Saturday, 14 August 2010

Best Supporting Actor 1941: Donald Crisp in How Green is my Valley

Donald Crisp won an Oscar from his only nomination for portraying Gwilym Morgan the patriarch of a miner family in How Green Was My Valley.

How Green is My Valley is a film that is a bit over hated, since it is not terrible, although still far from perfect. I liked some of the direction and sense of place, but I did have problems with the pacing and the shifting tone of the film. The biggest problem I would say not all of the plot was entirely clear and certain characters needed to be far more fleshed out, especially the other brothers in the Morgan family.

Donald Crisp was a character actor usually in roles with not the greatest depth, but here is an example of getting a little more. In fact Mr. Morgan although not really the lead he is a supporting performance with a fairly large amount of screen time. He plays the father of the main character Huw (Roddy Mcdowall) and is given far more depth than many father characters are given. He really is far more interesting because he is a kind father but not one that does disagree with his sons and his wife (Sara Allgood) at times. Crisp is almost perfectly cast as the father because with his very presence you can sense a real history that the family has because he always has the aura of authenticity in his performance. He just is the father he always has the right manner and sensitivity for every scene he is in.

I like how he shows that Morgan is a man who very much loves his family, works hard but believes very affirm in his old ways. His gives an incredibly warm performance although he never gushes his love out for his family Crisp always clearly shows that it is there. This is something he does very carefully but it is all the more effective that his affection is kept in an understated fashion. His method of showing Morgan's tradition is very effective, the way Crisp plays all his scenes gives the feeling that he has being doing all these things for his entire life. Whether it is eating at the dinner table, soaking his feet in a bath or preparing his pipe Crisp always seems completely authentic.

His strongest scenes are in his scenes where he fights with his sons over their wish to start a union and change things within the valley. He is incredibly good because he shows that Morgan always tries to keep everything as peaceful as possible. He never becomes mad at his sons but always stays firm in his beliefs. Crisp is excellent at showing the always calm nature of the man who never becomes completely upset but rather only ever carefully show his pain. Even great pain such as his sons leaving and the death of his son Crisp only ever carefully shows Morgan's pain very carefully in his eyes and face. He never acts over the top or forced but is only ever on the right realistic tone in this performance. This creates a very effective performance which always stays as a properly quiet one.


Anonymous said...

I thought if anyone was going to be nominated from the movie, it should have been Roddy McDowell, but Crisp was surprisingly good, as of course, the movie was too.

Louis Morgan said...

Yes, McDowell definitely should have been nominated.

Leslie S said...

I have enjoyed the Movie Greatly and the acting of Donald crisp the destruction of a Prestine valley from the mining of coal, Very much like what is happening in the Hunter Valley of NSW Australia the destruction of a prestine valley for the sake of coal mining this movie has lot of truth in it.. Cheers