Tuesday, February 21, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 27: How Green Was My Valley

Movie: How Green Was My Valley
Year: 1942
Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Director - John Ford, 
Best Supporting Actor - Donald Crisp, Best Supporting Actress - Sara Allgood, Editing, Cinematography (Black and White), Art Direction, Sound, Score, Screenplay

Wins/Snubs:  This movie will probably be most famous for beating Citizen Kane for Best Picture, Director and Cinematography and Art Direction.  Donald Crisp won for Supporting Actor and totally deserves it.  I think Maureen O'Hara should have been nominated for Supporting Actress.  Sara Allgood was beaten by Mary Astor in The Great Lie.  

The Feb. 24 2012 issue of Entertainment Weekly has a story about the most overrated Best Picture winners.  I've already covered one of them this year: My Fair Lady which you can read about here before I knew it was considered "overrated".  Since I had 5 days left, I thought I would cover some of them and see if I agree.  One of their most "overrated" is also one of my favorite movies of all time, so I won't bother looking at Out of Africa because I am totally biased thinking it deserved every accolade it got.  But this is the first one, and it has HUGE historical importance in film for winning over Citizen Kane.
**Some spoilers if you've never seen it.
How Green Was My Valley follows the Morgan family in a small coal-mining village in southern Wales in the 1930s.  Based on a novel of the same name, you see the story through the eyes of the youngest son Huw (Roddy McDowell) who admires his father and older brothers and has a crush on his oldest brother's wife, Bronwyn (Anna Lee).  His parents, played by Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood, want him to grow up to be more than a coal miner.  This is the time when coal was being mined less and unions were on the rise.  The brothers want to unionize but Mr. Morgan won't have it.  Mrs. Morgan and Huw go to talk to the brothers and are injured coming home.  It looks like Huw won't walk again, but thanks to some help from the local preacher Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon), he does eventually.  Huw's sister Angharad (Maureen O'Hara) is in love with Mr. Gruffydd, but marries someone else (ultimately divorcing causing a scandal!).  Of course, there is eventually an explosion in the mine and accidents ensue with Mr. Morgan getting trapped and dying and causing Huw to remember "how green was his valley" when all his family was alive, well, and living together.

Because this movie was filmed after the outbreak of WWII, it couldn't be filmed in Wales, and was filmed on a created set in California.  Only one of the minor actors was even Welsh.  That gave everyone a very odd accent.  Perhaps it was spot on, but it sounded more like they were all mocking Apu from The Simpsons with an odd Britishness (though Walter Pidgeon speaks American for no obvious reason).  So that was particularly disconcerting.  Second, the story is rather simple and the dialogue really basic (though very much of that era in film).  So there's not a lot to really impress you.  Generally, the movies of that era have something particularly unique or ahead of their time, and I didn't really see much in this.  It's very good, don't misunderstand, but as the film that won the Best Picture Oscar, it's only okay.  I can see it being a favorite of many people - the many characters offers something for everyone, and it would be an enjoyable experience watching in a theater on a big screen, but on a random afternoon after work, it wasn't anything particularly special.  

On a random note, given that the color green is in the title, I couldn't help wondering while watching the terrific cinematography how this movie would actually appear in color.  The red of Maureen O'Hara's hair, the black dust of the coal mines, the white of the flowers in the fields, and of course the green valleys.  


Dave Enkosky said...

I actually do quite enjoy this movie. I feel it's unfairly maligned by a lot of critics because it got the Oscar over Citizen Kane. Obviously, Kane should've won, but I still love How Green Was My Valley.

Jess said...

Thanks Dave. I did like it too - reminds me how much I like Maureen O'Hara, and Donald Crisp totally deserved his win.