Saturday, July 21, 2012

Film Review: The Valley of Decision (1945)

Gregory and Greer . . . need I say more?
Photo Courtesy of
TCM: An Irish housmade's romance with the boss's son is complicated by labor disputes in the Pittsburgh mills.

     Have you ever read a synopsis of a book or film, and you become so enchanted and enthralled with the premise that you become obsessed with getting your hands on it, and reading or seeing it? Well, that's exactly how I was with this film and the novel upon which it was based.
     I wanted to see The Valley of Decision so bad, the palms of my hands would itch in anticipation every time I would check to see if it was coming on TCM. Thankfully, (for who knows how much longer my palms would have made it), I found it on youtube; and with the feeling of victory coursing through my veins, I sat back and watched . . .
     . . . I'm jumping the gun, though. Having read the whopper of a novel (640 pages) first, I must say that I (for the first time ever, I believe) disagree with the trite (but usually correct) statement that "the book is always better than the movie". I liked the very condensed film adaptation better than I did the actual novel; and I say this with the more romantic viewpoint.
The setting: Pittsburgh. 1870.
Photo Courtesy of
     I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm really not that all of a romantic person. In today's films, I could careless if the lead actors get together in the end or not. In the case of the classics, however, I'm always rooting for them to kiss, marry, have a brood of children, and live happily-ever-after (this should give you an idea how the film wins over with me as where, while the novel of the same name by Marcia Davenport is much meatier and fantastic in all its glory, comes second). So by saying that, had they followed the novel more closely, M-G-M would have had an epic on their hands that probably wouldn't be as easily forgotten as I feel The Valley of Decision is now.
Mary and Paul.
Photo Courtesy of
     I'm part Irish and proud of it, and so Greer playing the spunky Irish housemaid, Mary Rafferty, completely wins over my heart. Her brogue is charming, and she has this magical air about her that makes one think of leprechauns and four leaf clovers and fairies. As Mary, Greer is completely irrisitable to me, and, much more importantly, Gregory Peck, who, in only his third picture, plays Paul Scott, the son of the Big Steel Man, William Scott, played by Donald Crisp.
   Greer and Gregory were quite lovely in this picture. I loved watching them fall in love, I ached when Greer ended things because she thought it was what had to be done after what all had happened between her family and his, and I rejoiced when, in the end, they were able to be together.
Paul and Jim Brennan, the other man in love with Mary.
Photo Courtesy of
     Something I found very interesting when I first watched this film was the fact that, according to IMDB, Greer was a good twelve years older than Gregory . . . I swear to you, though, you would never guess it. They are well matched in everything: their talent, their beauty, and their youth. The leads could not be any better than this.
Greer and Gregory in a promotional picture for
The Valley of Decision.
Photo Courtesy of
     One thing I would like to point out are all the familiar faces. Lionel Barrymore, my favorite of all the Barrymores, plays the wheelchair bound father of Mary, Pat Rafferty; with Gladys Cooper as the matriarch of the Scotts, Jessica Tandy (Fried Green Tomatos, Driving Mrs. Daisy) in an early role as the woman who wants Paul for his money, Dan Duryea as Paul's older brother, William, Jr., and little Dean Stockwell in his first feature film as Paul's son, Paulie.
     In the end, The Valley of Decision is a beautiful, honest picture of star-crossed lovers. The chemistry between Gregory and Greer is one that should be noted. I fell in love with the book, and with Paul and Mary, and I desperately wanted them to have a happier ending in the film, and in this case, I'm glad to say that the film didn't really match the book. They deserved to live happily ever after, and long after The End credits rolled away and left a black screen, I think about them from time to time. I think that they did.
     I give The Valley of Decision, a picture that really got the classic romantic in me to come out, a big 4/4 stars.

No comments: