Next Stop, Proud Valley

How odd, I thought, when I heard myself saying that, instead of screening our customary late night movie, I would retire early because . . . I had a film to catch. The Fflics festival (announced a few weeks ago) got underway today here in Wales and we have tickets for three of the screenings tomorrow. The first film on our agenda, Proud Valley (1940), starring Paul Robeson, will be shown at 10 AM. Robeson’s Welsh connections were still unknown to me when first I posted his picture here; but I have been looking forward to an occasion to explore this bond of brotherhood for quite some time now.

At noon, we are going to emerge from the mineshafts of Proud Valley (also known as The Tunnel) to take in the propaganda film The Silent Village (1942), a recreation of the aforementioned Lidice massacre on Welsh soil. I am equipped with Eduard Stehlík’s account of the 1942 raid on the Czech village, a book I discovered a few weeks ago on a tour of the Jewish Quarter in Prague.

What follows is a detour to Hollywood with Bette Davis as a teacher in a Welsh mining town in The Corn Is Green (1945), based on a play by Welsh actor-dramatist Emlyn Williams. I wonder whether I will be able to spot radio actors John Dehner and Rhoda Williams (whom I once met during an old-time radio convention in Newark) in a cast that is all over the map and as authentic as the one headed by Olivia de Havilland in the 12 June 1950 Lux Radio Theater adaptation of Corn, in which Ms. Williams may also be heard.

In between these courses of acetate treats we might just manage to grab a bite to eat and perhaps get a chance to chat with our friend, silent movie composer and radio playwright Neil Brand, who will accompany Maurice Elvey’s long-lost Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918) at the festival on Saturday evening.

As much as I am looking forward to a day at the pictures, I hope the antemeridian screenings won’t render my cinematic experience an academic one, let alone a series of barely suppressed yawns. Then again, I can count on Mr. Robeson to stir me with his rendition of “Deep River” . . .

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