Darby O'Gill and the Little People
Darby O'Gill and the Little People is a 1959 American fantasy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Productions, adapted from the Darby O'Gill stories of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh. Directed by Robert Stevenson and written by Lawrence Edward Watkin, the film stars Albert Sharpe as O'Gill alongside Janet Munro, Sean Connery, and Jimmy O'Dea.
|Darby O'Gill and the Little People|
|Directed by||Robert Stevenson|
|Produced by||Bill Anderson|
|Written by||H. T. Kavanagh (stories)|
Lawrence Edward Watkin
|Music by||Oliver Wallace|
|Edited by||Stanley Johnson|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||Original release:|
$2.6 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)
$2.3 million (US/ Canada rentals)
Darby O'Gill and his daughter, Katie, live together in Rathcullen, a small Irish town, where Darby is the caretaker for Lord Fitzpatrick's estate. Darby continually tries to catch a tribe of leprechauns, particularly their king, Brian Connors.
Lord Fitzpatrick retires Darby, replacing him with a young Dubliner named Michael McBride. Darby begs Michael not to tell Katie he has been replaced, and he reluctantly agrees. While chasing Fitzpatrick's horse, Cleopatra, who is actually a pooka, Darby is captured by Brian and the leprechauns and taken to their mountain lair, Knocknasheega. Brian brought Darby there to prevent Katie from learning he lost his job. Darby cannot leave Knocknasheega as a consequence.
Darby tricks the leprechauns into opening the mountain and leaving by playing "The Fox Chase" on Brian's violin. Darby escapes, and expecting Brian to pursue him, engages him in a drinking game with a jug of poitín, allowing him to capture the leprechaun at sunrise when his magic has no effect. Since Darby caught him, Brian grants him three wishes, but warns that wishing for a fourth forfeits them all. Darby's first wish is for Brian to stay by his side for two weeks or until Darby runs out of wishes. Brian tricks Darby into using his second wish to draw Katie and Michael closer together.
Pony Sugrue, the town bully, decides to take Michael's new job and Katie for himself. Pony's mother, Sheelah, tells Katie about Darby's retirement, causing Katie to angrily confront Darby and Michael. Katie discovers Cleopatra has gotten loose again and chases her to Knocknasheega. Darby later finds her stricken with a deadly fever. A banshee appears and summons the Dullahan on a death coach to transport Katie's soul. Brian sadly grants Darby's third wish to take Katie's place. Inside the death coach, Brian consoles Darby, then tricks him into wishing he would have Brian's company in the afterlife. This counts as a fourth wish and Brian voids all his others. Darby is freed from the death coach and returns to Katie, who makes a full recovery. Michael later confronts and humiliates Pony at the pub. Michael and Katie fall in love with Darby's approval.
- Albert Sharpe as Darby O'Gill
- Janet Munro as Katie O'Gill
- Sean Connery as Michael McBride
- Jimmy O'Dea as King Brian
- Kieron Moore as Pony Sugrue
- Estelle Winwood as Widow Sheelah Sugrue
- Walter Fitzgerald as Lord Fitzpatrick
- Denis O'Dea as Father Murphy
- J.G. Devlin as Tom Kerrigan
- Jack MacGowran as Phadrig Oge (King Brian's adjutant)
- Farrell Pelly as Paddy Scanlon
- Nora O'Mahoney as Molly Malloy
Walt Disney conceived the film during a trip to Ireland with the Irish Folklore Commission in 1947. The following year, Disney announced he would make a film titled Three Wishes, based on a script from Watkin about an Irishman battling a leprechaun, which was to involve both live action and animation. However, the script was never produced. Disney took a second trip to Ireland in 1956 and announced a new film that October, The Three Wishes of Darby O'Gill, based on Kavanagh's 1903 book Darby O'Gill and the Good People, retaining Watkin as writer. Disney studied Gaelic folklore for three months at the Dublin Library and received input from seanchaí while developing the film. During casting in London in February 1958, the film's title became Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
Barry Fitzgerald was Disney's first choice to play both Darby and Brian. Sharpe and O'Dea were instead cast in the lead roles after Disney spotted O'Dea in a pantomime. Munro was cast in March after Disney signed her for a five-year contract, while Connery was borrowed from 20th Century Fox, where he was then under contract. Filming started on the Disney backlot in May 1958, though some location work was done at Albertson Ranch in the San Fernando Valley.
Munro and Connery sing a duet in the film titled "Pretty Irish Girl", apparently dubbing over vocals by Brendan O'Dowda and Ruby Murray, which was released in the UK as a single in 1959. Connery recorded the song solo for the 1992 compilation The Music of Disney: A Legacy of Song.
Writing for The New York Times, A. H. Weiler praised the cast but described Connery as "merely tall, dark, and handsome", and called the film an "overpoweringly charming concoction of standard Gaelic tall stories, fantasy and romance." Variety called the film a "rollicking Gaelic fantasy" with "meticulously painstaking production" and "a gem" of a performance from Sharpe, though Connery was called "artificial" and "the weakest link in Robert Stevenson's otherwise distinguished direction." Charles Stinson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Being a Disney product, it is as technically perfect a job as can be had: the Technicolor, the camera work, the special effects, the Irish music and all are a rich feast for anyone's eye and ear." The Monthly Film Bulletin called the special effects "brilliantly executed" but found that "all attempts at Irish charm seem pretty synthetic, a notable exception being the playing of Jimmy O'Dea, who makes King Brian the most likeable and beguiling leprechaun yet to appear on the screen."
Leonard Maltin praises the film in his book The Disney Films, calling it "not only one of Disney's best films, but is certainly one of the best fantasies ever put on film." In a later article he included it among a list of outstanding lesser-known Disney films.
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- "You'll Love Janet Munro!: Bright-Eyed British Film Beauty Has Everything, Including a Long Term Disney Contract". Chicago Daily Tribune. 13 July 1958. p. f30.
- Scheuer, Philip K. (12 May 1958). "Disney Courts Little People: Leprechauns Overrun Studio as 'Darby O'Gill' Is Created". Los Angeles Times. p. C9.
- on YouTube.
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- on YouTube.
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- New York Times Review. Retrieved September 23, 2008
- "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". Variety: 6. April 29, 1959.
- Stinson, Charles (June 27, 1959). "'Darby O'Gill' Rich in Irish Atmosphere". Los Angeles Times. p. 11.
- "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 26 (306): 87. July 1959.
- Maltin, Leonard (2000). The Disney Films. Disney Editions. p. 416. ISBN 978-0-7868-8527-5.
- "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
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