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The film ends with a montage of scenes of the "Morgan" family, and offscreen narration by "Huw" as he reflects on the death of his father: "Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still. Real in memory as they were in the flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then!" According to contemporary news items, Ernest Pascal and Irish dramatist Liam O'Flaherty worked on early versions of the screenplay for the film. Information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, indicates that Pascal and O'Flaherty did not contribute to the completed picture, however,
According to a October 14, 1940 Hollywood Reporter news item, William Wyler was originally scheduled to direct the picture, with Kenneth Macgowan slated to act as associate producer. An April 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Wyler was being replaced by John Ford and would instead direct Samuel Goldwyn's The Little Foxes, because casting difficulties had delayed the beginning of production on How Green Was My Valley. Modern sources assert that Wyler was replaced after studio executives in New York expressed reservations about his reputation for extravagance. A June 1941 New York Times article reported that Gregg Toland had wanted to serve as the film's director of photography, but also was prevented from doing so by his commitment to work on The Little Foxes.
According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, the studio had originally intended for "Huw Morgan" to be a young boy in the first half of the film, then an adult, played by Tyrone Power. After Roddy McDowall was cast, however, producer Darryl F. Zanuck and others involved in the film decided to cut the adult role and have Huw appear only as a boy, with his words as an adult spoken by an offscreen narrator throughout the film. Although Huw as an adult is glimpsed briefly in the picture's opening sequence, his face is not shown, and the actor playing him could not be identified.
Some contemporary sources credit Irving Pichel as the offscreen narrator, the voice of Huw as an adult, but other sources credit the role to Rhys Williams. Although the narrator in the viewed print is definitely not Williams, it has not been determined if the narrator is Pichel or a third person. According to a modern source, Williams originally recorded the narration, but Ford, worried that audience members would recognize Williams' voice, as he also plays "Dai Bando" in the film, asked Pichel to re-record it. Some modern sources assert that Williams' version of the narration was used when the film was exhibited in the United Kingdom.
May 1940 Hollywood Reporter news items noted that Zanuck was negotiating for George Arliss to appear in the picture as "the father," with Laurence Olivier to play "the son." Late 1940 Hollywood Reporter news items stated that Wilfred Lawson, Ida Lupino and Virginia Gilmore were under consideration for parts in the film, and that Alexander Knox was scheduled to play "Mr. Gruffydd." A December 1940 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that start of production on the picture was being postponed due to casting problems, and that Zanuck hoped to cast Olivier as Gruffydd and Lawson as "Gwilym Morgan." In January 1941, Hollywood Reporter noted that Lupino had been cast in another of the studio's productions and would be replaced in How Green Was My Valley by Gene Tierney. Tierney, however, does not appear in the completed picture. Hollywood Reporter also reported that Lawson was not cast in the film because the British government refused to allow him to leave England, because he had resigned from the RAF to appear in the picture. According to a May 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, the studio was seeking actor Barton MacLane for the picture. Although Hollywood Reporter production charts include John Sutton in the cast, he does not appear in the completed film.
Hollywood Reporter news items noted that the studio had originally wanted to shoot the picture entirely in Wales, as shooting there would be less expensive than filming in the United States, but could not do so because of the war. According to a June 1941 New York Times article, footage of "authentic backgrounds" of England, shot by director Carol Reed, had recently been received by the studio, to be used either for transparencies or as reference for the prop and landscape departments.
The picture was shot on location at Brent's Crags, in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, CA, where an extensive set, covering eighty acres, was built by the studio. According to the film's pressbook, art director Richard Day based the design of the village on the real Cerrig Ceinnen and the adjoining village of Clyddach-cum Tawe, both located in the Rhondda Valley of Wales. With the exception of "God Bless the Queen," which is sung in English, all of the songs in the film are sung in Welsh.
Walter Pidgeon was borrowed from M-G-M for the production, and Donald Crisp was borrowed from Warner Bros. English child actor McDowall, who had previously appeared in a small role in the 1941 Twentieth Century-Fox production Man Hunt, played his first starring role in an American film in How Green Was My Valley, which was also the last studio film made by director John Ford until the 1945 picture They Were Expendable. Ford made several documentaries for the U.S. military during the intervening years. A modern source includes Mae Marsh (Miner's wife), Louis Jean Heydt (Miner) and Frank Baker in the cast, and note that actor Joseph M. Kerrigan (Tailor) was cut from the finished picture.
The film received five Academy Awards, including the first Best Picture "Oscar" to be awarded to Twentieth Century-Fox and Zanuck. Other Academy Awards won by the picture were Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Donald Crisp), Best Cinematography (black and white) and Best Art Direction (black and white). Academy Award nominations earned by the film were for Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Sara Allgood), Best Editing, Best Musical Score of a Dramatic Picture and Best Sound. The picture was named one of the ten best films of 1941 by Film Daily, New York Times and the National Board of Review, which also bestowed acting awards upon Crisp, Allgood and McDowall. The New York Film Critics named Ford the best director of 1941.
According to November 1941 Hollywood Reporter and Film Daily news items and a studio press release, Twentieth Century-Fox engaged Richard Llewellyn to write Men of the Valley, a sequel to his best-selling novel, intending to reteam McDowall, Pidgeon, O'Hara and Allgood in an adaptation of the book, which was to have a "war background." Although Llewellyn did write again about "Huw Morgan" in his books Up, Into the Shining Mountain and Green, Green My Valley Now, he did not complete Men of the Valley, nor did the studio produce a sequel to the film.
Lux Radio Theatre presented three radio dramatizations of How Green Was My Valley. For the first, on September 21, 1942, Crisp, Pidgeon, O'Hara, McDowall and Allgood reprised their movie roles. On March 31, 1947, David Niven, Maureen O'Sullivan and Crisp appeared with Johnny McGovern as "Huw," and on September 28, 1954, Michael Rennie co-starred with Alexis Smith and Christopher Cook. In May 1970, Daily Variety reported that Twentieth Century-Fox and ABC were considering using the story as the basis of a daytime television series. In 1975, the BBC presented a six-hour televsion version of the story, starring Stanley Baker.