How Green Was My Valley
(1941)  20th Century Fox
Stills From "How Green Was My Valley" Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.  All rights reserved.

Starring:   Walter Pigeon, Maureen O'Hara, Donald Crisp, Anna Lee, John Loder,
Sara Allgood, Barry Fitzgerald, Patric Knowles, Master Roddy McDowall

Winner of 5 Academy Awards: 

Best Picture
    Best Director - John Ford

Best Supporting Actor -  Donald Crisp
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography

The gentle words of Richard Llewellyn set the stage for this incredible story of a Welsh mining family, the Morgans, struggling through the social and economic changes of that time in their tiny community. The story is told through the eyes of the youngest of the Morgan's seven children, Huw. The beginning is so tender and meaningful, that one simply cannot print only an "excerpt" - the story unfolds with these words...

  "I am packing my belongings and the shawl my mother used to wear when she went to the market and I am going from my valley. This time I shall never return. I am leaving behind me my fifty years of memory. Memories...strange that the mind will forget so much of what only this moment has passed and yet hold clear and bright the memory of what happened years ago of men and women long since dead; yet who shall say what is real and what is not. Can I believe my friends all gone when their voices are still a glory in my ears? No!..and I will stand to say no and no again for they remain a living truth within my mind. There is no fence nor hedge round time that is gone. You can go back and have what you like of it if you can remember. So I can close my eyes on my valley as it is today and it is gone and I see it as it was when I was a boy.
Green it was and possessed of the plenty of the earth. In all Wales there was none so beautiful. Everything I ever learnt as a small boy I learned from my father and I never found anything he ever told me to be wrong or worthless. The simple lessons he taught me are as sharp
and clear in my mind as if I had heard them only yesterday. In those days, the black slag, the waste of the coal pits, had only begun to cover the side of our hill. Not yet enough to mar the countryside nor blacken the beauty of our village. For the colliery had only began to poke its
skinny black fingers through the green. I can hear even know the voice of my sister Angharad "Huwwwwwwww" "Angharad" . Coal miners were my father and all my brothers and proud of their

From the moment the first film reel begins with the glorious voices of the Welsh Choir echoing and camera scanning this village nestled on a hillside, the audience relaxes with pleasant anticipation of the story about to unfold. Each member of the Morgan family is introduced with that eloquent narration that makes you feel like a child again, sitting at the chair of an elder at story time. You are eager and ready to travel to another time..another world. So very young, compared to his five full grown brothers, and sister Angharad, little Huw Morgan's innocent interpretation of his life through the eyes of a young child lends a kind of magic to it all. Too young to work in the coal mines like his father and brothers Huw still has his responsibilities in this family - one such duty is assisting at the end of the day bath ritual as his father and brothers scour off the black coal dust before dinner. His beautiful sister Angharad remains at her mother's side with cooking and cleaning. It is obvious they are poor and yet their family structure makes every family member important; needed and loved. The first scenes of the film show the end of a working day and dinner with this wonderful family and how very happy they are living and working together.

The trials, tragedies, and social issues of that time and place which befall this family aren't as significant as how they handle them - each in their own way - but in the end they endure and come together with that strength that made them a loving family.

"How Green Was My Valley" remains one of the finest films in cinema history and now takes its place in video libraries. There is also a CD of the soundtrack released by 20th Century Fox Film Scores.


The writing, cast, acting, directing and soundtrack were not the only distinguishing features of this film classic. An entire Welsh village was constructed as the movie set on a hillside near Malibu. Because WW-2 was well in progress, it would have been out of the question to film on location in Wales. It was, of course, uncommon in those days to go on location anyway. Hollywood had many impressive backlots, however, this crafted set was so realistic that even native , 

There is always an agreement about Ford's method of direction. Ford's tactics were often so subtle that the actors weren't even aware they were being directed. A new young child actor to Hollywood at that time, Roddy McDowall says "He played me like a harp." The scene where young Huw is bedfast, recovering from injuries, a bird appears on the window sill and Ford allowed Roddy to react naturally to the situation, without direction. "He was so terrific to me, which was very wise, 'cause if he hadn't been, I would have tightened up like a drum. So I think he was a very shrewd psychologist, actually."

An incident Roddy shared with Maureen in a 1991 interview was the sequence where young Huw is lying on the table "and you lift up the towel..." "And smack your bottom?" Maureen replied. "Smack my bottom right. I didn't know we were doing that that day, and I had holes in my underwear. I can remember being so embarrassed." Maureen - "I didn't see them."

Maureen remembers, "The wonderful thing was that he was the boss on the set, and nobody dared step out of line. Which gave the performers such a feeling of security. All you had to worry about was your performance. But then again, there were so many beautiful scenes.

In 1994 I had a personal interview with Anna Lee - who played Bronwyn in the film. An indication of the closeness of Maureen and Anna was the fact that in 1944 Maureen named her daughter Bronwyn after the character in the film. Anna was also a special favorite of John Ford. Anna said that originally the film was going to be directed by William Wyler and Anna was sent down to see Wyler. He said he'd love to give me the part of Bronwyn, but he'd already given it to Greer Garson. Then 6 months later, Wyler was replaced by John Ford. Anna had an interview
with Ford and that's when she made up her fictitious Irish grandfather because she was told he only liked Irish actors.


Essay copyright 1997, June Parker Beck©