Filmsite Movie Review
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
The Story (continued)

The village preacher, pipe-smoking Rev. Mr. Gruffydd visits the unhappy, fearful and mute Huw, who lies in the downstairs parlor in a window bed - the preacher encourages him to have faith:

Mr. Gruffydd: Where is the light I thought to see in your eye? Are you afraid, boy? You heard what the doctor said?
Huw: Yes, sir.
Mr. Gruffydd: And you believed it?
Huw: Yes, sir.
Mr. Gruffydd: You want to walk again, don't you?
Huw: Yes, sir.
Mr. Gruffydd: Then you must have faith. And if you have, you will walk again, no matter what all the doctors say.
Huw: (feebly) But he said, 'Nature must take her course.'
Mr. Gruffydd: Nature is the hand-maiden of the Lord. I remember on one or two occasions when she was given orders to change her course. You know your Scriptures, boy?
Huw: Yes, sir.
Mr. Gruffydd: Then you know that what's been done before can be done again - for you. Do you believe me, Huw?
Huw: Yes, sir.
Mr. Gruffydd: Good. You will see the first daffodil out on the mountain. Will you?
Huw: Indeed I will, sir.
Mr. Gruffydd: Then you will.

Mr. Gruffydd brings a boy's adventure book for Huw to read during his convalescence - Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. As he leaves, Angharad follows after him, thanks him for his support, and then encourages him to join them for supper in the coming days. She lingers by the window to watch him depart. A closeup of a book shelf illustrates all the titles of great books that have been placed there over time, including Treasure Island, Boswell's Life of Johnson, Pickwick Papers, Ivanhoe, and other school books:

All the noble books which have lived in my mind ever since - and always I hoped and kept by faith. For the first months, my mother was still upstairs and we could talk to each other with tappings.

As spring arrives, birds fly into his open window, and Huw's weak and shaky mother is assisted downstairs by her husband. She crosses over the room to her son to be reconciled with him for the first time after four months, excusing the whiteness of her hair: "That's the old snow got into it" - she kisses and embraces him. A chorus of men's voices from outside, led by Ivor, approach and serenade Beth's first appearance. Her other four sons (Ianto, Davy, Owen, and Young Gwilym), with bundles on their backs, pay their respects to her by each coming up and kissing her. Although speechless, Mrs. Morgan is encouraged to say a few words and she invites everyone inside to eat: "Come and eat - everyone."

During the occasion of Morgan hospitality, like old times, a bespectacled church elder Mr. Parry (Arthur Shields) inquires into Ianto's doings - he has been "busy with the union," rather than "talking a lot of rubbish in Chapel." Mr. Gruffydd moves forward and challenges Ianto into conversation:

Gruffydd: Why do you think we of the Chapel talk rubbish?
Ianto: My remark was not aimed at you.
Gruffydd: Then aim it.
Ianto: Very well. Because you make yourselves out to be shepherds of the flock, and yet you allow your sheep to live in filth and poverty, and if they try and raise their voices against it, you calm them by telling them their suffering is the Will of God. Sheep indeed! Are we sheep to be herded and sheared by a handful of owners? I was taught man was made in the image of God. Not a sheep!

Gruffydd drinks with them and affirms their need for a union, but then lectures them about responsibility:

First, have your union. You need it. Alone you are weak. Together you are strong. But remember, with strength goes responsibility - to others and to yourselves. For you cannot conquer injustice with more injustice - only with justice and the help of God.

Parry glowers at the liberal, progressive-thinking Gruffydd for speaking outside of his "position in life": "The deacons shall hear that you have been preaching socialism." Mr. Morgan prevents a fight and calls for music to soothe tensions.

An unspoken romantic relationship develops between the preacher and the beautiful Angharad in the Morgan kitchen. She commends the preacher for helping to unify their family again: "Will we always be in your debt? Now you have made us a family again." When he helps her with a heavy scuttle at the fireplace, she takes his hands and looks at his palms covered with tell-tale signs of coal-mining. He worked in the collieries for ten years while studying. Helping him to clean his hands with soap and a rag rather than his own handkerchief, she scrubs the coal off his hands. They are deeply moved by the experience of expressing personal feelings for each other:

Angharad: There's a man for you, spoiling his good handkerchief. Look now, you are King in the chapel. But I will be Queen in my own kitchen.
Gruffydd (complimenting her, surprising them both): You will be Queen wherever you walk.
Angharad: (pausing) What does that mean?
Gruffydd: I should not have said it.
Angharad: Why?
Gruffydd: (He takes her shoulders in his hands) I have no right to speak to you so.
Angharad (permitting him): Mr. Gruffydd, if the right is mine to give, you have it. (She looks after him from the window)

The men return to work and walk up the steps to the colliery, but Owen and Young Gwilym are among some of the grim-faced men forced out of work:

Then the strike was settled - with the help of Mr. Gruffydd and my father. Work again. Work, to wipe out the memory of idleness and hardship. The men were happy going up the hill that morning. [The colliery gates are closed by guards, leaving some of the men on the outside and shut out.] But not all of them. For there were too many now for the jobs open, and some learned that never again would there be work for them in their own Valley.

Later, the Morgan sons assemble in the parlor, dissatisfied with rumblings of unemployment throughout South Wales. Owen and Young Gwilym prepare to forsake the valley to go to America: "It is the same all over South Wales, it is. Father, in Cardiff, the men are standing in line to have bread from the government. Not for us, hey lad? We will have our share of the box and go." Mrs. Morgan tearfully embraces her two sons, realizing that they will be lost to her: "America - my babies." Soon she fears, all her sons will leave, destroying the stability of their family: "This is only the beginning. Then all of you will go, one after the other - all of you." Huw asserts himself stoutly:

Huw: I will never leave you, Mama.
Beth: Huw boy, if you should ever leave me, I'll be sorry I ever had babies.
Huw: (wondering) Why did you have them?
Beth: ...To keep my hands in water and my face to the fire, perhaps. (The family laughs with her)

A loud commotion outdoors signals the arrival of the postman with a letter for Ivor Morgan - "from Windsor Castle it is" with an invitation to "sing before the Queen." He is "commanded to appear before Her Majesty at Windsor Castle with chosen members of his choir on the fourteenth of May between the hours of three and five." A great shout arises from the villagers. Everyone from the valleys round about and other collieries are invited to a "celebration" at the Morgan household - to commemorate the honor and to have "a send-off worthy of the Morgans" for the two sons leaving for America. Off to the left of the frame at the front door, Beth silently looks down and is left alone when the others go inside. That evening, the street is lined with choir members and other women in the community - Mr. Morgan prays reverently to dedicate the group's singing to the Queen:

Our Heavenly Father, I give thanks from the heart to live this day. I give thanks for all I have, and I do give thanks for this new blessing. For you are our Father, but we look to our Queen as our mother. Comfort her in her troubles, O God, and let her worries be not more than she should bear at her age. And grant that sweetness and power and spirit may be given to these voices that shall sing at her command. Amen.

Ivor leads the choir (The Welsh Singers) in a rehearsal of the anthem "God Save the Queen." Huw listens from his bed window in the background, as Owen and Young Gwilym (in the foreground) leave the household for the last time by sneaking out the back. In the dark, the three women - Angharad, Beth, and Bronwyn - look solemn, steadfast and accepting. The camera tracks to the right, following the two sons as they walk away from the village with knapsacks on their backs.

On a sunny spring day when "the daffodils are out," Mr. Gruffydd visits Huw to help the bed-ridden boy recuperate: "You shall bring back a posy fit for a queen for your brave mother." In a wonderful scene, the preacher carries Huw on his back out to a daffodil-covered hillside, gently lowers him to the ground and they both admire the countryside. He then moves a few steps away and encourages the young lad to walk to him by holding out his arms:

You can walk, Huw, if you try. Come lad. You can walk. (Huw disagrees) Huw, WALK!

Huw feebly stands and then slowly, painfully, takes steps which bring him to Gruffydd, where he falls into the preacher's arms. After his successful, miraculous walk while they sit at the foot of a tree, Gruffydd commissions Huw to be strong through prayer:

You've been lucky, Huw. Lucky to suffer and lucky to spend these weary months in bed. For so God has given you a chance to make the spirit within yourself. And as your father cleans his lamp to have good light, so keep clean your spirit, huh?...By prayer, Huw. And by prayer, I don't mean shouting, mumbling, and wallowing like a hog in religious sentiment. Prayer is only another name for good, clean, direct thinking. When you pray, think. Think well what you're saying. Make your thoughts into things that are solid. In that way, your prayer will have strength, and that strength will become a part of you, body, mind, and spirit. The first duty of these new legs is to get you to chapel on Sunday.

The Chapel bell peals on the next Sunday - Huw limps slowly up the church steps. Inside after the last hymn is sung for the service, stern-faced parishioners (including Mr. Morgan) in the front pews prepare for a public meeting of the deacons. Mr. Parry, one of the self-satisfied elders, sternly points an accusing, condemning finger at Meillyn Lewis (Eve March), a young woman who has sinned and borne a child out of wedlock: "You shall be cast out into the outer darkness till you have learned your lesson." Angharad stops the cruel proceedings toward Meillyn, jumps up and cries: "Stop it! Stop it! Leave her alone, you hypocrites." The preacher leaves the Chapel with Angharad, and she firmly chastens him for impotently letting his church congregation excommunicate the unwed mother. Outside, Meillyn's old, poorly-dressed mother holds a baby in her arms. In a disguised way, Angharad speaks of her own inner "torture" - affirming her own hidden love for the preacher:

Angharad: How could you stand there and watch them? Cruel old men, groaning and nodding to hurt her more. That is not the Word of God! 'Go now and sin no more,' Jesus said.
Gruffydd: Angharad! You know your Bible too well, and life too little.
Angharad: I know enough of life to know that Meillyn Lewis is no worse than I am!
Gruffydd: Angharad!
Angharad: What do the deacons know about it? What do you know about what could happen to a poor girl when she loves a man so much that even to lose sight of him for a moment is torture!

Humiliated, Meillyn runs out of the rear Chapel door toward her mother - and Angharad follows after them.

While Mr. Morgan soaks his bare feet in a bucket of hot water, the mine owner Mr. Evans (Lionel Pape) pays a surprise, unexpected visit to the Morgan's household on the Sabbath - "on a very delicate mission" - "I'm here to get your permission that my son Iestyn may have permission...with your daughter's permission to call upon her." Permission is granted by the amazed, bare-footed master of the house. In only a few moments, the over-dressed, pompous son Iestyn (Marten Lamont) calls upon the Morgan daughter, at the precise moment that Mrs. Morgan locates her husband's shoes. Awkwardly, the three Morgan sons are introduced to the suitor, and chime in unison: "God bless you" when their father sneezes. Angharad looks out of her upstairs window at the fine horse carriage that has been parked in the front of their cottage - contemplating the rich lifestyle that may soon be hers if she crosses the class barrier and marries the Evans son. She is separated by the window pane from Gruffydd who walks by the carriage - she is ambivalent about her feelings for the preacher.

When Mr. Gruffydd returns to his lodgings that evening, he crosses the dark room as the clock chimes strike 9 pm. After lighting the lamp, a lovelorn Angharad is revealed behind him, sitting there waiting for him. She has secretly visited him to open her heart to him and express her longing for him - she professes that she doesn't want to be courted by the mine owner's rich son, but only wants to consummate her love with him. Although he truly loves her, he stoically explains to her that he doesn't want his poverty to make her suffer. With strict chasteness, he sadly rejects her love with heroic self-sacrifice - and thereby dooms Angharad's future:

Gruffydd: You shouldn't be here.
Angharad: I couldn't spend another night without knowing. What has happened? Is anything wrong?
Gruffydd: Wrong?
Angharad: You know what I mean. Why have you changed towards me? Why am I a stranger now? Have I done anything?
Gruffydd: No - the blame is mine. Your mother spoke to me after Chapel. She is happy to think you will be having plenty all your days.
Angharad: (scornfully) Iestyn Evans.
Gruffydd: You could do no better.
Angharad: I don't want him. I want you.
Gruffydd: Angharad - I have spent nights too - trying to think this out. When I took up this work, I knew what it meant - it meant sacrifice and devotion and making it my whole life to the exclusion of everything else. That I was perfectly willing to do. But to share it with another - Do you think I will have you going threadbare all your life? Depending on the charity of others for your good meals? Our children growing up in cast-off clothing - and ourselves thanking God for parenthood in a house full of bits? No - I can bear with such a life for the sake of my work. But I think I would start to kill if I saw the white come to your hair twenty years before its time.
Angharad: (softly, with tears in her eyes) Why? Why would you start to kill? Are you a man or a saint?
Gruffydd: I am no saint, but I have a duty towards you. Let me do it. (She comes closer to him, and with her hands on his shoulders kisses him.)

Tearfully and broken-hearted, she leaves him - he stands at the door as she goes out.

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