Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a 1959 film from Disney which features the future James Bond, Sean Connery, three years before he appeared in Dr. No. It tells a musical tale of leprechauns, love, and life in the small Irish town of Rathcullen. Darby (played by veteran actor Albert Sharpe) and his daughter, Katie (played by the beautiful Janet Munro), take care of the manor house and grounds for Lord Fitzpatrick’s estate.
Due to Darby’s age, Lord FitPatrick has decided to retire him and bring in Michael McBride (played by Connery) to take care of his estate. At the time, Darby is at the local pub telling stories about Brian Connors, the king of the Leprechauns, rather than taking care the weeds growing around the estate. When he finds out about Fitzpatrick’s plans, he swears McBride to secrecy so Katie won’t worry.
After the King “helps” Darby by whisking him away to the leprechauns’ magical home under Knocknasheega Mountain, Darby tricks his way out of the mountain. He then tricks the King into staying with him until daybreak in order to capture him and get three wishes.
Leprechauns being quite tricksy, however, the wishes and circumstances don’t seem to work out quite the way Darby envisioned. King Brian, while mischievous, is not completely mean and comes through in the end.
This film makes significant and effective use of forced perspective to show all the little people with Darby. The background matte paintings are incredibly well done, and care was taken to make the sets look appropriate to the period.
The music by Oliver Wallace is lively and makes extensive use of traditional Irish tunes and instruments. Connery and Munro also had a great duet together.
Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a fun film all the way through, and all the main characters and most of secondary characters were endearing and interesting. The “villains” were more pitiable than hateable, and they got their more-or-less just desserts in typical Disney fashion.
While the plot was pretty predictable, it was a fun ride and everyone should see if at least once. I recommend multiple viewings, however. Even after 54 years, Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a solid and enjoyable film for everyone.
Release Date: June 26, 1959 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (tricksy drinking with leprechauns, typical pub social drinking)
Violence: 1 (banshee attack, head whacking, bar fight)