MARY BRASWELL: Looking Back, March 16, 2014

HISTORY: Looking back at movies with green in their titles.

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here is a look back at four movies with the word “green” in their titles.

“How Green Was My Valley” (1941)

— The film tells of the Morgans, a hard-working Welsh mining family in the 19th century. The story chronicles the destruction of the environment in South Wales coalfields, and the loss of a way of life and its effects on the family.

— The story is told through the eyes of the youngest son, Huw, portrayed by Roddy McDowell. Other easily recognized names include Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp and Anna Lee.

— The film was based on the 1939 novel by the same name written by Richard Llewellyn. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck paid $300,000 for the rights to the book.

Continuous bombing of Great Britain and the film’s pro-union story line were the two main reasons the filming was done in the U.S.

— While it took only two months to actually make the film, 150 workers took six months to complete the elaborate 80-acre set.

— Black and white film was chosen because the color of flowers in Southern California did not match those found in Wales.

— Philip Dunne wrote the screenplay and director John Ford referred to it as “nearly perfect a script as could be possible.”

— Already the winner of two Oscars (“The Informer”, 1935 and “The Grapes of Wrath”, 1940) for best director, John Ford won again for this film and went on to take the same award in 1952 for “The Quiet Man.”

Maureen O’Hara was 19 years old when this film was made.

— Roddy McDowell had only been in America for two weeks when landing the leading role of Huw. He and his mother and sister evacuated from Great Britain due to Hitler’s bombing of the country.

— “How Green Was My Valley” beat out such films as “Citizen Kane”, “The Maltese Falcon” and “Sergeant York” as the Best Picture for 1941.

“The Green Berets” (1968)

— Col. Mike Kirby, portrayed by John Wayne, is posted to South Vietnam with two handpicked A-Teams of Special Forces troopers. One A-Team is to replace a team at a base camp working with South Vietnamese while the other A-Team is to form a counter guerrilla force.

— In 1967, Wayne wrote to President Lyndon Johnson requesting military assistance for his pro-war film. Johnson granted full military cooperation and material for the movie.

— Produced at the height of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, the Pentagon was at the time attempting to prosecute Robin Moore, the book’s author, for revealing classified information. Wayne bought Moore out for $35,000 and five percent of undefined profits of the film and then proceeded to commission a screenplay that held little similarity to the novel.

— Wayne turned down the role of Major John Reisman in “The Dirty Dozen” to star and co-direct this movie. That role was played by Lee Marvin.

— Much of the filming in 1967 took place at Fort Benning, Georgia which explains the large pine forests.

— Aside from Wayne, David Jansen and Jim Hutton held leading roles. All three died within less than nine months of one another.

— Most colonels were only in their 30s during the Vietnam War. Wayne was age 60.

— Some of the Vietnamese village sets were so realistic they were left intact and later used by the Army to train troops bound for Vietnam.

— Film critics came down hard on “The Green Berets” but the movie was a commercial success bringing in $8.7 million in 1968.

“Soylent Green” (1973)

— New York City Police Detective Thorn, played by Charlton Heston, finds himself a marked man by government agents when he grows near to a secret about a new foodstuff for an futuristic and highly over-populated Earth.

— The year is 2022 and what nourishment still available to the American population is produced by Soylent Industries. The “secret” ingredient is people.

— Thorn’s partner, Sol Roth, was played by Edward G. Robinson. Extremely ill with terminal cancer, this was his 101st and final film. He died less than two weeks after the shooting was completed.

— Based on Harry Harrison’s book, “Make Room! Make Room!”, the producers changed the name to avoid any confusion about Danny Thomas’ TV series “Make Room for Daddy.” The word soylent did come from the book and was meant to suggest soybeans and lentils.

— A small jar of strawberry jam in the movie was said to have cost $150. With inflation, that figure today would be in the neighborhood of $750.

— This was the last film shot on MGM Studios back lot. The lot was razed later the same year to make room for an assisted living community and condos.

— When Thorn (Heston) cries when he realizes it is too late to stop Sol (Robinson) from suicide, the tears were real. Both actors knew this would be Robinson’s last scene, one of death.

“The Green Mile” (1999)

— The film is told as a flashback format and stars Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb and Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey. The setting is death row at Louisiana’s Cold Mountain Penitentiary during the summer of 1935.

— Death Row guards at the penitentiary have a moral dilemma with their job when they discover one of their prisoners, a convicted murderer, has a special gift.

— Based on the novel by the same name by Stephen King, this was King’s first film adaptation to break the $100 million mark at the box office. King once referred to this movie as the single most-faithful adaptation of his work.

John Travolta was offered the role of Edgecomb but turned it down.

— When the mouse, Mr. Jingles, first appears, and then scuttles under the door way, it is clearly a male. However during the scene where John Coffey shares his cornbread, Mr. Jingles is clearly a female mouse. Actually… No live mice were used to portray Mr. Jingles. Rats, more easily trained than mice, were used to portray the mouse. Props such as the spool used in Mr. Jingles’ trick were enlarged to make scaling look realistic.

— Originally set in 1932, the time frame was bumped to 1935 so the movie “Top Hat” could be featured.

— The movie depicts executions in Louisiana being carried out by electrocution, but the Louisiana Legislature did not change the method of execution from hanging to electrocution until 1940.

— The music played over the loudspeakers in the retirement home as old Paul Edgecomb first walks out of his room is the same as the music the nurses played at medication time in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest” (1975).

— When Stephen King visited the set he asked to be strapped into Old Sparky to see how it felt. He reportedly stayed only briefly before asking to be released.


b) Agnes Scott College in Decatur