A. J. Cronin's novel was brought to the screen by director Carol Reed. The film is set in a northern England mining town (far more realistically depicted than the back-lot Welsh village in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley. The parents of Michael Redgrave have labored long and hard so that their son can escape his grimy environs and make something of himself. While away at school, Redgrave is trapped into marriage by Margaret Lockwood, previously the lady friend of ill-tempered Emlyn Williams (the actor was himself a product of the Welsh mining community). When Lockwood and Williams resume their romance, the disillusioned Redgrave returns home, where he becomes deeply involved in a labor dispute. He ultimately decides that it is best for all if he remains in the village of his birth, working tirelessly on behalf of his friends, relatives and neighbors. Denied the larger budgets indigenous to Hollywood films, Carol Reed invested a gritty documentary "feel" into The Stars Look Down; the film brought him international acclaim, serving as a stepping stone for even greater cinematic accomplishments. Curiously, Reed himself didn't subscribe to A. J. Cronin's opinions vis-a-vis the nationalization of the coal mines; he was simply attracted to the dramatic possibilities of the tale.
by Hal Erickson synopsis