Saturday, August 19, 2023



Here is the first instalment of the next Top 10 + 2, the fourth of such lists.

As I have I have previously posted, my Top 10 + 2 films is based on “watchability”, those films which you (meaning me) like to watch more than once and enjoy thoroughly for whatever reasons. Hence Groundhog Day was on the list, Citizen Kane is not, at least in my case never having had the urge to watch Citizen Kane more than once. My friend Steve cringes at my choices and saw fit last week to groan at my selection of Groundhog Day but I like it and have watched it numerous times. Howe many times have you watched Fellini’s 81/2 Steve?

The reason my first list was called Top 10 + 2 was that I had difficulty whittling the list down to 10. That list,, with comments and not in order of any priority, was:

Groundhog Day
12 Angry Men
Rat Race
Sin City
Runaway Train
Blues Brothers
Blade Runner
Full Metal Jacket

Sometime later I posted my Second Top 10 + 2:
42nd Street
The Castle
Captains Courageous
Goodbye Mr Chips
Love Actually
Life of Brian
Judgment at Nuremberg
Down Periscope
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Jeremiah Johnson

This was followed by my third Top 10 + 2:
Breakfast Club
The Enemy Below
The Searchers
The Quiet Man
Forrest Gump
Midnight Sting
Once Upon a Time in the West
Shawshank Redemption
Kill Bill
A Night at the Opera

So today begins my Fourth Top 10 + 2, future instalments to come.


How Green Was My Valley

I love the old black and white films from the 1940’s, especially the Brit ones.

So it is funny that this 1941 film, set in Wales and starring a host of UK actors, is an American film directed by the great American film director John Ford (1894-1973), the winner of 6 Oscars including 4 for directing, one of those being for this film. American Darryl F Zanuck produced the film and it was scripted by Phillip Dunne from a 1939 best selling book by Richard Llewellyn, who was British born and of Welsh descent.  It was filmed in California.

How Green Was My Valley was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five, famously beating Citizen Kane, Sergeant York and The Maltese Falcon for Best Picture. Other Oscars included Donald Crisp for: Best Supporting Actor and Arthur Miller for Best Cinematography.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the full movie for free on YouTube. Click on the following link:

What it’s about:

Not wanting to give away too much, I will simply say that this is the story of a family, the Morgans, who live in a Welsh coal-mining town. The story is told through the eyes of the youngest son, Huw (played by a 12-year old Roddy MacDowall). The father and four oldest sons of the Morgans all work in the colliery, the lifeblood of the town and the source of pain, ill-will and death. The film also shows the relationships between the people in the town, how they develop and change.


The principal actors are Walter Pidgeon (Canadian-American), Maureen O'Hara (Irish born, naturalised American), Anna Lee (British), Donald Crisp (English), and a very young Roddy McDowall (British)

Some facts and trivia:
  • The title of the film comes from the fact that the valley in which Huw had grown up is no longer the beautiful green valley it once was. The valley and its villages are now blackened by the dust of the coal mines that surround the area. The film begins with a monologue by an older Huw: "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."

  • Huw: "There is no fence nor hedge around 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. Everything I ever learned 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. In those days, the black slag, the waste of the coal pits, had only begun to cover the sides of our hill. Not yet enough to mar the countryside, nor blacken the beauty of our village, for the colliery had only begun to poke its skinny black fingers through the green."
  • An older Huw also states:"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."
  • Roddy McDowall had only been in the United States for two weeks before being cast in the leading role of Huw. He had been evacuated from the UK with his mother and sister to keep out of harm's way during the Blitz.
  • John Ford often referred to this film as his favourite.
  • 150 builders took six months to construct Richard Day's elaborate set design. The mining village set cost $110,000 to construct and was modelled on the towns of Cerrig Ceinnen and Clydach, Cwmtawe. The studio brought in blocks of coal weighing over a ton apiece for the construction of the mines. To create the impression that coal slag covered the landscape in the opening and closing scenes, John Ford had the hillside painted black.
  • Sara Allgood was the only actor who gave John Ford any trouble. At one point, she complained that a scene they were about to shoot wouldn't play. Ford called writer Philip Dunne to the set and relayed her opinion to him. Having worked with Ford before, Dunne knew what to do. He ripped the scene out of the script and said, "Now it plays!" Then Ford turned to Allgood and said, "The sonofabitching writer won't do anything to help us, so we'll have to shoot it the way he wrote it."
  • The songs sung by the male voices are all authentic Welsh tunes. The song sung at the opening is "Men of Harlech", which was also used as the rallying cry for the Welsh soldiers defending against a Zulu attack in "Zulu" (1964).
  • The filning was carried out in Southern California due to the continuous bombing of Britain by the Luftwaffe and the nervousness of Fox executives about the film's pro-union story line.
  • The film was shot in black and white because the malibu countryside and the colour of flowers in Southern California did not match the colours of Wales. I for one cannot imagine this film as being anything other than in black and white and I would hate to see it ever colourised.
  • In 1939, Frank Capra was the first person to win 3 Academy Awards for Best Director. John Ford tied this record for this film and won a 4th for "The Quiet Man" - a record that still stands in 2022.
  • How Green Was My Valley has been the subject of criticism in Wales, especially since Richard Llewellyn’s claims to base the novel on how own life and experiences have been debunked. In fact, he had not been to Wales and based his book on what he had been told by Welsh families.

Some movie pics and stills:


If I haven’t convinced you yet to watch it, then I encourage you to do so, otherwise I will tell Steve who you are and that you love Groundhog Day.

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