Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!! Ah, the day of my people – tragically turned into amateur hour every year by a bunch of idiots who can’t handle their whiskey but have 3 different “Boondock Saints” posters in their apartments. No matter! Tis a magical day, and a perfect excuse to pour myself a drink and review one of the Conroy Family’s most treasured movies: “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”!!!
Between this movie and “The Quiet Man“, I had a very definitive idea of what Ireland was like throughout my childhood. Imagine my surprise then, when I finally got to Dublin at the age of 20 to find everyone drinking Smirnoff Ices and telling me to “Fock Off”. *sigh* I miss it all the time.
The movie opens on a lovely Irish town complete with prominent church steeple and farm animals wandering through the streets. Damned Protestant cows!! A meddling hag named Mrs. Sugrue heads into the O’Gill house to be a nosy old biddy and immediately starts badgering our dear poor Katie about getting married. But Katie has other problems, like making excuses for her father Darby, the world’s worst Estate Caretaker who is spending the workday spinning yarns down at the pub.
He’s telling anyone who will listen about a run-in he had with none other than King Brian Connors (perfect), Supreme Commander of the Leprechauns. He caught him, and was granted 3 wishes. But then King Brian – scoundrel of scoundrels – asked Darby what his fourth wish was, and when Darby answered all his other wishes were undone, and he lost all his gold. That’s Wishing 101, you guys. The town priest is not impressed, and is throwing serious Catholic side-eye at Darby.
Katie wrestles Darby out of the pub and brings him home so he can be fired by the Estate owner in person. His replacement? Oooooh, gurl! It’s Sean Connery and his spectacular eyebrows, playing Michael McBride!:
Michael promises Darby to keep the job change a secret from Katie, and to not take over for 2 weeks. But so much can change in a fortnight!
Later that night Darby goes chasing up a steep hillside after this real asshole horse who just will NOT stay in its barn. The horse leads Darby to the very top, where there are some pretty sketchy ruins about. Ruins that look almost, leprechaun-y, if you ask me. All of a sudden the horse turns technicolor (???) and kicks Darby into a well, because as I mentioned before – that horse is an asshole.
When he comes to, a couple sass-mouth leprechauns mock him and then take him to see King Brian. Also – they know who he is on sight, meaning that Darby’s stories about dealing with leprechauns in the past were all VERY TRUE. So just remember that the next time some drunk in the bar is telling you he once fought Paul Bunyan. Because he definitely did.
Darby comes into the King’s chamber, and upon this delightful scene:
Darby has his audience with the King and is told that now that he has seen their lair – he can NEVER LEAVE AGAIN. Pffft, trying to tell O’Gill what to do? Naw. King Brian asks him to play the fiddle, and Darby obliges – playing a jaunty tune faster and faster until all the leprechauns are dancing as fast as their tiny legs will carry them.
Somehow, Darby whips these tiny idiots up into such a frenzy that they all decide that they have to go hunting that very moment. So they all hop on their tiny horses and ride out of the cave, leaving Darby alone and free to steal some jewels and then escape. I mean – no one said the leprechauns were smart. Not that Darby is a Rhodes Scholar – he puts all the booty he’s stolen in a pocket that has holes in it, and so is left with nothing after his escape. Except his memories of the greatest dance party ever, which are pretty priceless.
Darby goes back and sits in his barn with a comically-sized jug of whiskey and waits for King Brian to come and yell at him. And yell at him he does!! The two of them gesticulate wildly about who’s playing who, and it’s rife with sexual tension. King Brian demands that Darby return to the Leprechaun Lair with him, but only after they sample some of Darby’s whiskey. So Darby pours him a glass.
Well, you know where this is going. One drink turns to two, turns to about 16. They take turns singing songs about loose women and are just having the BEST time.
And then – daylight! As you know, leprechauns can’t perform their magic in the daytime, so King Brian is stuck at Darby’s and forced to promise him 3 wishes. King Brian is NOT happy about this, and calls Darby a “Wicked Old Scot”, which is just a terrific insult. Darby’s first wish is that King Brian stay with him until his other 2 wishes are made, and if he tries to run – he’ll get the CAT:
So he stuffs King Brian in a burlap sack and goes about his business.
MEANWHILE: IN FORCED ROMANCE LAND….
Michael has begun work on the estate grounds, and you know he’s singing while he does it. Katie creepily watches from a distance and then attacks to deliver lunch and then twirl about him for a spell.
Later that evening, Darby finds Michael doing his work for him, and decides to reward him with a look at King Brian. But every time Michael looks in the sack, all he sees is a rabbit. Darby sighs that he wishes Michael could see him, and King Brian grants it!! Balls, Wish the Second GONE. He promises that Michael will see him that night in his dreams. Not creepy at all.
Katie has attended a dance, and gotten a ride home from the town scoundrel Pony. His name is Pony, so you don’t need to know anything else about him to know he’s the worst. Darby gives out to her about associating with him, and then sits down on the steps to have a rap session with King Brian.
King Brian keeps his promise, and creeps into Michael’s bedroom to whisper sweet nothings in his ear about dating Katie. He also calls him a coward for good measure, because he has his reasons, that’s why!
And then His Majesty creeps into Katie’s room, and tells her that she better get married and quick, because no one will want her at 30!! Yikes, this movie! Back off! I just – I just don’t want to settle, you know? I don’t need to explain myself to you.
In the bright light of day, Michael and Katie take their nocturnal life coach’s words to heart and literally chase each other through the rolling hills. Until that cad Pony shows up and threatens to hit Michael, forcing Katie to step between them and emasculate Michael. But don’t worry, they make out anyways. Yay! They’ll be happy forever!!
In the town post office, Old Lady Sugrue reads Michael’s mail and discovers that he’s meant to take Darby’s job. And she cannot WAIT to run and tell Katie and just ruin EVERYTHING for her.
Katie is devastated, and screams at Michael about lies and how she hates him and the usual. Michael decides to fix everything by grabbing her roughly and yelling that he wants her to be his wife. The rough-arm-grab and the hysterical-woman-shake are such hilarious tropes from movies of this time period. “Why can’t she understand that I love her and that I’ve decided to settle for her?!?! I’ll make her understand – with brute physicality!!!” It was a simpler time…..a better time….
While these two are breaking up in grand melodramatic fashion, Darby is down at the pub ready to make his final wish in front of the whole town. But in runs Katie and ruins everything when she tries to get Darby’s attention by throwing the sack o’ leprechaun on the ground, giving King Brian the chance to escape.
Night has fallen, and Katie has run up the hillside after that damned horse again. By the time Darby and Michael realize where she’s gone – we hear it : the wail of the Banshee!!!! The ghostly harbinger of deeeeeeeeeath!!!!
OK, sidebar: When I was a kid, this part of the moving fucking terrified me. The thing I actually hated the most was that the Banshee was combing her hair. Why? Who’s that for? You got a date or something? No you don’t, bitch. You ugly.
They find Katie unconscious on the hillside, having fallen from higher up. They chase the Banshee off long enough to get her home and looked at by a doctor, but then Darby hears a knock at the door.
The Banshee has come for the dying Katie, but don’t worry because she’s arranged for a sweet ride to take her to the Land of the Dead. It’s the “cóiste-bodhar“, or Death Coach. You guys are learning so much Gaelic against your will!!!
Darby calls on King Brian, who shows up almost immediately because he HAS to – that was one of the wishes, remember? Darby begs him to use his last wish to make the Death Coach go away, but King Brian explains that he has no power over the magic of the dead. So instead, Darby wishes that instead of Katie, the Death Coach takes him instead. King Brian is like, “Ummm – even though we have tickets to Dave Matthews next week? Like, am I just gonna eat the price of your ticket? Weaksauce, man.” Granted! The Coach pulls up and asks for Darby instead of Katie.
Sitting in the swank leather interior of the Death Coach, Darby is joined by King Brian, who has decided to ride with him until he reaches his destination. He tells Darby that as soon as he set foot inside the Coach, Katie awoke and was cured. Darby thanks him for his help, and after some leading questions from King Brian, admits that he wishes he wasn’t going to Death alone. King Brian jumps up and scream-laughs in his face about that being his 4th wish, thereby undoing all his other wishes, and kicks Darby out of the Coach. The Coach continues on, none the wiser, and I guess – it’s fine? It’s never actually explained, but I guess as long as someone steps inside the Coach, it doesn’t matter if they go all the way to The Land of the Dead? WHO CARES, ALL IS WELL.
Fast forward a couple of days, and Darby is once again the center of attention in the pub, recounting his tales. He’s interrupted briefly by Michael coming in and beating the crap out of Pony, to everyone’s delight. Michael and Darby leave the pub and join Katie on a waiting horse and carriage, which they all ride back to the house. The house that they all live in together now, I guess? Hmmmm – seems like more of an Italian setup, if you ask me – but OK. (BURN ON ITALIANS)
And that’s it! So ends a movie that has had more influence on my brother and sister and I than the Bible and most of our teachers combined. And Darby remains one of my personal heroes – such a charming old coot! I mean, he outsmarted a leprechaun, you guys. One time I was at work for four hours before I realized my shirt was inside out. You set the bar high, Darby!!!
Happy St. Paddy’s!!!!