Jump to content

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Darby O'Gill and the Little People
Directed byRobert Stevenson
Written byLawrence Edward Watkin
Based onDarby O'Gill
by H. T. Kavanagh
Produced byBill Anderson
Walt Disney
StarringAlbert Sharpe
Janet Munro
Sean Connery
Jimmy O'Dea
Kieron Moore
Estelle Winwood
Walter Fitzgerald
CinematographyWinton Hoch
Edited byStanley Johnson
Music byOliver Wallace
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release dates
  • June 24, 1959 (1959-06-24) (Dublin)[1]
  • June 26, 1959 (1959-06-26) (Los Angeles)[1]
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box officeOriginal release:
$2.6 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]
1969 re-release:
$2.3 million (US/ Canada rentals)[3]

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. It was released on Walt Disney Home Video via video cassette in October 1981.[4]


Darby O'Gill and his daughter, Katie, live 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 a púca disguised as Fitzpatrick's horse Cleopatra, Darby is captured by the leprechauns and taken to their mountain lair, Knocknasheega. Brian has brought Darby there to live with him, as he has come to respect and care for Darby even as adversaries, and also to prevent Katie from learning he lost his job, and 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 Stradivarius violin. Darby escapes, and expecting Brian to pursue him, later 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 has caught him, Brian grants him three wishes. Brian tries to trick Darby into making additional wishes, but Darby recalls from their previous encounter 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. Darby tries to show Michael the King whilst he's trapped in a sack, but Michael sees only a rabbit, Darby accidentally wishes that Michael could see Brian, which the fairy king grants with the caveat that "He does see me, he sees me as a rabbit".

Pony Sugrue, the town bully, decides to try 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. When Cleopatra has gotten loose again, Katie chases her to Knocknasheega. Darby later finds Katie fallen at the bottom of a cliff and 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, in order to save him, 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.



Walt Disney conceived the film during a trip to Ireland with the Irish Folklore Commission in 1947.[5] 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, but the script was never produced.[6][7] 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 seanchaithe while developing the film.[8] During casting in London in February 1958, the film's title became Darby O'Gill and the Little People.[9]

Barry Fitzgerald was Disney's first choice to play both Darby and Brian.[8] Sharpe and O'Dea were instead cast in the lead roles after Disney spotted O'Dea in a pantomime.[10] 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.[11] Darby O'Gill and the Little People was Connery's first leading role. Filming started on the Disney backlot in May 1958, though some location work was done at Albertson Ranch in the San Fernando Valley.[12]

Munro and Connery sing a duet in the film titled "Pretty Irish Girl",[13] apparently dubbing over vocals by Brendan O'Dowda and Ruby Murray,[14][15] which was released in the UK as a single in 1959. A demo of Connery singing the song solo was included in the 1992 compilation The Music of Disney: A Legacy of Song.[16]

Dell Comics produced a comic book adaptation of the film in August 1959.[17][18]


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".[19] 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".[20] 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."[21] 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."[22]

Leonard Maltin praises the film in his book The Disney Films, calling it "not only one of Disney's best films, but [also it] is certainly one of the best fantasies ever put on film."[23] In a later article, he included it among a list of outstanding lesser-known Disney films.

The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews, with an average grade of 7 out of 10.[24]

Munro won the 1960 Golden Globe for New Star of the Year for her performance in the film.[25]

Box office[edit]

According to Kinematograph Weekly the film performed "better than average" at the British box office in 1959.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  2. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15
  4. ^ "Disney Films on Cassette". Albuquerque Journal. October 23, 1981. p. 69.
  5. ^ Tony Tracy, 'When Disney Met Delargy: Darby O'Gill and the Irish Folklore Commission', Béaloideas: Journal of the Irish Folklore Society, Vol. 78, 2010 pp 50-59.
  6. ^ "Looking at Hollywood". Chicago Daily Tribune. 30 March 1948. p. 19.
  7. ^ "HOLLYWOOD DOSSIER". New York Times. 6 February 1958. p. X7.
  8. ^ a b "Walt Disney Plans Irish Fantasy Film". Los Angeles Times. 28 October 1957. p. C14.
  9. ^ "M-G-M SIGNS IVES TO BE 'BIG DADDY'". The New York Times. 21 January 1958. p. 34.
  10. ^ "Disney Gets Leprechaun King in Ireland". Chicago Daily Tribune. 26 February 1958. p. b4.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (12 May 1958). "Disney Courts Little People: Leprechauns Overrun Studio as 'Darby O'Gill' Is Created". Los Angeles Times. p. C9.
  13. ^ Duet between Connery and Munro on YouTube.
  14. ^ "Gifted Irish tenor linked with Percy French", The Irish Times, 2 March 2002
  15. ^ O'Dowda-Murray recording on YouTube.
  16. ^ 45 cat 45 cat collectors catalog listing of record.
  17. ^ "Dell Four Color #1024". Grand Comics Database.
  18. ^ Dell Four Color #1024 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)
  19. ^ New York Times Review. Retrieved September 23, 2008
  20. ^ "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". Variety: 6. April 29, 1959.
  21. ^ Stinson, Charles (June 27, 1959). "'Darby O'Gill' Rich in Irish Atmosphere". Los Angeles Times. p. 11.
  22. ^ "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 26 (306): 87. July 1959.
  23. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2000). The Disney Films. Disney Editions. p. 416. ISBN 978-0-7868-8527-5.
  24. ^ "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  25. ^ "Darby O'Gill and the Little People".
  26. ^ Billings, Josh (17 December 1959). "Other better-than-average offerings". Kinematograph Weekly. p. 7.

External links[edit]