Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Valley of Decision (1945)

The story of wealth vs. poverty is as old as time. Mixed in with this battle is love and as they say love conquers all. The Valley of Decision is one of those tried stories of wealth vs. poverty and love.
            Mary Rafferty (Garson) is an Irish immigrant living in the shadows of the Scott Steel Mill with her father Pat (Lionel Barrymore) and sister. Pat has been crippled in an accident at the mill and has had a grudge against the Scott family for several years because of it. He calls them all devils and evil people. Mary gets a job as a maid for the Scott family. Pat of course is not thrilled but it is a job and Mary must take it.
            Mary’s first day on the job is also the day Paul (Peck) gets back from a two year trip in England to see how their steel mills operate. From the moment they lock eyes on each other you can see it is love at first sight. Mary meets Mr. Scott the man whom her father calls the devil but she sees him as a nice kind man. She quickly has her hands full with the younger children Constance and Ted who both demand a lot of attention.
            Over time Mary becomes part of the family and could not simply function without her. She keeps Constance in line all the time. She becomes very close to Mrs. Scott who even invites her to join them in a trip to Boston for their son William’s wedding. On the boat back Paul grabs Mary and kisses her.
            Alone in the kitchen one night after Paul has been working at the mill nonstop, sits with Mary for some dinner. Paul asks Mary to marry him and kisses her. She loves Paul but knows she cannot because of class. When Mary goes upstairs Mrs. Scott stops her and talks to her. She sees that Mary is in love with her son. Constance comes home that night married to an English Earle and plans to leave that night to go back to England with him. Mrs. Scott suggests Mary goes with them and does for two years.
            Feeling alone for two years Mary becomes homesick for America and misses Paul. The whole time she has been away she has not answered one of his letters. Constance sees that she misses Paul and suggests Mary go back home to see him. In the states, Mrs. Scott tells her husband that Paul will marry no one he is and has been in love with Mary. Mr. Scott asks why they have not gotten married already! Mr. Scott picks up Mary from the train station and on the way back says that he agrees to her and his son getting married.
            Unfortunately, the happiness is cut short for the couple. A strike at the mill occurs. Mary tries to help out since her friend Jim is head of the union. She arranges them all to meet on a bridge symbolizes both sides are meeting halfway. Mr. Scott sends Ted to deliver a message to William to bring his strike breakers back to Detroit they will not need them but Ted has been drinking heavily for some time now and misses his older brother. The negotiations were going fine until the strike breakers came. Pat shoots Mr. Scott and Jim is shot dead along with Pat. Mary feels terrible and guilty. She never wanted to see Paul again but he still wanted to marry her regardless. Mary tells Paul they cannot marry there is too much between them.
            Years go by. Paul is married to a woman named Louise who was always determined to marry him and has a young son. He comes home one day and Louise has a fit that their son was playing with the steel workers. Paul does not care since they are his friends but Louise does not want their son to associate with them she hates the mill and hates living in the town. The older Mrs. Scott has not been doing well but she goes to see Mary at the dress shop they have put together. The mother tells Mary that when she dies she is leaving her share of the mill to her. Mrs. Scott eventually dies. William wants to sell it and has a proxy for Ted to vote for him to sell the mill. Each shareholder will earn two million dollars each. Paul of course will not sell it the place is his life and Mary promised Mrs. Scott she would not sell her share. Mary talks Constance into not selling and the mill remains in the family.

            Paul has had enough of Louise. He is and always has been in love with Mary and Louise knew it. He tells his wife to leave and brings Mary back to her place.
            So as you can see love conquers in the end even if it did take the main characters years to finally be together.
            Greer Garson was wonderful. She put on a fantastic Irish brogue that makes you never want to hear her stop talking. Garson was a great actress and was rightly nominated for an Academy Award. Gregory Peck was a perfect screen partner for Garson. To me in the films I have seen of Greer Garson she always seemed to make her male costars look better. I mean not that Gregory Peck was not good actor he was incredible but Greer Garson just brought out more in him because she was so good herself. I loved it at the end where Paul yells at Louise and basically tells her to shove off. His voiced is what I would expect God to sound like if God were to tell the world to shove it! Lionel Barrymore was awesome but that begs the question when is he not an awesome actor? I liked seeing him as a cranky old Irish man with a huge grudge telling his daughter he curses her marriage to a Scott. Gladys Cooper played Mrs. Scott. I love seeing her in films. She was a very good dramatic actress but could be funny too like in The Pirate as Judy Garland’s aunt. I liked her character very much and Cooper in the role made the character all that much better. Jessica Tandy played Louise. She was terrible! I seriously not only wanted to punch the character out for being a spoiled brat but I wanted to punch Tandy out for being horrendous!
            The Valley of Decision, as one review I read put it, a very underrated classic Hollywood film. Sure the plot had/has been used over and over again but because the acting and everything else about it worked so perfectly the film is excellent.  The Valley of Decision is very predictable but very watchable.