Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Last Days Of Dolwyn (1949) Film Review
It was in this somewhat quaint melodrama that the filmic titan Richard Burton (Where Eagles Dare, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?) made his cinematic debut. Set in the rolling valleys of the Welsh countryside, the Last Days Of Dolwyn tells the tale of the ‘chocolate box’ village under threat from nefarious gentry plans to flood the valley in order to supply water across the border.
Emlyn Williams (The Man Who Knew Too Much, King Ralph), actor, playwright, novelist and screenwriter, finds time in between writing and directing Dolwyn to star as the errant and villainous Robert Davies. Davies, a seemingly gentrified philanthropist is, in reality, returning to Dolwyn to exact revenge on his childhood village, from whence he was exiled in his formative years. The plot is loosely based on the lost village of Llanwyddyn in 1888, consumed by the dam erected on River Vyrnwy to create an artificial lake to quench the thirst of the burgeoning population of Liverpool.
Davies, upon returning to Dolwyn to warn of the impeding deluge, extends the offer of employment and accommodation in the hustle and bustle of Liverpool, yet the charitable offer is tinged with a suspicious agenda against the village’s residents. Burton plays Gareth, a young Welshman who has tasted life in the big city and fell prey to a life of hardship and struggle. It is in Gareth’s mother, Merri (Edith Evans), that Davies meets with fierce resistance against his plans.
Williams was notably of Welsh lineage but this rarely translated in his on-screen performances. His fondness of the setting and culture comes through in Dolwyn, despite the fact that a significant portion of the scenes were shot in the Denham Studio facility in Buckinghamshire. In spite of the foreboding scenes of the film’s opening sequence, where the eventual lake looms large with a sign in memoriam of the residents who will eventually perish in the flood, Dolwyn is a warm-hearted tale with a bleak subplot.
There is notable unease between the diluvian narrative and the occasional humorous rancour and fleeting romantic escapade, yet the film offers an invaluable glimpse into Williams’ early career as a fledgling filmmaker. It is also an opportunity to take in a young Richard Burton before his more iconic performances in Hollywood’s Golden Age. An intriguing picture, with plenty of heart.Reviewed on: 21 Feb 2013