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The Proud Valley (1940)

Not Rated | | Drama, Music | 6 April 1940 (UK)
In a Welsh coal mining valley, a young man with a beautiful singing voice is called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice when a pit disaster threatens.

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(based on the story by), (based on the story by) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Edward Chapman ...
Simon Lack ...
Rachel Thomas ...
Edward Rigby ...
Bert
Dilys Thomas ...
Janet Johnson ...
Gwen Owen
Charles Williams ...
Evans
Jack Jones ...
Thomas
Dilys Davies ...
Mrs. Owen
Clifford Evans ...
Seth Jones
Allan Jeayes ...
Mr. Trevor (as Alan Jeayes)
George Merritt ...
Mr. Lewis
Edward Lexy ...
Commissionaire
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Storyline

In a Welsh coal mining valley, a young man with a beautiful singing voice is called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice when a pit disaster threatens. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

wales | labor union | ealing | See All (3) »

Genres:

Drama | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

6 April 1940 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Tunnel  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: South Wales 1938 See more »

Connections

Featured in Arena: Cinema (1977) See more »

Soundtracks

Deep River
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by Harry T. Burleigh
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User Reviews

 
United in Song
13 December 2008 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

I caught this 1930's curiosity on an outlying PBS channel at 2 a.m.— thank goodness for recorders, otherwise 5 people probably saw it at that hour. In all my years of old movie watching, I don't recall Proud Valley being shown in big market LA. My point is that for decades Robeson's few films were withheld for political reasons, and when finally released, had become dated curiosity pieces with graveyard show times. Too bad, because Robeson is a cultural treasure whose misfortune was to ally with one of the most aggressive anti-racist forces of his time, the American communist party. Whatever the wisdom of that move, given the circumstances, it was an understandable alliance, at least in my little book.

Robeson's name may be above the title, but he really shares the starring role with the Welsh mining community he becomes a part of. I expect that's one reason this was his favorite film. He really has only one spotlight vocal, but it's a show-stopper, a terrifically moving version of the old spiritual Deep River. Otherwise, he blends into an ensemble cast, even though his sheer presence remains commanding throughout.

It's a good story, about a community surviving the shutdown of its central coal mining industry. There are echoes of leftist styles here, particularly in the mobilized-crowd scenes with their banners, etc. Nonetheless, as another reviewer astutely points out, labor issues are folded into the larger war effort that was then breaking out (late 1939) along the Polish corridor. In fact, by the look of the latter sequences, I wouldn't be surprised if some re- editing and re-shooting were involved to keep abreast of fast moving global events.

There are several arresting scenes. The set for the Robeson solo with the huge choral backdrop remains impressive even by today's standards and accentuates this, the film's emotional centerpiece. Another eye-catcher is the unemployed men picking over the mountainous slag heap like starving birds amid growing desperation. Also, the collapsing mine tunnel looks almost too real to be a "special effect", and I'm still wondering how they did it in those days before blue screens and digitalized computers.

Anyway, here's hoping Turner Classic Movies finally decides to show a Robeson film, especially this one, at a decent hour, so a broader American public can catch up with a cultural treasure long denied them. Too bad, the great actor-singer-athlete had to go to Europe to find the kind of dignified roles he was so beautifully suited for.


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