An Irish immigrant and his daughter move into a town in the American South with a magical piece of gold that will change people's lives, including a struggling farmer and African American ci... Read allAn Irish immigrant and his daughter move into a town in the American South with a magical piece of gold that will change people's lives, including a struggling farmer and African American citizens threatened by a bigoted politician.An Irish immigrant and his daughter move into a town in the American South with a magical piece of gold that will change people's lives, including a struggling farmer and African American citizens threatened by a bigoted politician.
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
- Apr 12, 2005