Darby O’Gill and the Little People **** (1959, Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery, Jimmy O’Dea, Kieron Moore, Estelle Winwood, Walter Fitzgerald, Denis O’Dea) – Classic Movie Review 6916
Director Robert Stevenson’s superlative 1959 Disney children’s film entertainment Darby O’Gill and the Little People is an often inspired mix of warm Irish charm and sly Gaelic hokum. It is very ably handled by old-time craftsman director Stevenson, and it all looks lovely in Winton C Hoch’s Technicolor cinematography, a splendidly unreal colour that is ideal for such a fantasy film.
Spectacular special-effects photography integrates crusty fibber Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe) and hundreds of frolicking leprechauns as the wily old Irish codger makes a deal with King Brian (Jimmy O’Dea) for his pretty daughter Katie O’Gill (Janet Munro) to marry shy but handsome and strapping young Michael McBride (Connery) from Dublin. It is a sweet family entertainment but genuinely scary scenes for smaller kids include the sighting of a banshee and the appearance of the Death Coach.
Uncle Walt Disney produced it himself and insisted that this fun-packed children’s fantasy was made with the co-operation of King Brian of Knocknasheega, the leader of the little people to whom the film owes its success.
Lawrence Edward Watkin’s screenplay is based on Irish-American writer Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s Darby O’Gill books, Darby O’Gill and the Good People (1903) and The Ashes of Old Wishes And Other Darby O’Gill Tales. The film’s development began with Walt Disney’s visit to Ireland and the Irish Folklore Commission in 1947.
The duet ‘Pretty Irish Girl’, apparently sung by Connery and Munro, has been alleged to feature dubbed vocals by Irish singers.
Also in the cast are Kieron Moore, Estelle Winwood, Walter Fitzgerald, Denis O’Dea, J G Devlin, Jack MacGowran, Farrell Pelly and Nora O’Mahony.
It was filmed some distance from Ireland – in California at the Albertson Ranch, Triunfo, and the Rowland V Lee Ranch, Canoga Park, Los Angeles, and at the Walt Disney Studios, Burbank.
Producer Albert R Broccoli saw and liked Connery in this movie and cast him as James Bond in Dr No (1962). Broccoli admired Connery’s performance and was especially impressed by his fight with a village bully in the film. So it is an important film for Connery, though he has already appeared in No Road Back, Hell Drivers, Action of the Tiger, Time Lock (all 1957) and Another Time, Another Place (1958).
Darby O’Gill and the Little People is directed by Robert Stevenson, runs 93 minutes, is produced by Walt Disney Productions, is released by Buena Vista, is written by Lawrence Edward Watkin, based on H T Kavanagh’s Darby O’Gill stories, is shot in Technicolor by Winton C Hoch, is produced by Walt Disney, is scored by Oliver Wallace, and is designed by Carroll Clark, with special effects by Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett and Joshua Meador.
© Derek Winnert 2018 Classic Movie Review 6916
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