By Arthur Flynn
When Darryl F. Zanuck bought the film rights to Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 best-selling novel How Green Was My Valley William Wyler became the director. When Wyler withdrew after a dispute with Zanuck it was obvious that John Ford was the ideal choice to direct it.
Ford had already received acclaim for his powerful productions of The Grapes of Wrath and Tobacco Road. This would compete his social conscious trilogy.
Zanuck paid $300,000 for the rights to the novel. He originally intended the film to be a four-hour epic with a huge budget, to rival Gone with the Wind (1939). The novel was adapted for the screen by Philip Dunne on a budget of $800,000.
The fictional village in the film was based on Gilfach Goch where Llewellyn spent many summers there visiting his grandfather, and it served as an inspiration for the novel. This claim was proved to be false as English-born Llewellyn spent little time in Wales. As it turned out he had gathered his facts from conversations with local mining families.
The film for 20th Century Fox lined up a strong production team headed by cinematographer Arthur Charles Miller, musical director Alfred Newman and editor James B. Clark.
Plans to film in the Rhondda Valley in Wales were abandoned due to World War 11. An 80-acre set was built in the Santa Monica Mountains at Brent’s Crags, near Malibu. The design of the village was based on the real Cerrig Ceinnen and nearby Clyddach-cum-Tawe in Wales. The cost of building the village pushed the film’s budget to $1.25 million.
The film was shot in black and white because the colour of flowers in Southern California did not match those found in Wales.
Originally such stars as Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn and Tyrone Power were considered for starring roles.
Finally, the film was cast with Walter Pidgeon as Mr Gruffydd, Maureen O’Hara as Angharad, Anna Lee as Bronwyn, John Loder as Ianto and Patric Knowles as Ivor. The narrator was Irving Pichel.
Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood were always first choice to play the father and mother, Gwilym and Beth Morgan.
Maureen O’Hara was only 19 when she was cast in the leading role of Angharad.
Roddy McDowall had only been in the United States for two weeks before being cast in the leading role of Huw.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own