Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Darby O'Gill and the Little People

US movie (1959). Disney. Pr Walt Disney. Dir Robert Stevenson. Spfx Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett. Anim fx Joshua Meador. Screenplay Lawrence Edward Watkin. Based on the Darby O'Gill stories by H T Kavanagh. Novelization Darby O'Gill and the Little People * (1959) by Watkin (1901-1981). Starring Sean Connery (Michael McBride), Janet Munro (Katie O'Gill), Jimmy O'Dea (King Brian), Albert Sharpe (Darby O'Gill). 93 mins. Colour.

Once upon a time, or so old wastrel Darby O'Gill tells his cronies in the pub in rural Irish Rathcullen, he captured King Brian of the leprechauns, who granted him Three Wishes. But Brian persuaded him to wish a fourth time, thus cancelling out the previous three – which is why Darby has no crock of gold.

One night Darby's recalcitrant horse leads him to the top of the nearby haunted hill, and Darby falls down an old well into the land of the leprechauns – brought there, King Brian announces, as a favour, because life outside holds nothing more for him. But Darby escapes, and uses Trickster wiles to keep Brian in the mortal world all night until the cock crows, when the King's Magic ceases to work. Brian promises another three wishes. Darby's first is that Brian stay with him a fortnight until he decides his other two. Brian tricks him out of his second, so Darby tells Brian he will not make his third wish until daughter Katie and newcomer McBride are betrothed, a circumstance Brian tries to engineer. But Katie has a fall on the haunted hill and the howl of the banshee signals her death is imminent. Darby wishes he be taken in her place, and boards the Costa Bower (the Coach of Death). Brian appears one last time and genially tricks him into a fourth wish, thus cancelling the earlier ones. Darby is restored to the living; Katie has recovered; the lovers are united; all ends happily.

This poorly paced movie contains a surprising amount of good material. Despite the final plot twist (by all logic Katie should die), the script is entertaining, showing few signs of staleness even though begun over 20 years earlier. Most impressive of all, despite one or two dreadful lapses, are the spfx, some animated. DOATLP was poorly received, but its reputation has been recovering. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.