How Green Was My Valley

How Green Was My Valley Information

How Green Was My Valley is a 1941 drama film directed by John Ford. The film, based on the 1939 Richard Llewellyn novel, was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and written by Philip Dunne. The film stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and Roddy McDowall. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five and beating out for Best Picture such other classics as Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion and Sergeant York.

The film tells the story of the Morgans, a close, hard-working Welsh family at the turn of the twentieth century in the South Wales coalfield at the heart of the South Wales Valleys. It chronicles a socio-economic way of life passing and the family unit disintegrating.

In 1990, How Green Was My Valley was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


The film opens with a monologue by an older Huw Morgan: "I am packing my belongings in the shawl my mother used to wear when she went to the market. And I'm going from my valley. And this time, I shall never return." The valley and its villages are now blackened by the coal mines that fill the area.

The film dissolves to show young Huw (Roddy McDowall), the youngest child of Gwilym Morgan (Donald Crisp), walking home with his father to meet his mother, Beth (Sara Allgood). His older brothers, Ianto, Ivor (Patric Knowles), Davy, Gwilym Jr and Owen all work in the coal mines with their father while sister Angharad (Maureen O'Hara) keeps house with their mother. His childhood is idyllic, the town is beautiful (the mountainside not yet overrun with coal slag), and the household is frugal but warm and loving. Huw is smitten when he meets Brownyn (Anna Lee), but she is engaged to be married to his oldest brother, Ivor. At the boisterous wedding party Angharad meets the new preacher, Mr Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon), and there is obvious mutual attraction.

The first sign of trouble in town comes when the mine owner lowers the wages, and the miners strike in protest. Gwilym's attempt to mediate estranges him from the other miners as well as his older sons, who leave the house. Beth interrupts a late night meeting of the strikers, threatening to kill anyone who harms her husband. While returning home, crossing the fields in a snowstorm in the dark, she falls into the river. Huw dives in to save her with the help of the townspeople, but temporarily loses the use of his legs. He is nursed back to health with the help of Mr Gruffydd, further endearing him to Angharad.

The strike is eventually settled, and Gwilym and his sons reconcile. Yet many of the miners have lost their jobs and the town is significantly poorer. Angharad is courted by the mine owner's son Iestyn Evans, though her heart is clearly set on Mr Gruffydd. He loves her too, much to the malicious delight of the gossipy townswomen, but cannot bear to subject her to an impoverished churchman's life. Angharad submits to a loveless marriage to Evans, and they move out of the country.

Huw begins school at a nearby village. Mercilessly picked on by the other boys, he is taught to fight by local boxer Dai Bando and his crony Cyfartha. After a beating by the cruel teacher Mr Jonas, Dai Bando avenges Huw with an impromptu boxing display to the delight of his classmates.

On the day Bronwyn gives birth to their child, Ivor is killed in a mine accident. Later, the four Morgan sons are fired in favor of less experienced, cheaper laborers. With no job prospects in the town, they leave to seek their fortunes abroad. Huw is awarded a scholarship to university, but to his father's dismay he declines it to work in the mines. He moves in with Bronwyn to help provide for her and her child.

When Angharad returns without her husband, vicious gossip spreads through the ladies of the town about impending divorce and where her true affections lie. Mr Gruffydd is denounced by the church deacons, and after delivering a stinging condemnation of the town's small-mindedness, he decides to leave.

Just then the alarm whistle sounds, signaling another mine disaster. Several men are injured, and Gwilym and others are trapped in a cave-in. Young Huw, Mr Gruffydd, and Dai Bando descend along with others in a rescue attempt. Gwilym and his son are briefly re-united before he succumbs to his injuries. Huw rides the lift to the surface cradling his father's body, his coal-blackened face devoid of all youthful innocence.

A narration by an older Huw recalls, "Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then." The film ends with a montage of touching family vignettes showing Huw with his father and mother, his brothers and sister.


  • Irving Pichel as the adult Huw Morgan, the unseen narrator
  • Walter Pidgeon as Mr. Gruffydd
  • Maureen O'Hara as Angharad Morgan
  • Anna Lee as Bronwyn, Ivor's wife
  • Donald Crisp as Gwilym Morgan
  • Roddy McDowall as Huw Morgan
  • John Loder as Ianto Morgan
  • Sara Allgood as Mrs. Beth Morgan
  • Barry Fitzgerald as Cyfartha
  • Patric Knowles as Ivor Morgan
  • Morton Lowry as Mr. Jonas
  • Arthur Shields as Mr. Parry
  • Ann Todd as Ceinwen
  • Frederick Worlock as Dr. Richards
  • Richard Fraser as Davy Morgan
  • Evan S. Evans as Gwilym Morgan
  • James Monks as Owen Morgan
  • Rhys Williams as Dai Bando
  • Lionel Pape as Evans
  • Ethel Griffies as Mrs. Nicholas
  • Marten Lamont as Iestyn Evans


William Wyler, the original director, saw the screen test of McDowall and chose him for the part. Wyler was replaced by John Ford. Fox wanted to shoot the movie in Wales in Technicolor, but events in Europe during World War II made this impossible. Instead, Ford built a replica of the mining town at the nearly Fox Ranch in Malibu Canyon.

The cast had only one Welsh actor - Rhys Williams, in a minor role.


Academy Award

The film was nominated for ten awards.

  • Best Picture - Darryl F. Zanuck (won)
  • Best Director - John Ford (won)
  • Best Supporting Actor - Donald Crisp (won)
  • Best Black-and-White Cinematography - Arthur C. Miller (won)
  • Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Interior Decoration - Richard Day, Nathan H. Juran and Thomas Little (won)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay - Philip Dunne
  • Best Supporting Actress - Sara Allgood
  • Best Film Editing - James B. Clark
  • Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture - Alfred Newman
  • Best Recording Sound - Edmund H. Hansen

Other awards

  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards: NYFCC Award; Best Director, John Ford; 1941.
  • Argentine Film Critics Association Awards: Silver Condor; Best Foreign Film, John Ford, USA; 1943.
  • 1990"?National Film Registry.
American Film Institute Lists
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - Nominated
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
    • "Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still -- real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then." - Nominated
  • AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores - Nominated
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated


How Green Was My Valley was adapted as a radio play on the March 22, 1942 broadcast of the Ford Theatre, with Sara Allgood, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowell, Maureen O'Hara and Walter Pidgeon. It was also adapted on three broadcasts of Lux Radio Theater: on September 21, 1942, with Allgood, Crisp, O'Hara, McDowell and Pidgeon; on March 31, 1947, with Crisp and David Niven; and on September 28, 1954, with Crisp and Donna Reed. A Broadway musical adaptation, entitled A Time For Singing, produced by Alexander H. Cohen, opened at the Broadway Theatre on May 21, 1966. The music was by John Morris; book and lyrics by Morris and Gerald Freedman, who also served as the director. Cast included Laurence Naismith (Gwillym); Tessie O'Shea (Beth); Shani Wallis (Angharad); and Frank Griso (Huw).

See also

  • How Green Was My Valley (novel)
  • The Proud Valley
  • The Stars Look Down

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