This is a movie—based on a book—story, not a sermon, but it leaves one with the niggling suggestion that if he has a preacher who is committed to the well being of his flock, it might be a good idea to pay him his due.

Production Values

” (1941) was directed by John Ford. Its screenplay was written by Philip Dunne based on the novel How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. It stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, and 12-year-old Roddy MacDowall. It had a top-notch supporting cast. MacDowall did an amazing job in this his first acting job. He didn't age as the years progressed, but that can be passed off as a glitch in the narrator's first person memory. All the acting was superb.

It was rated as United States: Approved; G (TV rating.) It was filmed in Malibu, as the building war closed off access to Wales. It was shot in black in white, in part because Malibu trees weren't green enough, more a washed out greenish yellow. This film was selected for the National Film Registry in 1990 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The cinematography, the costumes and the scenery were all eye catching. The music was marvelous. The back­ground music was heart-rending and the Welsh choruses impressive. The beautiful black and white cinema­tog­raphy was by Arthur Miller.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“How Green Was My Valley” was so perfectly made it brought tears to my eyes just to behold its excellence. It beat out “Citizen Kane” for Best Picture Oscar in 1941, but the latter has come to be regarded as the best picture of all time. Go figure. This one is a family-friendly masterpiece.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for all ages. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.