The bulk of last year's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Oscars were awarded to Twentieth-Century-Fox's "How Green Was My Valley." That these honors were bestowed on the movie adaptation of Richard Lewellyn's novel of life and death in a Welsh mining town was as good a way as any to prove that Hollywood still knows what art and science in a film are, and what they can contribute to an epic picturization of a beautiful and moving story.
"How Green Was My Valley" is not great in the sense that it portrays an idea of sweeping magnitude and importance. Its quality lies, rather, in its masterful use of every art and science that the film industry can muster to its service. John Ford's careful, solemn direction; photography that is completely in accord with the spirit of the episode; a musical background that is head and shoulders above even the better things that Hollywood has done along that line in the past; superb acting performances, down to the smallest bit part--all these, have been smoothly welded into a first-rate job of cinematography.
When we admired pictures like "Zola" and "Juarez," we were aware not so much of how they were made, as of what they had to say. But "How Green Was My Valley" places no such reliance on the magnitude of its message. As a matter of fact, it is probably weakest at those points where a stab at "social significance" is made. It is strongest where it allows the artistry of the specialists involved in its making to have free rein. It's the sort of thing that generally winds up as an artistic success but a financial flop. But when it's as well done as "How Green," the ticket-buying public goes for it.
There are no stars in the film, no one personality around whom the picture's structure is built. Instead, each of the individual performances--Walter Pidgeon as the town clergyman, Donald Crisp as the courageous head of the Morgan family, Maureen O'Hara as his daughter, Roddy McDowall as Huw Morgan, through whose words the story is told--forms a part of the broad pattern which the film so effectively presents.
The current U.T. show is scheduled for four, instead of the usual three days, which will afford you an extra day to see a movie you shouldn't miss, and which you'll remember for a long time as a high water mark for film achievement.