This film has become somewhat of an infamous footnote in cinema history, having the distinction of beating out masterpieces CITIZEN KANE and THE MALTESE FALCON for the best picture Oscar. Certainly those films are “better” than this one, but it doesn’t change the dramatic power that this film presents.
It’s melodramatic and nostalgic, but it tells a gritty story of poor miners and the sacrifices they have to make without ever preaching a message. Film master John Ford is too good for that. The story is narrated by a grown Huw Morgan, played as a child by Roddy McDowall (PLANET OF THE APES). We see the story unfold as Huw’s family deals with hardships at the mine and personal turmoil. The disintegration of the Morgan family is mirrored by the disintegration of the town.