Another film based on a best-selling novel (written by Marcia Davenport), this is a Cinderella love story of an Irish girl of the 1870s (Greer Garson) who works as a servant in the home of a Pittsburgh steel-mill boss (Donald Crisp) and subsequently falls in love with his son, played by Gregory Peck. Paul Scott (Peck) must not marry beneath his station, of course and she is forced to watch him endure a loveless marriage. The film ends with the promise that at least she and Paul can share an unconsummated love.
Just to complicate things, there is a Romeo and Juliet subplot – Pat Rafferty (Lionel Barrymore
), father of Mary (Greer Garson), lost both his legs in an accident at the Scott Mill and is psychopathic in his hatred of the senior Scott (father of the man Mary loves). There was irony in Barrymore’s playing this role; in 1938, at the age of 60, the actor was partially paralyzed by combination of arthritis and a leg injury, but managed to continue his acting career even though confined to a wheel chair.
Newcomer Gregory Peck captured the immediate attention of the critics, appearing here in an early screen performance. Variety wrote: “Gregory Peck, playing opposite as Paul Scott, is a standout. He has the personality and ability to command and hold attention in any scene”. Newsweek chimed in: “Gregory Peck impersonates the intense young steel man with both the authority and the romantic appeal the role requires...the onetime guide at Radio City in New York is established as one of Hollywood’s outstanding leading men”.
The Valley of Decision
was only Peck’s third screen appearance; Spellbound
’s release later in 1945 would see this now – legendary actor on the road to one of Hollywood’s most successful acting careers of all time. Peck is one of those rarities among old-time Hollywood actors – a California native who didn’t change his name. Born Eldred Gregory Peck on April 5, 1916, in La Jolla, California, Peck graduated from San Diego State and studied pre-med at the University of California, but soon discovered he had more interest in acting. He enrolled in New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse, making his Broadway debut in 1942 in The Morning Star
. Barred from military service due to an old spinal injury from a college rowing match, he soon discovered that Hollywood was his for the taking, with many leading men away overseas serving in the armed forces. His handsome looks, warm voice and natural acting ability have seen Peck through a career now entering its sixth decade. Among his most memorable films are The Yearling
(1946) – both Oscar-nominated performances – and To Kill a Mockingbird
(1962), for which he won an Academy Award