Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)
The Names McBride, Michael McBride
Three wishes I'll grant ye, great wishes an' small! But you wish a fourth and you'll lose them all! - King Brian
I don't remember the first time I watched "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" but I hadn't watched it for a few years until recently and got a pleasant surprise. The surprise was not only was it as charming and as fun as I remembered it as a young child I was now able to appreciate what a stunning movie it is with some really great effects, especially when you consider when it was made. There is also the fun of a pre-Bond Sean Connery who sings, yes I did say sings but it is more than just Connery, the effects or the fun it is the entire package from the storyline, the sets right through to all the performances which makes "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" still a joy to watch.
Whilst supposedly looking after Lord Fitzpatrick's (Walter Fitzgerald) estate loveable old Irish rogue Darby O'Gill (Albert Sharpe) is either doing a bit of poaching or down the local inn enjoying a pint and enthralling who ever will listen with his tales of King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea) the Leprechaun King. But when Lord Fitzpatrick hires strapping young Dubliner Michael McBride (Sean Connery - Entrapment) to take over his job, Darby begins to panic especially when it means he and his daughter Katie (Janet Munro - Swiss Family Robinson) will have to move out of the home. With 2 weeks to move out Darby not only tries a bit of matchmaking between Katie and Michael but catches himself King Brian in order to have 3 wishes so he can solve all of his worries.
As a Disney family movie "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" it has to be said is a little bit curious, so you get the fun of Darby and King Brian which will appeal to children, there is a romance and a love triangle which will appeal to older teens and there is the whole quirkiness of Irish life which will appeal to adults. It's a perfectly good blend and all 3 interweave nicely so whilst youngsters will love seeing Darby towering over the Leprechauns in their kingdom adults will enjoy the humour of Darby being this old rogue with a tale of King Brian. But as this story unfolds from being fun, quirky and amusing it sort of turns dark, not sadistic dark but lets just say we have a surprisingly frightening Banshee which shows up towards the end and it is effective enough to scare young children. Of course there is a fun happy ever after ending but I remember as a child being frightened by the Banshee and the scenes which accompany it and I am sure it would still frighten young children now.
There is a reason why it would still scare children because despite its age "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" is one visually impressive movie with some stunning special effects. The scene with the Banshee and the coach of death are better than many effects which are delivered in today's CGI enhanced world. And then there are the scenes of Darby in with the Leprechauns and King Brian, forget computer trickery this was all done with clever use of cameras, lighting and angles. It's so seamless that at times it really looks like actor Albert Sharpe is standing in a room of miniature people, not small actors, I do mean miniatures. It was what Walt Disney was after as part of the promotion of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" was that he had employed real leprechauns and trust me children could easily believe this.
At the centre of all of this is Albert Sharpe who is brilliantly cast as lovable rogue Darby O'Gill, everything you associate with a lovable Irish rogue he delivers from enjoying a drink to spinning a yarn and getting up to mischief. But Sharpe is not alone in being well cast as whilst he may not be the greatest of singer Sean Connery is handsome and kind as Michael McBride which makes the romantic subplot between Michael and Katie work so well, well that and the fact Janet Munro is the epitome of loveliness. Plus of course there is Jimmy O'Dea as King Brian which in many ways delivers exactly what Albert Sharpe delivers just with a bit more mischief making about him.
What this all boils down to is that "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" is as much fun now as when I watched it as a young child. In some ways it's even better because as an adult watching it now it still has everything I remembered enjoying but I can now appreciate what a great technical feat in movie making it was with stunning effects which are as good as anything on offer in today's CGI enhanced world.
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