Darby O'Gill and the Little People


1h 33m 1959
Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Brief Synopsis

An Irishman enlists help from the king of the leprechauns to secure his daughter's future.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Little People
MPAA Rating
Genre
Fantasy
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
17 Mar--late Jul 1958
Production Company
Walt Disney Productions
Distribution Company
Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Agoura--Albertson Ranch, California, United States; Albertson, California, United States; Albertson Ranch, California, United States; Chatsworth--Rowland V. Lee Ranch, California, United States; San Fernando Valley--Rowland V. Lee Ranch, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Suggested by the "Darby O'Gill" stories by H. T. Kavanagh.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.75 : 1

Synopsis

In Rathcullen, Ireland at the turn of the century, Darby O'Gill runs Lord Fitzpatrick's estate with customary inattentiveness, preferring to tell stories at the pub about his experiences with the leprechauns that live in the nearby Knocknasheega hills. His daughter Katie keeps the estate tidy and tries to cover for her father, but Lord Fitzpatrick catches on to Darby's benign negligence and quietly hires a young Dubliner, Michael McBride, to replace the older man. Meanwhile, Katie's neighbor, Sheelah Sugrue, fancies her arrogant son Pony as the next caretaker, and urges an uninterested Katie to respond to Pony's romantic advances. One day, Father Murphy overhears Darby narrating a tale about his brush with the king of the leprechauns, Brian Connors, in which Brian outsmarted Darby by tricking him into asking for four wishes instead of three, thus immediately canceling all previous wishes. When friend Paddy Scanlon warns that leprechauns are dark magic, Darby jokes that he could cleanse his wished-for gold via the church coffers, prompting Father Murphy to reveal that he has been listening. The priest asks for a volunteer to pick up a church bell donated by a neighboring town, and after Pony refuses to run the errand without pay, Father Murphy convinces Darby to purge his sins by going. As a reward, the priest promises Darby the music of the bells. When Darby returns home, Fitzgerald is there with Michael, showing him the estate's state of disrepair. Darby accepts his demotion, which includes ample lodging at the guesthouse and half pay, but insists that he be allowed to inform Katie. Scheming, Darby then invites Michael to stay with him and Katie in the manor house, and tells Katie that Michael is a hired hand. Although she is attracted to the Dubliner, Katie spurns Michael after he expresses patronizing disbelief about leprechauns. Later, Michael urges Darby to tell Katie the truth, but Darby refuses, instead fetching his spirit horse, Cleopatra, from where she grazes in Knocknasheega. There, Cleopatra leads Darby to a well and nudges him down. Upon landing in the leprechaun palace, a magnificent salon filled with treasure and merrily dancing little people, Darby learns that King Brian believes he is "rescuing" him from his troubles by offering a life of rest and amusement. Not understanding why Darby asks to be returned to Rathcullen, Brian refuses to release him, prompting Darby to plan his escape. Knowing that leprechauns love whiskey, dancing and hunting above all else, Darby plays a hunting tune on his fiddle, playing faster and faster until the little people are whipped into a frenzy. They jump on miniature horses and tear out of the palace to begin a hunt, leaving Darby free to escape through a hole in the wall. He returns to his barn, only to find Brian awaiting him in a fury. Hoping to keep the king until sunrise, at which point his magical powers ebb, Darby tempts him with whiskey and song throughout the night. By morning, he is able to deposit Brian in a sack and order him to grant him three wishes, the first of which is to have the king at his command for the next two days. Darby then enters the manor house and informs a skeptical Katie and Michael that he is hiring Michael permanently with his "new fortune." Later, Katie brings lunch to Michael as he works and the two flirt. After fetching the church bell, Darby brings the wriggling sack into the pub and impresses his friends when the unseen contents consume a glass of whiskey. That night, Darby sneaks outside with the sack and Michael, assuming he is a poacher, waylays him. Trapped, Darby agrees to show him the sack's contents, but Brian transforms himself into a rabbit. When Darby then wishes that Michael could see Brian, Brian deviously agrees, but remains a rabbit. Soon after, Michael and Darby catch sight of Katie as she struggles to avoid Pony's kisses. Darby admits to Brian that he would release him if he could decide how to use his last wish, and Brian, realizing that Darby worries most about Katie's happiness, promises to find her a good man to love. To that end, Brian visits Michael and Katie that night as they sleep, instructing Michael to fall in love and Katie to remain aloof. The next day, the pair cannot help but carry out Brian's commands, and as Katie teasingly runs away from Michael, she collides with Pony, who picks a fight with Michael. After preventing fisticuffs, Katie urges Michael to kiss her. Brian, who is watching with Darby, dances with delight, but just then Darby hears "his" bells and, entranced, puts off making his final wish. The next morning, Sheelah reads a postcard from Fitzgerald that identifies Michael as the new caretaker. After leaving the card where Katie can read it, she encourages Pony to run Michael out of town. Soon after, an angry Katie informs Michael that her father is only trying to save face with his tales about Brian, and although Michael begs her to stay on at the house as his wife, she rebuffs him. Instead, she runs to the pub, where she angrily pulls the sack out of Darby's hand, unintentionally humiliating him by revealing to the crowd a rabbit inside. Later, Michael and Darby discover that Katie has gone to the dangerous hills to retrieve Cleopatra. Michael tries to follow but Pony knocks him out, until Darby finds and revives him. Together, they race into the hills, only to discover Katie near death, a banshee spirit hovering above her. They bring her home, but her fever rages, and as the costa bower, or death coach, approaches, Darby uses his last wish to turn it away. When Brian informs him it will not leave empty, Darby wishes the coach would take him instead of Katie, and Brian sadly accords his wish. As he leaves in the coach, Darby is heartened to see Brian beside him. Brian praises Darby as a grand adversary, and informs him that Katie is now awakening in Michael's arms. He then tricks the despondent Darby into wishing that they could travel to heaven together. Gleefully, Brian announces that this fourth wish has rescinded all previous wishes, and the coach whisks Darby home. Days later, when Pony scoffs at Darby's tale of cheating death, Michael punches him, then announces to the cheering crowd that King Brian told him to do it.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Little People
MPAA Rating
Genre
Fantasy
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
17 Mar--late Jul 1958
Production Company
Walt Disney Productions
Distribution Company
Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Agoura--Albertson Ranch, California, United States; Albertson, California, United States; Albertson Ranch, California, United States; Chatsworth--Rowland V. Lee Ranch, California, United States; San Fernando Valley--Rowland V. Lee Ranch, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Suggested by the "Darby O'Gill" stories by H. T. Kavanagh.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.75 : 1

Articles

Darby O'Gill and the Little People


Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) starred Sean Connery, Janet Munro, Albert Sharpe, and Estelle Winwood in a fantasy about Irishman O'Gill (Sharpe) who falls down a well into the land of the leprechauns and manages to escape with their King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea). Darby and the King play games of cat-and-mouse, and in order to have a wish granted by Brian, Darby must play matchmaker between his daughter (Munro) and the handsome handyman Michael (Connery).

The film was based on the Darby O'Gill stories by H.T. Kavanagh from the turn of the century. Walt Disney had the idea of doing a cartoon series as early as the 1940s, before deciding on a live-action film. He sent artists to Ireland after World War II to get inspiration and announced that he would make the film (then under the working title of The Little People) during a visit to that country in 1948.

Disney originally wanted Barry Fitzgerald to play Darby O'Gill, but he had retired and felt he was too old. Albert Sharpe had come to Disney's attention when playing in Finian's Rainbow onstage in the 1940s, but he had also retired from acting and had to be convinced by Disney to take the role. Disney wanted to keep the illusion that the leprechauns were real, and he and Sharpe appeared in an episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color called I Captured the King of the Leprechauns, in which they "capture" King Brian and ask him and the other leprechauns to appear in the film.

Filming was done primarily on a large set on the Disney lot in Burbank, California over the course of fifteen weeks. Connery and many in the cast enjoyed drinking together in the evenings, but were less happy about their director, Robert Stevenson who directed Old Yeller (1957). They felt that Stevenson was more concerned with the special effects than the actors, and rarely allowed for any improvisation or veering from the script. Stevenson insisted on many retakes, which also angered the actors, who had to work in heavy makeup and costumes in the heat.

Darby O'Gill and the Little People did not wow the critics and was not the smash hit Disney expected. He blamed this on Fitzgerald's refusal to appear in the film. It was not a total loss for everyone, though. Producer Albert Broccoli saw Sean Connery at a preview on the Disney lot and asked his wife what she thought of him. Dana Broccoli felt that Connery had definite sex appeal, so he was tested for the role of James Bond and the rest is cinematic history.

By Lorraine LoBianco

SOURCES:

Clute, John and Grant, John The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

The Internet Movie Database

Pfeiffer, Lee and Lisa, Philip The Films of Sean Connery
Darby O'gill And The Little People

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) starred Sean Connery, Janet Munro, Albert Sharpe, and Estelle Winwood in a fantasy about Irishman O'Gill (Sharpe) who falls down a well into the land of the leprechauns and manages to escape with their King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea). Darby and the King play games of cat-and-mouse, and in order to have a wish granted by Brian, Darby must play matchmaker between his daughter (Munro) and the handsome handyman Michael (Connery). The film was based on the Darby O'Gill stories by H.T. Kavanagh from the turn of the century. Walt Disney had the idea of doing a cartoon series as early as the 1940s, before deciding on a live-action film. He sent artists to Ireland after World War II to get inspiration and announced that he would make the film (then under the working title of The Little People) during a visit to that country in 1948. Disney originally wanted Barry Fitzgerald to play Darby O'Gill, but he had retired and felt he was too old. Albert Sharpe had come to Disney's attention when playing in Finian's Rainbow onstage in the 1940s, but he had also retired from acting and had to be convinced by Disney to take the role. Disney wanted to keep the illusion that the leprechauns were real, and he and Sharpe appeared in an episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color called I Captured the King of the Leprechauns, in which they "capture" King Brian and ask him and the other leprechauns to appear in the film. Filming was done primarily on a large set on the Disney lot in Burbank, California over the course of fifteen weeks. Connery and many in the cast enjoyed drinking together in the evenings, but were less happy about their director, Robert Stevenson who directed Old Yeller (1957). They felt that Stevenson was more concerned with the special effects than the actors, and rarely allowed for any improvisation or veering from the script. Stevenson insisted on many retakes, which also angered the actors, who had to work in heavy makeup and costumes in the heat. Darby O'Gill and the Little People did not wow the critics and was not the smash hit Disney expected. He blamed this on Fitzgerald's refusal to appear in the film. It was not a total loss for everyone, though. Producer Albert Broccoli saw Sean Connery at a preview on the Disney lot and asked his wife what she thought of him. Dana Broccoli felt that Connery had definite sex appeal, so he was tested for the role of James Bond and the rest is cinematic history. By Lorraine LoBianco SOURCES: Clute, John and Grant, John The Encyclopedia of Fantasy The Internet Movie Database Pfeiffer, Lee and Lisa, Philip The Films of Sean Connery

Quotes

Trivia

Walt Disney started planning for this movie in the 1940s. After World War II, Disney sent several artists to Ireland for background material.

Walt Disney visited Ireland in December of 1948 and publicly announced the production of this film, then entitled simply, "The Little People". It would be another decade before the film was actually made.

Notes

The opening credits include the following statement, signed with Walt Disney's signature: "My thanks to King Brian of Knocknasheega and his leprechauns, whose gracious co-operation made this picture possible." The film contains many notable special effects, including those of the spirit horse, banshee and costa bower, all of which appear luminous and ghost-like; and the combination within the same frame of regular-size actors with those who appear to be two-foot-tall leprechauns.
       According to a November 1946 Atlanta Constitution news item, Walt Disney, who was half Irish, originally considered producing a film in Ireland about leprechauns to be entitled The Little People. That film was to star Barry Fitzgerald and feature a combination of live action and animation. Studio press materials note that in 1947 Disney hired Lawrence Edward Watkin to write the film's script, based on the many "Darby O'Gill" stories written by H. T. Kavanagh. A July 1949 NYNews article stated that in that year Disney was still working on The Little People and planned to cast Bing Crosby as Fitzgerald's co-star.
       As noted in studio press materials, Disney made four pre-production trips to Ireland, during which he perfected the story, backgrounds and casting of the film. He concocted a story about meeting the real King Brian and bringing him and his complement of leprechauns to Hollywood for the film. The story was widely quoted by contemporary sources and Disney remained faithful to it.
       Although the final production of Darby O'Gill and the Little People, begun on March 17, 1958, featured mostly Irish actors, it was shot entirely in California, on the Disney lot and on location at the Albertson Ranch in Agoura, CA and the Rowland V. Lee Ranch in San Fernando Valley, CA. The studio borrowed Scottish actor Sean Connery from Twentieth Century-Fox for his role as "Michael McBride." Darby O'Gill and the Little People marked the first film Connery made in the United States.
       According to a July 3, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, the leprechaun's palace set measured 240 x 230 feet, large enough to accommodate 40 horses in a circular dance routine. The Variety review noted that the effect of leaping leprechauns was produced with the use of trampolines. A studio report found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library relates the following special effects information: The mixture of regular-size actors with 21-inch-high live-action leprechauns within the same frame was achieved by blending two shots, one in which actors worked with huge props, according to mathematically determined perspective lines. The banshee and costa bower effects derived from shooting the original in black-and-white against a black background, then printing the negative, which was enlarged and kept out of focus.
       Modern sources note that Stevenson considered dubbing another singer over Connery's voice for the song "Pretty Irish Girl," but eventually decided against it. The song was released as a single in April 1959; later, a wider-selling version was cut for Columbia Records by Ruby Murray and Brendan O'Dowda.
       As noted in a June 26, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Darby O'Gill and the Little People had its world premiere in Dublin, Ireland on June 24, 1959. The day was dubbed "Walt Disney Day" and was proclaimed a school holiday, and the screening raised funds for the country's St. Vincent de Paul Society. The American premiere on June 26, 1959 took place at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, and marked the first time a Disney feature played there.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States March 1985

Released in United States on Video July 17, 1992

Released in United States Summer June 1959

Re-released in United States on Video August 13, 1996

Released in USA on video as part of Walt Disney's Family Film Collection.

Released in United States March 1985 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Fabulous Fifty-Hour Filmex Fantasy Marathon) March 14-31, 1985.)

Released in United States Summer June 1959

Released in United States on Video July 17, 1992

Re-released in United States on Video August 13, 1996