The Proud Valley

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The Proud Valley
The Proud Valley VHS cover
Directed by Pen Tennyson
Produced by Michael Balcon
Written by Alfredda Brilliant
Louis Golding
Herbert Marshall
Starring Paul Robeson
Edward Chapman
Simon Lack
Rachel Thomas
Edited by Ray Pitt
Distributed by Supreme Distributing Company
Release dates April 6, 1940 (UK)
Running time 76 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Proud Valley is a 1940 Ealing Studios film starring the African-American actor Paul Robeson. Filmed on location in the South Wales coalfield the heart of the main coal mining region of Wales, the film tells the story of a Black American miner and singer who gets a job in a mine and joins a male voice choir. It documents the hard realities of Welsh coal miners’ lives.


David Goliath, a Black American, arrives in Wales and wins the respect of the very musically oriented Welsh people through his singing. He shares the hardships of their lives, and becomes a working class hero as he helps to better their working conditions and ultimately, during a mining accident, sacrifices his life to save fellow miners.



Robeson’s role is based on the real-life adventures of a Black miner from West Virginia who drifted to Wales by way of England, searching for work.[citation needed] After two years of refusing offers from major studios, Robeson agreed to appear in this independent production, seeing an opportunity to “depict the Negro as he really is—not the caricature he is always represented to be on the screen.”[citation needed]

The film is set in 1938 and was made in the aftermath of the 1926 general strike and the Great Depression.


In The Proud Valley, Robeson depicts a kind of Black hero never seen in Hollywood, one who fuses his political and artistic sensibilities in the image of a Black working man who achieves kinship across boundaries of race and nationality. Years later, Robeson would remark that, of all his films, this was his favorite because it showed workers in a positive light.[citation needed]

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