MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs: Movies By John Ford

How Green Was My Valley (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars)
U.S.: John Ford, 1941 (20th Century Fox )

How Green Was My Valley is one of the most moving and physically beautiful (and, of course, Fordian) of all Golden Age Hollywood studio classics; it‘s also the movie that beat out Citizen Kane for the 1941 Best Picture Oscar. And though Kane certainly should have won (in 1941 or any other year), How Green Was My Valley is almost as great an achievement. Ford, of course, was also one of Orson Welles’ main models and mentors.

Valley is also one of the most memorable and most typical of all the great John Ford films: a classic adaptation of novelist Richard Llewellyn‘s semi-autobiographical story of a Welsh boyhood, the dissolution of a family and the fierce and ultimately ruinous labor struggles fought over the lives and livelihood of the workers in the coal mines. The project was originally intended for director William Wyler, and it has a more polished, jewel-like, Wyler-like quality than many of Ford’ rougher-hewn masterpieces — though Ford gives this family saga a rowdiness and spontaneity that Wyler probably couldn’t have mustered. (Ford liked to use first takes; Wyler was capable of running to 50 or more. And Wyler would have been the first to admit Ford probably got the finer results.)

How Green Was My Valley is seen through  the eyes of young Huw Morgan, Llewellyn’s literary surrogate and it’s one of the most magical, poignant, exciting movie childhoods ever — from the glowing portrayals of the Morgan family home life  through the day when the minister, Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon) brings Huw a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” to read while he recovers from injuries, to the last shattering tableau of the mine disaster and what it left behind.

There’s a marvelous prime Fox company of players and behind-the-camera talent — producer Darryl F. Zanuck, a script by Philip Dunne, cinematography by Arthur Miller, music by Alfred Newman, editing by James B. Clark, production design by Richard Day and Nathan Juran.

The magnificent cast includes Walter Pidgeon as the heroic pro-union minister,  Gruffydd, Maureen O‘Hara as sister Andharad, the fiery colleen who loves the preacher but marries the boss‘s son, Donald Crisp and  Sara Allgood as two of the best and finest parents a movie boy ever had, Anna Lee as Huw‘s big crush Bronwen, Rhys Williams and Barry Fitzgerald  as Dai Bando and Cyfartha, the two brawling boy-os who are always there whenever you need them, in life or death, Arthur Shields as the poisonous hissing church elder Parry,  pearly-voiced Irving Pichel as the narrator, old Huw — and, in one of the all-time great child movie performances, Roddy McDowall as Huw.

Beautiful! I can never watch this movie without crying when old Dai Bando, now blind, heads down the shaft to the collapsed mine to try to find Donald Crisp as Will Morgan, left buried under the rubble, and Dai asks Cyfartha to go with him, and Cyfartha says (one of the great lines in any Ford movie, or in any movie at all), “No Dai Bando, it’s a coward I am. But I will hold your coat.” If you aren’t moved when you hear those words or when they bring Hugh back from the mines, well, all I can say is: “Good God man (or woman), you have a heart of stone.”

Ford at Fox (Grapes of Wrath set) (Four Stars)

U. S.; John Ford, Allan Dwan, Nick Redman, 1939-2007 (Twentieth Century Fox)

The 2008 nonpareil massive re-issue of John Ford‘s films for Twentieth Century Fox comes in several ways: In the huge 25-film Ford at Fox package, and in several smaller sets. Here is an essential one, if you‘re not getting the big box (and most people, of course, aren’t). It includes four supreme classics, a feature documentary on Ford, and an earlier version, by “Last Pioneer” Allan Dwan, of the saga of Wyatt Earp and the Clantons Ford told in My Darling Clementine.

Includes: Drums Along the Mohawk (Three and a Half Stars)

(U.S.: John Ford, 1939)

Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert are the an appealing young couple coping with marital crises, crop hazards and a pretty severe outside conflict, the Revolutionary War. A robust and lyrical historical romance-adventure, based on Walter Edmonds’ novel; with Edna May Oliver, Ward Bond and John Carradine.

The Grapes of Wrath  (Four Stars)

(U.S. Ford, 1940)

Ford‘s great social family drama, based on John Steinbeck‘s novel about the Okies and the pilgrimage of the Joad family (Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, Charley Grapewin) from their ruined land to the “paradise“ of California. A masterpiece, shot by Gregg Toland in documentary-like images that sear themselves into your mind.

How Green Was My Valley (Ford; 1941).  See above.

My Darling Clementine (Both the Ford and Zanuck cuts) (Four Stars)

(U.S.: Ford, 1946) Ford‘s great town-taming western in both his and Darryl Zanuck‘s cuts. (Zanuck‘s was the release version, but Ford‘s is better, more lyrical and human.) With Henry Fonda, Ward Bond and Tim Holt as the Earp boys, Walter Brennan (a wonderful villain) as Old Man Clanton, Linda Darnell as the dance hall hirl and Victor Mature as Doc Holliday. The exciting O.K. Corral gunfight was modeled on Wyatt Earp’s own recollections (as told to Ford) and there are few more lyrical scenes in movies than Wyatt’s and Clementine’s (Cathy Downs) walk through town and dance at the church-raising.

Also in the package: Becoming John Ford (Three Stars) A fine, sympathetic bio-documentary; it includes Ford‘s short WW2 documentaries The Battle of Midway (1942 Oscar winner), Torpedo Squadron (1942) and December 7 (1943 Oscar winner). Frontier Marshall (Allan Dwan, 1940) (B) Dwan‘s earlier version of the Earp-Clanton saga, based on Stuart Lake’s biography. It’s a good movie, close to its successor in story and command, but not in pictorialism or drama. With Randolph Scott as Wyatt and Cesar Romero as Doc Holliday.


Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I remember very much the iconography and the images and the statues in church were very emotional for me. Just the power of that, and even still — just seeing prayer card, what that image can evoke. I have a lot of friends that are involved in the esoteric, and I know some girls in New York that are also into the supernatural. I don’t feel that I have that gift. But I am leaning towards mysticism… Maybe men are more practical, maybe they don’t give into that as much… And then also, they don’t convene in the same way that women do. But I don’t know, I am not a man, I don’t want to speak for men. For me, I tend to gravitate towards people who are open to those kinds of things. And the idea for my film, White Echo, I guess stemmed from that — I find that the girls in New York are more credible. What is it about the way that they communicate their ideas with the supernatural that I find more credible? And that is where it began. All the characters are also based on friends of mine. I worked with Refinery29 on that film, and found that they really invest in you which is so rare in this industry.”
Chloë Sevigny

“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier