A mysterious Irishman, Finian, and his beautiful daughter Sharon, arrive one day in Rainbow Valley, a small Southern town of tobacco sharecroppers in the mythical state of Missitucky. The ... See full summary »
A mysterious Irishman, Finian, and his beautiful daughter Sharon, arrive one day in Rainbow Valley, a small Southern town of tobacco sharecroppers in the mythical state of Missitucky. The town has its own resident dreamer, Woody Mahoney, who thinks that he might be able to put the town on the map by crossing mint with tobacco so that it'll grow already mentholated. Finian's come to the town because he's stolen a leprechaun's crock of gold and plans to plant it in the ground so it'll grow faster (or else why would the Americans have rushed to dig the gold out of California only to plant it back in the ground at Fort Knox?). But trouble arrives in the form of Og the leprechaun, who has followed Finian to America and is bent on retrieving his gold. Meanwhile, the bigoted Senator Billboard Rawkins, in an effort to stop progress in his state in the form of a new dam and hydroelectric system, plans to take the remaining parcel of land needed to stop the project - Woody's, which Finian has ... Written by
One early attempt to film the musical was as an animated feature to be directed by John Hubley. It was during development of this unfinished project that Hubley first collaborated with future wife Faith Hubley (then Faith Elliot). The soundtrack for the animated film was already completed and the entire film had been storyboarded. The voice talents included Frank Sinatra (as Woody), Barry Fitzgerald (Finian), Jim Backus (Senator Rawkins), Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and from the original Broadway cast Ella Logan (Sharon) and David Wayne (Og). The project died when Hubley refused to "name names" when he testified before The House Un-American Activities Committee. Hubley was blacklisted and Chemical Bank, which was providing the financing, withdrew funding for the proposed film. Artwork done for the movie appears in the PBS documentary "Independent Spirits - The Faith and John Hubley Story" and the Sinatra prerecordings are available on the CD Box-set "Sinatra in Hollywood 1940-1964." See more »
In the song "Old Devil Moon" as Woody and Sharon dance through the stream, Woody has clearly got bare feet and his hands are in Sharon's. In the next shot, he has his shoes back on. It even looks like his trousers are dry. See more »
Opening on Broadway in 1947 with music by Burton Lane and lyrics by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg (who wrote the lyrics for 1939's THE WIZARD OF OZ), FINIAN'S RAINBOW was an unexpected smash that generated one pop classic after another--"How Are Things In Glocca Morra?," "Old Devil Moon," and "Look To The Rainbow" to name but three. But when talk turned to a film version, not a single studio in Hollywood would touch it: although the story was fantasy, it was also extremely satirical, contained elements that had a decidedly socialist edge, and made one of the most wickedly funny statements on racism seen up to that time. With Hollywood operating under the production code and the nation drifting into the communist paranoia of the 1950s, the whole thing was impossibly hot. And so FINIAN'S RAINBOW remained off the screen for over twenty years... until 1968, when a sudden splash of popular screen musicals prompted Warner Brothers to bankroll it.
The plot is deliberately ridiculous, and finds Irishman Finian McLonergan (Fred Astaire) and his long suffering daughter Sharon (Petula Clark) in Tennessee, where Finian plans to bury a crock of gold stolen from a leprechaun (Tommy Steele) on the theory that the land around Fort Knox will make the gold grow. But things take an unexpected turn when they arrive in Rainbow Valley, where they encounter a commune of black and white tobacco sharecroppers doing battle with a viciously bigoted Senator (Keenan Wynn.) And when daughter Sharon is outraged by the Senator's racism and happens to be standing by the hidden crock of gold--she accidentally "wishes" the Senator black! Unlike the 1947 stage show, the big screen version of FINIAN'S RAINBOW tanked at the box office, and it is little wonder: both producers and then-novice director Francis Ford Coppola made a host of very basic mistakes with the material, the first of which was not keeping the film within its original 1940s context; they instead give it a 'contemporary' tone that not only undercuts the fanciful storyline but makes many of the story's elements seem heavy-handed. In the process they manage to blunt the edge of the original in a very significant sort of way. There are also a number of cinematic problems with the movie, which feels awkwardly filmed and still more awkwardly edited, and the film visibly shifts between outdoor set-ups and studio soundstage sets in a very uncomfortable sort of way.
All of that said, there is still a great deal to enjoy in FINIAN'S RAINBOW--the aforementioned score for one and the truly memorable performances for another. Astaire is timeless, Tommy Steele almost walks away with the show, Keegan Wynn (in spite of some rather ill-advised make-up) gives a memorable performance as the bigoted Senator, and Al Freeman Jr. is absolutely hilarious in the sequence where he applies for the job of butler in the Senator's home--I laugh just thinking about it! But the real revelation here is Petula Clark. Best known as a pop singer, Clark is perfection as Sharon McLonergan; it is a tremendous pity that she was never again so well-cast on screen. And together they manage to gloss over most of the film's weaknesses; if you're a musical fan, you're likely to enjoy it.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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