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TCM screened this film recently and it was worth staying up past my bedtime to watch it. The film can be summed up in two words: Charles Coburn. He is magnificent as the perpetually inebriated yet good natured great grandfather. His dialogue is top notch and he delivers it to the hilt, at times funny, and others poignant. Dean Stockwell as the young boy is always interesting to watch, as are Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. Fans of old films will recognize many stock players as well: the mother here is also the mother in The Fighting Sullivans and the school master turns up years later as the impresario for the Von Trapp children in the Sound of Music. It's fun to see him so young. The movie has a lot of the Goodbye Mr. Chips qualities I love in film. And keep your ears open and you'll hear strains of similar music from The Wizard of Oz - letting you know it's an MGM production. Throw in a bit of Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist and you've got a fine movie. I won't give any more away.
I've only seen this movie on the TV and even then, it was years ago and its never been on TV again. I saw it before the days of VCR's. Its such a good movie, and unfortunate that it never came out on video or better still, on DVD. The movie was taken from the A.J. Cronin book of the same name. Dean Stockwell's performance was well done in the part of Robert Shannon a young Scottish boy. His father Hume Cronyn is the penny pinching father. Another favourite of mine is Jessica Tandy (Hume Cronyn's wife in real life, is also in the movie. As always and one of my favorite actors is Charles Coburn. Tom Drake plays the part of the older Robert Shannon. He wasn't in a lot of movies, but I always liked him. So far, it has never been on video or TV but if you ever see it listed in the TV Guide, watch it. Its very good.
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY was one of the best films of the 1940s and
really did a lot to bring to life the Welsh experience at the end of
the 19th century. The film featured brilliant writing, acting and John
Ford's deft direction. Now five years later, MGM returns with a film
that reminded me, in many ways, of this earlier film--though it is set
in Scotland just a decade or so after HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.
One major difference was that the main character (initially played by Dean Stockwell) was actually Scotch-Irish and when orphaned he was sent from Ireland to live with family in Scotland. Unfortunately, not everyone in the family was happy to see the kid--as the stingy (both financially and emotionally) grandfather (played exceptionally well by Hume Cronyn) saw the kid as a burden and obligation instead of kin. Also, the fact that the boy was Catholic didn't help matters. However, the great-grandfather (Charles Coburn) was quite different. Despite at first seeming a bit gruff, he became the boy's greatest friend and ally. Through the course of the film, we see the boy grow from childhood to young manhood (where he is played by Tom Drake).
The film has a nice touch to it--with really nice acting and direction. About the only negative is that perhaps they tried too hard to stick with the original book, as there were so many story elements that seemed unnecessary and distracting, while several characters were never fully developed. A good example was the friend being hit by a train--it came from no where and did NOTHING to further the story. Also several family members' motivations and behaviors seemed oddly difficult to predict. A good re-write and streamlining of the novel would have improved things. Now I am NOT suggesting they should have shortened the film--just devoted more time to character development. Still, this is a lovely and entertaining film.
A.J. Cronin's "The Green Years" has been splendidly brought to the screen thanks mainly by the performances of that grand old stager Charles Coburn, and that wonderful child star Dean Stockwell (what a pity he ever had to grow up!) Their scenes together are something very special even today. Coburn was nominated for best supporting actor, which was unfair, as he is clearly the star and should have had the nomination of Best Actor. As a young Cathoic lad thrown into a family of Scottish Protestants, Stockwell is quite amazing. The supporting cast of Gladys Cooper, Hume Cronyn ( a little over the top), Jessica Tandy and Richard Haydn are very very good, while Tom Drake is the best he ever was in a movie. The atmosphere of the era and the village is brilliantly captured by Director Victor Saville.
I find this film charming. As a 1950's Dublin kid, I loved the acting, direction, script and message of this film. I agree that it is a Scottish 'How green is my Valley'. I have always felt closer to Scotland than Wales, although not understanding why! Dean Stockwell and Tom Drake are especially wonderful. Nowadays, some follow ups would be certain. I would love to follow Robert Shannon's adulthood, after this film ended. I have always been a fan of Jessica Tandy and it was great to see her as a young girl, knowing what a successful career she had. This is a warm hearted Sunday afternoon film with feel good after-shocks. I don't know if a colour remake is possible but it's a black and white classic. Enjoy!
At first when I read the blurb of this film on the viewers guide I
expected another "How Green Was My Valley," which had ruined
coming-of-age films for me until I saw "Breaking Away" in '79. I
started watching it anyway and soon found I was hooked for the next 127
"The Green Years" demonstrate what a better film "Kings Row" could have been if someone other than Robert Cummings had played the lead. It's basically the same story set in Scotland: both take place in isolated rural towns, both deal with mental cruelty, and both deal with overcoming your circumstances to better your life. And ironically, both feature the splendid and versatile actor Charles Coburn in pivotal roles.
The people of this village seem real here, with Hume Cronin playing the tight-lipped tightwad of an extended family who "live like they're poor out of choice." Tom Drake is fine as the older Robbie Shannon, earnest and sincere, but with an increasing sense of cynicism appropriate for the role. Richard Hayden as the headmaster that befriends Robbie adds just the right amount of sanity, humor and hope you need in a story that runs over 2 hours.
But young Dean Stockwell and Coburn are magic, especially in the scene when he and 2 drunken friends try to teach young Robbie how to box. I can't recall a relationship between 2 actors on film, one very old and the other very young, that rings as fresh and honest as their's does. I think W.C. Fields and Freddie Bartholomew in "Great Expectations" come closest.
Yes, it's episodic, and perhaps a tad too long, and Norman Lloyd is wasted as one of Cronyn's sons. But if you have an affection for this sort of film made soon after the end of WWII, you won't be disappointed.
Very inspirational story about a poor young ? Scottish boys efforts to get
into medical school. Although I enjoyed it very much, I note that the
has never be released on VHS. Unhappily it is not considered one of the
classic greats and is forever gotten confused with 'How green is my
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a grand movie of 1946. We have so many elements here from previous
great films- "Oliver Twist," as well as "How Green Was My Valley."
Charles Coburn, though listed as the leading star of the film, was nominated for best supporting actor here, 3 years after his win in the same category for "The More the Merrier." He was absolutely terrific as the great-grandfather with such a good outlook, and a man way ahead of his times. He was almost equally matched by a fine performance by Hume Cronyn as a man who gave new definition to the term stingy.
Surprising that Jesse Tandy, and Gladys Cooper had relatively so little to do with their parts.
Equally amazing was Dean Stockwell as our very young boy, and Tom Drake who played him grown up.
This film gave us an honest reflection of not being able to get into a medical school by any back door method. Money talks. We see the bullying of the youngster Stockwell and how he was taught to overcome it in the same way that young Hugh was taught in "How Green Was My Valley."
We see a young Drake disillusioned and losing his faith following the tragic accident that killed his friend, his inability to get into medical school when he can't get the needed scholarship, and the death of his beloved grandmother, after he prayed so hard for her recovery.
This was a beautifully done film in black and white.
A measure of this film's quality is that days after screening it I'm still thinking about it. It's a great multifaceted story with many and varied parallel plots and the performances will stay with you for a long time. Several scenes have become permanently engraved in my mind, too many to enumerate. Others have commented on Charles Coburn's performance and yes, it is outstanding, but not the only notable one. Hume Cronyn's miserly Papa Leckie is exasperating and even oddly sympathetic. Norman Lloyd who plays Papa's son is truly a chip off the old block if with more joviality. Gladys Cooper and Selena Royale are both excellent as always and Dean Stockwell gives a very nuanced performance, more so than in any other film I've seen him in. I should also mention Beverly Tyler whom I have never seen before if only for her singing voice which is truly angelic. And let's not forget another outstanding performance by Jessica Tandy in a complete role reversal from her previous outing in "The Valley of Decision". She is by far my favorite here even though she is not a headliner, with Coburn and Hume close seconds. If I have a gripe it's about the chronology. The story takes place in 19th century Scotland, a notoriously unhealthy place, yet it covers four generations. Coburn's grandpa is already an old man when Bobby comes to live with the Leckies yet he lives long enough to see Bobby to young adulthood a decade later. To top it all off he's an overweight alcoholic and his lifestyle is anything but healthy. That alone stretches all credulity although it is possible, if barely so. I think I'll have to read Cronin's novel on which the film is based to discover how the author handled this detail. Put that aside though and enjoy a great find.
If anything this film gives us a look at some overlooked talent within
Hollywood, also of work overlooked by some film critics. Firstly the
overlooked talent: MGM for not utilizing the remarkable Beverly Tyler,
this natural talent sang like an Angel and looking back at her superb
performance of a prime number from Handel's Messiah, it leaves you
wondering why? ~ could it be because she might not have 'played the
game' in Hollywooodland...
Secondly, overlooked works by Critics: Over the years there have been many examples of certain critics uniformly choosing to bag various works (including this one). To cite just a few: "We are not Alone" '39 (Muni) ~ "Rapture" '65 (Stockwell again) ~ "Walk on the Wild Side" '62 (turned a trashy Nelson Algren book into a decent look at life during the 1930s) ~ "The Arrangement" '69 (Elia Kazan's biting observations of the excesses of advertising-TV's 'Mad Men' series copied aspects of this one). These were all astute productions, offering in-depth character studies brought to life via highly effective performances. Reading between the lines of selected reviews it seems evident some critics either chose not to support, or did not get the intended messages (?). Whatever the reasons, their cynicism can often be evident. In the case of 'The Green Years' anyone who knows how to enjoy golden years movie making, should find it stands on solid legs of it's own. It's rather odd this classic has been little seen over the years (despite it being very popular in it's initial release!). In some respects it now seems even better in comparison to many of the sub-standard productions that have followed it.
The entire cast could not be more perfect, bringing A.J.Cronin's multi-layered characters vibrantly to life. Charles Couburn as grandfather is a hoot (despite his amber failings). Dean Stockwell as the orphaned lad is as reliable as you could ever hope for. The screenplay adaption of Cronin's classic novel keeps all the essential ingredients moving along strongly. Award winner George Folsey as cinematographer, captures striking visuals under the deft call of versatile director Victor Saville. The whole experience results in a shining encapsulation of the pathos, drama, and humour of a young man's journey into manhood.
This movie is up there with the likes of "Kings Row" '42 and Cronin's earlier classic from '38 "The Citadel". If you're too cynical to allow natural sentiment to enter your movie experience, then this may not be for you...but then again, nostalgia and sentiments travel hand in hand through all our lives. Novelists, poets, songwriters, all relate to melancholic reminiscences. You might be fortunate to find it available on Warner Archive DVD, otherwise tune into TCM (their print may not be terrific but is better than others I've seen). Recommended for lovers of first class classics....junk lovers, beware. KenR
Footnote: planktonrules from Florida, has posted a neat summery for comparison ~ although I disagree with his comment about too many story elements. Any details that were major in the book needed to be included in the film, having said that, I'm pleased the film makers did not opt for an over long running time (I also note: the print I saw on TCM ran 120mins not 127m as listed on IMDb) Not sure what was going on there but I was quite happy with it anyway.
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