Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

How Green Was My Valley (1941)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

In John Ford's Best Picture-winning dramatic classic about a family of Welsh miners at the turn of the century facing social change:

  • the opening voice-over prologue (provided by the eloquent, mellifluous voice of Irving Pinchel) by a faceless adult man - Huw (pronounced Hugh) Morgan - who had packed some belongings and left a Welsh mining valley as a grown man after about fifty years. In his words, he idealistically and subjectively looked back and remembered (in flashback) earlier, rosier times of his life and 'green valley' home in South Wales as a winsome boy before it gradually disintegrated: ("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. I am leaving behind me my fifty years of memory. Memory. 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")
  • as a ten year-old youth, Huw (Roddy McDowell) characterized his stern and firm but respected father Gwillym Morgan (Donald Crisp), as they slowly climbed up a hill in the attire of 1890's residents: ("Everything I ever learnt as a small boy came 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")
  • the realistic depiction of family life - father and sons returning home from the grimy Welsh coal mines, and then bathing and sitting around the dinner table
  • crippled Huw's first feeble steps on a daffodil-covered hillside under the guidance of the preacher Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon)
  • the preacher's romance with Huw's eldest sister Angharad (Maureen O'Hara) - ultimately unsuccessful
  • the last sermon of the preacher - his condemnation of his congregation for hypocrisy and vicious unfounded accusations and rumors: ("There is not one among you who has had the courage to come to me and accuse me of wrongdoing. And yet, by any standard, if there has been a sin, I am the one who should be branded the sinner. Will anyone raise his voice here now to accuse me? No. You're cowards, too, as well as hypocrites. But I don't blame you. The fault is mine as much as yours. The idle tongues, the poverty of mind which you have shown mean that I have failed to reach most of you with the lesson I was given to teach")
  • the heart-wrenching mining disaster tragedy, when Huw's father (Donald Crisp) drowned in a mine shaft accident, with his last words to his son who was cradling him in his arms: ("There's a good old man, you are")
The Death of Huw's
Father in His Lap
Idyllic Happier Days
  • the nostalgic ending in which Huw recalled the happier, more idylic memories of his youth as a crescendo of chorus voices sang during a montage of the Morgan family (now mostly deceased) at supper time, of Huw's first view of Bronwyn (Anna Lee) with the double basket on her hip, of Angharad at the gate watching and waving at Mr. Gruffydd and Huw returning through a hillside of blooming flowers; there was also a view of Huw and his father walking hand-in-hand over the crest of a hill, as they did in the film's opening sequence, and a glimpse of the five brothers in an open field.
  • the concluding, hopeful voice-over with Huw still looking back fondly and hopefully during the terrible time of tragedy: ("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") - he retreated into the glow of his purified memories

Opening Voice-Over Prologue

Life in Welsh Coal Mine Village

Young Huw Morgan

Huw's First Steps on Hillside

Preacher Mr. Gruffydd's (Walter Pidgeon) Romance with Angharad (Maureen O'Hara)

The Preacher's Last Sermon on Small-Mindedness, Hypocrisy and Rumor


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