Best Picture Winners #14 – How Green Was My Valley (1941)

So far in the 40s, our Best Picture winners have been adaptations of novels. Of the two of them, I’ve only read Rebecca. I had no idea that the 1941 winner, How Green Was My Valley, began as a novel until I watched the opening credits. Of course, I know this won’t be the last BP winner whose story was originally a book (Around the World in 80 Days and Oliver! are some of the future ones on our list that immediately came to mind).

This was one of those winners that I had never heard of, unlike the others on our list, such as Midnight Cowboy and From Here To Eternity. Part of what’s been fun about this project is watching all these classic movies. Honestly, that’s why Andrew and I went for this project in the first place! I had a vague idea of what this was about. Here’s all you need to know: life in a Welsh mining town (imagine the 80s song Life in a Northern Town recast as those words instead……”life in a Welshmining town…..” 😀 ) and behind it all, is a sweeping and touching drama about a family and their lives in this town.

That’s it.

Considering that I love to write about family drama in my own books, you would think that I would riveted on the edge of my seat for this one. I feel bad saying this because I know some people love this movie, even with all its sentimental plot points that verge on sappy (especially the ending montage), but I have to say that Andrew and I were both less than engaged for this one. If I find myself randomly checking stuff on my phone, I know that’s not a good sign…..

The problem for me wasn’t the sentimentality. I can deal with that. Plus, this wasn’t nearly as sappy as You Can’t Take It With You. It was more that the pacing was so…. slow…… I don’t know it it’s because they excised material from the book (which is over 600 pages!), so parts that might’ve made it more engaging were gone, but I just didn’t feel lost in the story like I wanted to be. I kept wondering how much time was left instead. I also felt like there was too much external narration going on. I would’ve preferred to have less of that in this movie and just focused on what was going on screen and figure it out myself. And the ending was unsatisfying too…..

Now don’t think for a moment that I hated this one. This wasn’t a terrible movie by any means. This was no Cimarron, that’s for sure! That they managed to make California look like southern Wales is a testament to the filmmakers. And I did love the different Welsh names. Angharad (I just might use that name in my latest book, which includes Welsh characters). Huw. Gwilyn. Oh and the miners always singing Welsh hymns. The language nerd in me loved hearing Welsh, a language you don’t hear much, especially here in the US.

I just wished that the story had moved along a little quicker….. *sigh* Not a favorite, but by no means a bad movie.

Three out of five stars

Next time: Our “aside” movies, Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon. Both are movies I’ve heard great things about. Let’s hope they’ve held up well over the years, especially Citizen Kane. We shall see! 🙂