How Green Was My Valley

Director: John Ford
Year Released: 1941
Rating: 2.5

When people think of corny pictures, they think of Frank Capra. When people think of melodrama, they usually think of Douglas Sirk. But when one thinks of Ford, they usually picture John Wayne and a lot of cattle. However, Ford's other pictures - his non-Westerns (The Long Gray Line, The Quiet Man) - tend to get mired down in melodrama, holier-than-though morality and golly-gee innocence. Everyone is so virginal and pure, so radiant and positive, that today one can't help but look at it with jaded cynicism. Bad things happen, sure, but they're for the best, Mr. Ford is saying, and that people (or, better yet, men) are righteous and humble whereas the women they're married to love them for who they are. The "Gosh, Pa!" expressions from the apple-cheeked working class - the most honest class, to be sure (look at the mine owner's snooty son, or the schoolteacher!) - get nauseating after a while, their sappiness working against the honest-to-God powerful forces in the movie, namely Ford's eye for composition and the performances (Donald Crisp and Maureen O'Hara are great). The workers, when they return from work, sing and laugh and scrub the soot off themselves with glee - not a hint of "reality" leeks through in their painfully honest, painfully "true" lives (the only dose of "reality" comes in the carefully timed last few minutes from an accident designed to make you upset).