Saturday, May 29, 2010
Best Supporting Actor-reviews: How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Yes, you can see, I continue my Best Supporting Actor reviews (if everything goes well, the next one will be A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and now it's time to talk about the "Oscar-stealer", the eternally disliked How Green Was My Valley.
Actually, I've never read reviews of this movie or real opinions as everyone says it's worse than Citizen Kane or How could it beat Citizen Kane or John Ford is great but Citizen Kane is sooooo much better. So you know what I mean, but this is a desperate attempt to talk about this movie ALONE.
How Green Was My Valley tells the story of the Morgans, a huge Welsh family, where everyone is a coal-miner and very happy in their simple lives. The youngest son is the talented and smart Huw (Roddy McDowall), who's much younger than his siblings, but is desperate to be loved and accepted by his family. He faces the hardships of adulthood and finally he becomes a man.
John Ford was a great director (and the winner of the most Oscars for directing), who could make sentimental family movies like nobody else could, see for example The Grapes of Wrath. Of course I must also mention my favorite of his, Stagecoach, which is IMO perfect. How Green Was My Valley does not live up to the brilliance of these movies, but it also has some really strong and sometimes even harrowing moments, when you really have to try not to sob. :-) The scenes where he shows the devastated crowds are so touching, the only thing I did not like is the singing, which was sometimes in my opinion too much for my taste.
However, he was also able to make the actors deliver strong and subtle performances. Roddy McDowall, the famous child star is very good in his role (for his age), but he was not the most impressive even though he was the lead.
Walter Pidgeon, in my opinion, was simply brilliant and much better than his dry performance in Mrs Miniver and this is probably his best work (from what I saw from him). As the local preacher in love with the Morgan girl, he was simply breathtaking and probably deserved some kind of a recognition at the Oscars, though I'm confused if he's lead or supporting.
Sara Allgood received a Supporting Actress nomination for playing Mrs. Morgan and though she's no Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath, she's indeed memorable.
And last, but not least there's Donald Crisp, the supporting actor winner of the year. At the beginning of the movie, he doesn't have big scenes and I thought he was not very deserving, but towards the end I completely understood why he won for this deeply emotional and subtle performance. When I see all the Supporting Actor winners, he will have a nice place in my ranking. The scene where he reads the Bible is insanely moving. These religious scenes always gives wonderful opportunities to the actors to shine (see Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves or Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda).
Ok, to sum up I truly enjoyed this movie in spite of the bit boring middle of it. Of course, nothing can be perfect, but you can get close. John Ford got quite close.
Nominations: Best Picture (WON); Best Director (John Ford WON); Best Supporting Actor (Donald Crisp WON); Best Supporting Actress (Sara Allgood); Best Writing, Screenplay; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (WON); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (WON); Best Film Editing; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture; Best Sound, Recording;
My wins: Walter Pidgeon and Donald Crisp tie for Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture (in a tie with The Maltese Falcon)