Stars: Paul Robeson, Edward Chapman, Simon Lack, Rachel Thomas, Edward Rigby, Dilys Thomas, Janet Johnson, Charles Williams, Jack Jones, Dilys Davies, Clifford Evans | Written by Pen Tennyson, Jack Jones, Louis Golding | Directed by Pen Tennyson
In the past, Wales has been synonymous with mining and choirs, and while times have changed the Welsh are still known for their vocal prowess, even if the mines have all but gone. The Proud Valley is a classic that has now been released on Blu-ray, that not only shows off the best of Welsh, but also the very talented Paul Robeson.
When David Goliath (Paul Robeson), an African-American seaman turns up in a small mining village, they are soon charmed by his powerful singing voice. Working down the mines to earn his rent, it looks like he and the choir are all set to win the national choir contest, until disaster strikes. With the mine closed and the town in trouble, David and a group his fellow miners march to London in hope of opening the mine up once more.
An early Ealing Studios movie, The Proud Valley is a feel-good movie, even though it does feature plenty of disaster for the miners. Paul Robeson dominates the screen with his powerful performance as David Goliath, and of course his voice was also on show. A film that not only positive in attitude, but also when it comes to race, the colour of David’s skin does come up once, but as his co-workers say, in the mines everybody’s face is the same colour.
While the question of race comes up only in one scene, what is far more important is the symbolism of David Goliath. The character’s name gives away the fact he is a giant of a man he is. Not only in strength but in spirit, he pulls the community together when they need it, and provides the positive force that they need at the crucial times.
The other issue highlighted in the movie is the state of the mines at the time. The fact that World War 2 was just around the corner hints at a need for the mine, even when the rich owners refuse to put the money in to get the mine back working, the need for coal for the war provides another push for coal industry when it needed it.
The Proud Valley is a film that may be about the past, and may be about an industry that has all but come to its end in the United Kingdom, but we the film is still easy to relate to. It is about community, and the spirit of a man who fought for the people who welcomed him in with open arms.
What this film should also do is push people to see more of Paul Robeson’s work as he really stands out in this movie as an actor who seems to not get the attention he deserves. Perhaps with the remastering of the older classics can bring him more to the forefront, and allow us to see more of his work.
The Proud Valley is one of those feel-good movies that British cinema was so good at making. It isn’t too sentimental, and doesn’t go cheesy like some do. What we are given instead is a relatable, emotional, and positive look at what community can be when they work together.
The Proud Valley is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.