Mora na maidine dhuit! Bail ó Dhia ort. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, that time of year to show your Irish pride and honor the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. So throw on your green sweaters, adorn yourselves in shamrocks and pour yourself a pint of Guinness (or a Shamrock Shake from McDonalds if you, like me, aren't a fan of beer) before sitting back and immersing yourself in the sounds of traditional Irish ballads. But maybe you want to do a bit more than that. Perhaps you also want to treat yourself to a special movie night to celebrate this day. If that is what you choose to do, then your movie night will not be complete without a live action film produced by Disney back in the late 1950s. This film not only follows an old Irish storyteller as he engages in a battle of wits with the King of the Leprechauns, but it also delves into the culture and mythical legends surrounding the Irish people while showing the viewer some of the picturesque old countryside. This is Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
The story takes place in the town of Rathcullen, which is located in the southwestern County Kerry. As the film opens, the Widow Sugrue stops by the estate of Lord Fitzpatrick. She makes her way to the gatehouse, where the movie’s protagonist, Darby O’Gill, lives with his adult daughter, Katie. Darby, as we’ll soon find out, is the caretaker for Lord Fitzpatrick’s estate. At the moment, however, the only one who’s home is Katie, who is in the middle of churning butter. The Widow Sugrue starts things off by asking Katie for a pinch of tea, but then whips out her sales pitch by commenting to Katie about how the latter doesn't have a husband, and how many women have lost their chance at getting married by waiting too long. Before all the feminist extremists start reaching for their torches and pitchforks, please remember that this movie is seemingly set during the 19th century. Besides, the Widow Sugrue as an ulterior motive in all of this. Her objective in bringing up the concept of marriage is to convince Katie to consider marrying her son, Pony. This would, in turn, enable Pony to be able to move into the gatehouse and lay claim to the benefits Darby has obtained from being Lord Fitzpatrick’s caretaker, which clearly is a very prestigious job in this town as Darby and Katie apparently have more than other people in town. Thus, the Widow Sugrue is very eager to either see Pony become the caretaker or to marry Katie.
At that moment, Lord Fitzpatrick arrives at the gatehouse unannounced, much to Katie’s surprise. She hurries out to greet him, telling him that if they knew he was coming, they would have had the manor house open for him. Lord Fitzpatrick assures Katie that he won’t be staying long enough to need the manor house, and inquires about Darby. Briefly, a nervous look appears on Katie’s face, but she quickly recovers and tells him that her father had been talking about cutting the weeds around the summer house and has probably gone into town to have his scythe sharpened. After offering to go and fetch him, Katie dashes off. Once Katie leaves, Lord Fitzpatrick begins a conversation with the young man accompanying him. This is Michael McBride, who is played by none other than a young Sean Connery. Lord Fitzpatrick reveals to Michael that he knows that Darby isn't really getting the scythe sharpened and is most likely off at the inn telling stories. Their conversation is overheard by the Widow Sugrue, who takes the opportunity to try and promote her son, Pony, to Lord Fitzpatrick, insisting that Pony is better suited to be the caretaker.
The action now cuts to Darby, who, as Lord Fitzpatrick predicted, is in the middle of telling his friends down at the local pub about one of his misadventures. According to Darby, he managed to corner King Brian, the King of the Leprechauns, out in the ruins atop Knocknasheega, a mountain that will appear numerous times throughout this movie. Darby’s story is interrupted when some young man jokingly asks if the leprechaun king had a long tail and a cloven hoof. Darby starts to comment on how silly that question is, but stops when he sees who was talking. This is the famous Pony, who is the closest thing this movie has to an actual villain. Pony is essentially a mix of the local bully and the village’s heckler. He regards all the stories about leprechauns and other fairy folk as ridiculous blather and essentially dismisses Darby’s claims of seeing a leprechaun as nothing more that hallucinations brought about by too much drink. After telling Pony off for heckling, the pub’s owner urges Darby to continue. Darby complies by explaining how, upon cornering King Brian on Knocknasheega, he told the leprechaun king that he would not be let go until after he granted Darby’s three wishes. King Brian attempts to trick Darby in order to escape, but Darby informs him that he knows all the Leprechaun’s tricks, and that if King Brian doesn’t grant him his wishes, he’ll have Father Murphy, the village’s priest, lay a curse upon the leprechaun.
King Brian then relents, and tells Darby to make his wishes. Darby proceeds to make his wishes, first by wishing for health, then for a big crop of potatoes. Finally, for his third wish, Darby requests the crock of gold. King Brian grants each wish with a casual air, but when Darby is admiring his gold, King Brian asks what Darby’s fourth wish will be. Darby states that he never heard of the fourth wish, to which King Brian insists that he’s feeling generous that night. Thus, Darby wishes that all of his friends in the village will get a crock of gold of their own. Once Darby makes his wish, King Brian starts laughing and tells Darby “Three wishes I grant you, big wishes or small. But you wish your fourth one, and you lose them all!” With that, Darby’s crock of gold vanishes, as does King Brian.
We then return to the present, where Darby finishes up his tale. One of Darby’s friends, Paddy, warns Darby to stay far away from Knocknasheega and not to meddle around with King Brian. Darby scoffs at his friend’s warning. At that moment, Father Murphy makes his presence known. Unbeknownst to Darby, Father Murphy had entered the pub in time to hear Darby’s story in its entirety. Father Murphy informs everyone in the pub that he had been contacted by the priest in another town. Apparently, the church the other priest presides over had just obtained a brand new bell for their chapel, and the old bell is being donated to them. Since Father Murphy doesn’t have a horse or cart, he is hoping that someone there would be willing to go retrieve the bell in his place. While Pony volunteers his service, he refuses to do the work for free. Instead, Father Murphy then pretty much coerces Darby into volunteering to get the bell, by stating that doing this task might even absolve someone of the sin of using the name of the church against the powers of darkness for their own ends. (Father Murphy clearly is referring to the part of Darby’s story where Darby threated King Brian with the church’s curse in order to get his wishes granted.) A repentant Darby instantly volunteers, stating that he’d do the task for nothing. In response, Father Murphy tells Darby that in return for his good deed, Darby will be given the music of the bell. Obviously, this is a very big deal, if Darby’s reaction is any indication. To be honest, I’m not sure if getting the music of the bell symbolizes anything, but I’m guessing it means Darby and all his descendants will receive God’s blessing every time the bell is rung. If anyone has a better idea of what it means, though, please let me know in the comment section below.
After the deal is made, Katie enters the pub and hurriedly drags Darby away. Back at the estate, Darby joins up with Lord Fitzpatrick and Michael outside the summer house, where Michael has found evidence that someone had been poaching rabbits. Once they’re face to face, Lord Fitzpatrick informs Darby that he’s retiring him as caretaker and giving the position to Michael instead. To make the news easier for Darby, Lord Fitzpatrick will allow Darby and Katie to move into another cottage on the land where they will live rent free. Darby is shaken by the news, but requests that Lord Fitzpatrick allow him to break the news to Katie. Lord Fitzpatrick agrees, but reminds Darby that he has two weeks to get things settled and move out of the gatehouse.
Once Lord Fitzpatrick leaves the estate, Michael is set to head off to the inn, where he will be staying until Darby and Katie can move out of the gatehouse. However, Darby refuses to let him do so, and instead invites him to stay up in the loft. At first, Michael is hesitant, but Darby insists and, when Katie is brought into the conversation, she states that it’s no trouble to give Michael houseroom. It is at this point where we see there is an instant but subtle attraction between Katie and Michael. Meanwhile, the Widow Sugrue, who is currently unaware that Michael has already been slated as the next caretaker, is still trying to promote Pony to Lord Fitzpatrick.
When night falls, Michael is visibly taken aback when he hears Darby telling Katie that Lord Fitzpatrick had only brought him to the estate as seasonal help. While Michael is no doubt conflicted, he doesn’t contradict the lie and remains silent. Before settling down to supper, Darby plays out an upbeat tune on his fiddle. As Darby plays, Michael, as one would expect (hey, this is Disney, after all,) keeps sneaking glances over at Katie, who is busy preparing supper. If Darby notices this, he gives no indication of it, and simply asks Michael if he can identify the tune. Michael states that the song Darby is playing is completely new to him. Darby, upon finishing the song, informs Michal that he heard it out in the old ruins of Knocknasheega, where it was being played by the leprechauns as they danced around in the moonlight. Michael responds by saying “Aren’t they the bold creatures?” Katie, I suppose, heard some sort of patronizing undertone in Michael’s statement, as she instantly gives him a sharp glare and coldly announces that the supper is ready.
After supper, Darby heads off to round up the horse in order to go and pick up the bell for Father Murphy in the morning. Michael offers to go help him, but Darby turns him down. Michael them near scolds Darby for lying to Katie about why Lord Fitzpatrick brought him there, but Darby insists that he can’t just break the news to Katie out of the blue. Darby promises that he’ll tell Katie the truth soon and then heads off to Knocknasheega to get his horse, Cleopatra. When Darby finally catches up to Cleopatra among the ruins, the horse’s face suddenly goes… there’s no other way to put it… trippy. I know that’s a vague description for what happens, but I can’t think of a better one. I managed to stumble across a screenshot, but pictures don’t do it justice. I have absolutely no idea how the film crew made this effect, but my gosh, it’s incredible. And this was done without the use of modern-day computer animation. Whoever managed to create this effect deserves some kind of an award.
Now, gushing aside, this moment is supposed to reveal that Darby’s horse is actually a pooka. Cleopatra the pooka proceeds to rear back and ultimately forces Darby to fall down a deep well. Now, you would think that the fall would have killed Darby, but he actually survives. The reason for this is because the well was actually the entrance to the leprechaun kingdom, so there’s magic there. Darby is greeted by two leprechauns who bring Darby to King Brian’s throne room, where King Brian greets him warmly. Darby soon starts admiring the numerous Irish treasures that fill the throne, such as the throne of Fergus mac Léti, the gold cup of Cormac and the sword Brian Boru used to drive out the Danes.
This is one of the reasons why this movie is such a gem. It’s a tapestry of Irish culture and history. Granted it could be said that it portrays a stereotypical view of the Irish people, but you can tell that Walt Disney did some research when he made this movie. For those who don’t already know, Fergus mac Léti, Cormac mac Airt and Brian Boru were all legendary high kings of Ireland, although Brian Boru is arguably the most famous..
As Darby admires the treasures, he starts to wonder what his friends in town will say when he tells them about what he’s seen. However, King Brian informs Darby that he can never leave. This angers Darby, and he proceeds to berate King Brian for trapping him there after Darby did whatever he could to ensure the people in town showed the proper respect for the leprechauns. This berating enrages the other leprechauns. King Brian then tells Darby that his right hand leprechaun had overheard Lord Fitzpatrick telling Darby that he was being replaced as caretaker, and that King Brian had ensured that Darby be brought to his kingdom to help spare him the troubles of losing his job. Once he hears King Brian’s reasoning, Darby admits that he is grateful towards the leprechaun king. When asked if he would like to play the harp that stands among the treasure, Darby states that he’s rubbish with harps and is much better with the fiddle. He offers to go and fetch his old violin from the gatehouse, but King Brian is one step ahead of him and gifts Darby with a Stradivarius, which has the reputation of being the unparalleled best string instruments money can buy. Darby, knowing that there is nothing leprechauns like more than dancing, whisky and hunting, decides to play the Fox Chase.
The next few minutes are rather pointless. It’s just Darby playing the Stradivarius while all the leprechauns dance around the room. After a while, King Brian and the leprechauns get so into the song, they all mount small white horses and ride them around the throne room for a while before King Brian uses his magic to open up a hole in the side of the mountain, which all the leprechauns ride through. Seeing his chance, Darby slips through the hole after them after pocketing some of King Brian’s cache of jewels. Darby just manages to make it outside before the hole closes up again, but unfortunately the treasure he tried to make off with had all fallen through a hole in his pocket, much to the amusement of Cleopatra the pooka, who was inexplicably waiting outside for Darby.
Back at the gatehouse, Darby is busy in the stables, drawing the curtains over the windows and pulling a jug of whisky off the shelf. When he notices that Cleopatra is giving him the eye, Darby informs her that he’s expecting company. Darby’s prediction soon proves true, as King Brian appears in the stable. He is not happy with Darby for tricking him. Darby tells King Brian that he only came back to retrieve his pipe. There is nothing else he wants from his old home and he is eager to return to the leprechaun kingdom. He goes on to tell King Brian that he doesn't even want the jug of whisky, which he would offer to King Brian except that it wasn't good enough to please the little king. King Brian, however, insists to judge the whisky for himself. King Brian finds the whisky to be pleasing, and soon decides that they have plenty of time to return to the mountain. In no time at all, Darby and King Brian strike up a drinking song as they continue to drink the whisky, although Darby secretly refrains from drinking a single drop.
It soon becomes clear that King Brian is beginning to drink too much. So much so that he doesn't realize how much time has passed until he hears a rooster crowing outside. It turns out that this was Darby’s plan, as he knew King Brian’s magic was hindered during the day. Thus, King Darby cannot escape the stable and is essentially trapped. King Brian is enraged that he was tricked twice in a row and vows that when his magic returns when night comes, he will place a curse on Darby for his deceitfulness. Darby simply laughs off the threats and sets the farm’s cat onto King Brian. Once King Brian is effectively cornered by the cat, Darby tells him that he’ll call off the cat if King Brian agrees to give Darby his three wishes. The frantic King Brian agrees, and Darby pulls the cat away. Slyly, King Brian offers Darby as many wishes as he wants, but Darby informs King Brian that he remembers their last encounter and what happens when you make a fourth wish. Deciding that he wants to protect his last two wishes, Darby makes his first wish that King Brian will be at his beck and call for a fortnight until he makes his next two wishes. King Brian, again, is furious, but when Darby once again threatens him with the farm cat, King Brian grants the first wish. When King Brian asks how he’s to protect himself until Darby makes his next two wishes, Darby pulls out a rucksack and stuffs the protesting King Brian into it. Upon exiting the stable, Darby is displeased to see the Widow Sugrue skulking around the gatehouse again. It’s clear that Darby has no tolerance for this old woman and her tendency of always going around begging for various things. Perhaps Darby feels that the Widow Sugrue is leeching off of them, and after seeing some of the Widow Sugrue’s actions, I have to agree that Darby’s assessment is spot on.
Inside, Michael has just woken up and is greeted by Katie. Both have just noticed that Darby is absent, but Katie is confident that he will turn up. Their conversation turns to Darby’s talk of the leprechauns. Michael reveals his skepticism by commenting that he suspects Darby simply drinks too much. Katie, however, informs him that Darby isn’t a drinking man and that he goes down to the pub because he’s been lonely since Mrs. O’Gill passed away and enjoys the company. Michael asks Katie what she does when she gets lonely, to which Katie states that she keeps busy. She then tells Michael that there’s a dance that night in town and suggests that he go with her. Michael gracefully declines, but asks that Katie call him Michael. (Up to now, she’s been calling him Mr. McBride.) With a wide smile, Katie states that she hasn’t known him for more than a day, so she won’t be calling him by his first name until she’s known him longer. Darby chooses that moment to enter the room, asking what the Widow Sugrue was doing around the place. He warns Katie that both the old widow and her son, Pony, are not to be trusted as they’re most likely up to no good. After that conversation is over, Darby no doubt thinking about King Brian and his two remaining wishes, tells Katie that there’s been a change in their fortunes and that he might be buying the manor house. However, Katie is completely uninterested with the thought of living in the manor house. Darby tries to find out what Katie would want, but Katie takes up a tone of finality and tells him to pipe down and eat his breakfast.
We now reach one of the highlights of the movie. Sometime later, Katie is going out to bring some food to Michael, who is busy cutting the weeds around the summer house. She finds him in the middle of singing the tune ‘Pretty Irish Girl,’ a song that, from my brief internet research, was apparently written for the movie. Yes, that’s right, everyone. Sean Connery, the man who would go on to become one of the most iconic James Bond actors, voice a dragon and portray Indiana Jones’ father to boot among other notable roles, actually sings in this movie. While there are some that suspect Connery’s singing was dubbed by Irish singer Ruby Murray, Michael’s deeper singing voice does not match that of the vocally trained Murray. Thus, I am confident that it really is Connery singing here, and I’m sure any fan of his acting needs to see this scene. As for the song itself, it is far too catchy for its own good. I guarantee you’ll at least be humming it for quite a while after seeing this movie.
As Katie gives Michael the food she prepared him, they strike up a playful conversation that begins when Katie warms Michael about the dangers of eating hot bread, which prompts Michael to comment on how he probably needs someone to look after him. Michael also questions Katie if Darby said anything to her before leaving to pick up Father Murphy’s bell, checking to see if he came clean to her about his retirement. However, Darby clearly still hasn’t told Katie the truth and merely told Katie that he (Michael) was a good lad. When Michael asks Katie if she agrees with that statement, she coyly says she doubts it before dashing off with a wide smile.
Later on, Darby returns home with Father Murphy’s bell. After delivering the donated bell, Darby steps into the pub and, when his friends notice that the rucksack Darby’s carrying is moving, Darby tells him that King Brian is inside the rucksack. While the disbelieving Pony and his cronies state that it’s probably just a chicken and leave the pub. the others believe Darby’s claim, which is proven to them when Darby lowers a small glass of the pub’s finest whisky down to King Brian, who, upon finishing it, tosses the now-empty glass back up to Darby. The witnesses to this are stunned into silence, with the bartender placing the glass in question up on high shelf, stating that they’ll be repeating that story. “And if any man doubts the truth of it, there's the very same glass,” she announces.
That night, Darby arrives home to find Katie getting ready for the previously mentioned dance, singing the very same song Michael had been singing earlier. She tells Darby that Michael is off doing the rounds for Darby, checking around for poachers. Darby leaves to catch up to him and, as he hurries through the grounds, Michael suddenly leaps out of the darkness, tackling him. And on a personal note, this moment always makes me chuckle. I have no idea why, but I find the image of Michael quite literally popping up out of nowhere to tackle Darby quite funny. Once Michael realizes that it’s only Darby, he apologizes, saying he thought Darby was a poacher. However, when Michael sees Darby’s rucksack, he concludes that there’s a rabbit inside and initially refuses to return it. Darby informs Michael that he’d captured the king of the Leprechauns, and even allows Michael to look inside the rucksack. However, since night has fallen, King Brian has regained his magic and ensures that Michael only sees him as a rabbit. Sadly, Darby wishes that Michael could see King Brian. At that moment, King Brian gleefully informs Darby that his second wish has been granted. Flustered and unhappy that he wasted his second wish, Darby demands that King Brian go on and let Michael see him. King Brian, the slippery little bugger he is, tells Darby that Michael can see him: he sees him as a rabbit. However, King Brian takes pity on Darby and promises him that Michael can see his true self in his dreams that night.
Elsewhere, the town’s dance has just come to an end, and Katie is leaving the dance hall, accompanied by a man named Sean. After complementing Katie on her dancing, Sean offers to see Katie home, but before she can reply, Pony steps in and says that Katie can ride home with him. While Sean starts to protest, his words trail off when Pony literally twists his arm, forcing Sean to back down. Thus, Pony is the one who brings Katie back to the gatehouse. Once they’re there, Pony makes an obvious attempt to kiss Katie, but she simply bids him goodnight and heads inside. She is met with Darby, who had been waiting up for her. Darby begins to scold Katie for riding home with someone like Pony and tells her to stay away from him. Once Katie has gone off to bed, Darby has a heart-to-heart with King Brian, who had been hiding nearby. King Brian warns Darby that if he doesn't make his final wish soon and let him return home to Knocknasheega, his leprechaun army would retaliate by going after Katie. Darby admits that he doesn't know what to wish for. It turns out that Darby wants his last wish to ensure Katie’s happiness, but he has no idea what would accomplish that goal. King Brian suggests that perhaps Katie really wants is a steady lad with temperate ways. Darby states that if Katie found love with a man like that, he would gladly make his third with. Thus, as the night goes on, King Brian slips into matchmaker mode by entering into the dreams of Michael and Katie in turn. With Michael, he places the idea into his head to take Katie up to the ruins of Knocknasheega after Sunday mass. Once he’s done with Michael, King Brian makes his way to Katie’s room. I’m not quite sure what he convinces her to do, but I suppose he’s encouraging her to play hard to get.
Because of King Brian’s influence, Katie and Michael journey up to Knocknasheega on Sunday. While they’re up there, I imagine King Brian’s leprechauns are working their magic to ensure that the pair falls in love. The quasi-date starts off with Michael reciting the poem The Pillars of Old Ireland, with some paraphrasing. Seamlessly, the pair starts to playfully flirt with each other, culminating with Michael chasing a laughing Katie across the mountainside. Their fun is brought to a screeching halt when Katie literally runs into Pony. For a few tense moments, Pony and Michael face each other down, but before anyone can throw a punch, Katie leaps to Michael’s defense, telling Pony that if he lays so much as a finger on Michael, she’ll never speak to him again. Pony wordlessly steps aside, his smarmy smirk never leaving his face. Once they’re out of earshot, Michael essentially tells Katie that he doesn't need her help against someone like Pony. In response, Katie insists that Pony would have killed him, but when asked, she claims that she wouldn't have cared if Michael had died, because she doesn't have the slightest interest in him. Despite her words, Katie leans in for a kiss. Instead of complying, Michael sidesteps around her to walk off. Before he takes five steps however, Katie hurries after him and kisses him.
Unbeknownst to the pair, a gleeful Darby and King Brian had been watching the exchange. Thrilled over the fact that Katie and Michael have now fallen in love, Darby prepares to make his third wish, but stops when he hears the chapel bell ringing. Remembering Father Murphy’s promise that the music of the bell would belong to Darby, he tells King Brian that he’ll make his final wish the following day in order to fully enjoy listening to the bell ringing.
The next morning, Pony delivers the mail to the post office. (Pony’s job is to bring the town’s mail from the train station to the post office.) Also in the post office is the Widow Sugrue, who is apparently friends with Mrs. O’Toole, the woman who works there. As Mrs. O’Toole, goes through the mail Pony has delivered, she and the Widow Sugrue come across a postcard from Lord Fitzpatrick, which is addressed to Michael. Apparently, these two women have no sense of privacy, for they read the postcard and learn the true reason why Michael had been brought to the estate. At the conniving Mrs. O’Toole’s urging, the Widow Sugrue volunteers to bring the postcard to the estate herself, to see if Katie knows. Before she does so, however, the Widow Sugrue meets with Pony to tell him what she’s found out and suggesting that perhaps Pony would be able to run Michael out of town.
That night, Michael enters the gatehouse to find Katie in the process of packing up her and Darby’s things. She directs Michael’s attention to the postcard from Lord Fitzpatrick, which is sitting on the nearby table. Upon reading the postcard, Michael turns to Katie with a guilty expression on his face, prompting Katie to ask why Michael didn't tell her before. Michael explains that Darby made him promise not to, but tells the now tearful Katie that he doesn't want them to go at all. These words have the opposite effect on Katie, and she lashes out at Michael for taking her father’s job when he himself is fully capable of finding work anywhere. Now angry, Michael grabs Katie’s arm to keep her from running out, informing her that he doesn't want Darby’s job unless he can have the both of them with it. He proceeds to confess that he loves Katie and wants her to remain in the gatehouse as his wife. Katie, however, responds to Michael’s confession with scorn and storms out of the gatehouse.
Out at the village pub, everyone has gathered to watch Darby make his third wish. Before he can do so, however, Katie hurries in to get her father to help her catch the horse, Cleopatra, who has run off again. Darby, solely focused on making his third wish, virtually ignores her pleas, and in despite frustration, Katie shoves the rucksack containing King Brian aside, enabling the leprechaun king to escape in his form as a rabbit.
To be honest, I’m a bit confused about this. Earlier, it said that leprechauns like King Brian lose their magic during the day. But it’s clearly daytime here, as evidenced by the sun being out, and King Brian is able to take the shape of a rabbit. Maybe King Brian had managed to conserve a little magic for emergencies? Then again, perhaps I simply don’t understand the intricate laws of the leprechauns and their magic.
Realizing that Darby won’t be helping her, Katie returns to the estate to do the job herself. Before she can go after Cleopatra, she is stopped by the concerned Michael, who tells her that if she goes up the mountain with night falling, she could get herself killed. Katie, however, is still angry and refuses Michael’s offer to get the horse for her and strikes him across the cheek with the horse’s halter before running out into the night. Michael tries to follow her, but Pony suddenly appears behind him and hits Michael over the head, rendering him unconscious. Pony them proceeds to carry Michael over to the manor house and leaves him propped against the doorway, taking careful measures to make it look like Michael is passed out drunk, in the hopes that Lord Fitzpatrick, who is to return the following morning, will find Michael in his current state and conclude that he is a poor candidate for caretaker.
Meanwhile, Darby, who has failed to catch King Brian, returns home to the gatehouse, looking for Katie. When he finds Lord Fitzpatrick’s postcard, he realizes that Katie must have read it and now knows the truth. Frantically, Darby starts searching the grounds and finds the unconscious Michael. At first, Darby believes that Michael is indeed drunk, but upon seeing his reactions upon waking up, is able to devise the truth. Michael tells Darby where Katie has gone, which deeply concerns Darby, as he knows that Katie is chasing after a pooka.
At that moment, Darby hears the haunting sound of a woman wailing in the wind and recoils in fear. He recognizes sound as the cry of the banshee, which he’d last heard on the night Mrs. O’Gill passed away. Without hesitation, Darby and Michael hurry off to the mountain to find Katie in time. After a search, Darby finds Katie lying unconscious just below a ledge she clearly fell off of. Darby hurries down to her side, but the moment he reaches her, a bolt of lightning lights the sky, and the banshee appears. Like the effect with Cleopatra the pooka earlier, the appearance of the banshee is quite remarkable. So much so, that she actually frightened a lot of younger children who watched this movie. Even today, those individuals, despite being fully grown now, admit they still find the banshee scary. Thus, I again have to applaud the special effects team.
Darby, though clearly frightened of the apparition, manages to drive her away by throwing his lantern at her. This seems to do the trick, as the banshee disappears as the lantern collides with the side of the mountain, bursting into flame. Darby and Michael bring the now sick and injured Katie back to the gatehouse before summoning Father Murphy. Now that I think about it, one would think they would have called in the doctor instead of the priest, but perhaps they were hoping Father Murphy would be able to help pray Katie better. However, regardless of the reasoning, it appears that Father Murphy can do nothing for Katie, and, judging by the expressions on Darby and Michael’s face, starts to get ready to perform the last rites upon the young woman.
Darby suddenly starts hearing the banshee’s wailing once again. Wordlessly, he slips out of the room and hurries to the front door. The moment he opens it, BOOM! The banshee is RIGHT THERE! In our faces. And that scene terrified a lot of kids when they saw this scene for the first time, myself included. Even the Nostalgia Critic placed this scene in the Number 1 slot of his Top 11 Scariest Nostalgic Moments.
Anyway, Darby tries to chase off the banshee with a nearby shovel, but he stops when he sees the Cóiste Bodhar approaching. Now, in Irish folklore, the Cóiste Bodhar, otherwise known as the Death Coach, is a harbinger of death. Knowing that the coach is coming for Katie, Darby summons King Brian and begs him to send the coach away. King Brian states that the Cóiste Bodhar is beyond his power, and once it sets out, it cannot return empty. Darby then tells King Brian to grant him his third wish and allow the coach to take him in place if Katie. King Brian, after trying to talk Darby out of it to no avail, sadly grants the wish before disappearing. And so, when the Cóiste Bodhar comes to a stop outside the gatehouse, Darby willingly climbs inside.
As Darby is carried off to the other side, King Brian appears once again, stating that he came back to bid him farewell. Finally, King Brian acknowledges Darby as a worthy adversary. He then tells Darby that Katie’s fever broke the instant Darby set foot inside the coach. As a final request, Darby asks King Brian to keep an eye on Katie and Michael for him, to which King Brian agrees to do. Suddenly, a sly grin appears on King Brian’s face and he announces that he wishes he could stay with Darby for the whole trip to the other side. Darby echoes the wish. Immediately, King Brian begins to laugh in triumph. “Darby, you've wished your fourth wish!” he announces. With the fourth wish now nullifying Darby’s third, King Brian zaps Darby out of the coach, which rides off without him.
Sometime later, Darby is regaling to his friends about his experience on the Cóiste Bodhar. Like before, Pony, who is present, laughs at Darby’s claims and announces that he’ll be glad to move to the town of Cahersiveen because he’s had quite enough of hearing the ridiculous stories about the little people. At that moment, Michael enters the pub, asking Pony what kind of man doesn't believe in the leprechauns. He then continues to say he remembers someone hit him over the head on that fateful night, and, thinking it was a leprechaun, he asked King Brian about it. According to Michael, King Brian told him that Pony should take the consequences, and instructed Michael to “clout the blackguard in the face.” Instantly, a fistfight erupts between Michael and Pony, much to the delight of the bystanders, who have clearly all wanted to see someone challenge Pony for years. After a brief fight, Michael defeats Pony and walks out of the pub arm-in-arm with Darby. Together, they join Katie, who is waiting by the carriage, and they all ride back to the gatehouse, with Michael and Katie once again singing Pretty Irish Girl, this time as a duet. On that note, no pun intended, the movie comes to a close.
As a whole. Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a rather decent film. While it might not be one of Disney’s best achievements and could easily be clumped together with some of their earlier obscure life-action films like The Three Lives of Thomasina, So Dear to My Heart and Toby Tyler. But for what it is, it’s a rather imaginative fantasy story. In fact, Walt Disney was so invested in making this story, he began planning for the film about ten years before it was released, and when WWII came to an end, Walt Disney and several of his artists even journeyed to Ireland themselves in order to gain the needed background material. In addition, it has been reported that his appearance in this film was what brought Sean Connery to the attention of director Albert R. Broccoli, who later cast Connery as James Bond. Thus, in a way, we can thank this film for giving us one of the most iconic of 007 actors.
What’s particular interesting about the movie is that there are some moments where you have to make your own interpretations. For example, when Michael and Katie are out on their quasi-date up on Knocknasheega, there is no way to confirm that King Brian’s leprechauns are influencing the pair to fall in love. It’s only hinted at `when King Brian visits their dreams. What’s more, as the film comes to an end with Michael finally confronting Pony, we only have Michael’s word that he actually spoke to King Brian about the identity of Michael’s attacker. It’s up to us to decide for ourselves if Michael really did talk to King Brian or if he’s only claiming he did because he’s not the type of man to fight Pony based solely on a suspicion he can’t prove.
In closing, this movie is an ideal way to begin introducing children and even some adults to Irish folklore and history. Although, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on your children afterwards, for they might go out trying to catch a leprechaun themselves.