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Like "Watermelon Man," but with Petula Clark and a leprechaun
March 17, 2014 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Francis Ford Coppola's first studio picture (and Fred Astaire's swan song) was a big-budget musical about a leprechaun who magically ends racism in the deep south state of "Missitucky." Look!—to 1968's Finian's Rainbow.

(And now you have the needed context for SCTV's "Finian's Rainbow Meats" sketch.)
posted by Iridic (43 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
dear me, I saw this as a child as a first run movie
posted by janey47 at 2:06 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Seems like Francis Ford Coppola was lucky he got a second chance after that one.
posted by Colonel Panic at 2:13 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Confession: this movie is one of my guilty pleasures. Sigh.
posted by easily confused at 2:33 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Watermelon Man is WAY better than Finian's Rainbow. No contest. No fuckin' contest, man.
posted by dobbs at 2:37 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Also a brief mention in Monty Python's Flying Circus.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:39 PM on March 17


I always get this confused with Darby O'Gill and the Little People, which I haven't seen but my husband remains permanently scarred by. So no leprechaun movies in our house.
posted by emjaybee at 2:41 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


What in the actual feck.

How has this escaped my notice until now? Hie-ing myself to my local video store tonight.
posted by missmobtown at 2:54 PM on March 17


As bad as this one is, it's not even Coppola's worst film. Not by a long shot.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:55 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


I guess it's a good time to confess that I can sing most of this soundtrack! I had such a weird childhood.
posted by TwoStride at 2:57 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


Hie-ing myself to my local video store tonight.

It starts on TCM (in the US) in about 15 minutes (add a couple hours on the west coast) if you'd rather set up a DVR recording.
posted by stopgap at 3:00 PM on March 17


As bad as this one is, it's not even Coppola's worst film

The film has its problems (as what version of a 1947 musical about race made in the post-Civil-Rights-movement era wouldn't) but it also has some genuinely interesting stuff going on. It's definitely worth a watch and not just as a curiosity or as something to mock. Fred Astaire and Petula Clark are both excellent. Tommy Steele is pretty dire.
posted by yoink at 3:10 PM on March 17


Astrud Gilberto's version of Look To the Rainbow - in danger of getting that pale Celtic skin scorched on Copacabana.
posted by rongorongo at 3:16 PM on March 17


Fred Astaire and Petula Clark are both excellent.

I do have to agree on that. Clark should have been a major star.
posted by Iridic at 3:19 PM on March 17


Watermelon Man is WAY better than Finian's Rainbow.
And it has a better creation story.
posted by rongorongo at 3:31 PM on March 17


Little discussed fact: 90% of well-intentioned fiction pieces about race from the 60s are cringeworthy.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:35 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


This explains why my dad was always wandering through the house, belting out what I thought was "How Are Things in Guacamole."
posted by darksasami at 3:37 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


I loved this, as a kid. As an adult, I think that it says a LOT about the world, actually, and the way that people saw things in the 1960s, and how that led pretty inevitably to the troubles of today. Because I never saw it primarily being about the race issue--I saw it as primarily about poverty and the way that people thought you were supposed to get out of poverty. The pot of gold, the easy credit, whether you really can get out on hard work or whether you have to wait to hit the jackpot? Still very relevant stuff. Race is certainly a part of the poverty problem, but it isn't the whole of the poverty problem.
posted by Sequence at 3:45 PM on March 17


I always thought Towering Inferno was Fred Astaire's swan song.
posted by Decani at 4:00 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


This explains why my dad was always wandering through the house, belting out what I thought was "How Are Things in Guacamole."
posted by darksasami at 11:37 PM on March 17 [+] [!]


It's not easy being green.
posted by Decani at 4:02 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I always thought Towering Inferno was Fred Astaire's swan song.

Turns out his last film was Ghost Story (1981). But I think Finian's Rainbow was his last singing/dancing role in a proper musical.
posted by yoink at 4:07 PM on March 17


Lyrics by Yip Harburg of 1939 Wizard of Oz songwriting fame.
posted by larrybob at 4:10 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Oh wow. I saw this when I was a kid, and it felt a lot like the ten seconds before you pass out from anaesthetic for two and a half hours. Possibly it would have made more sense if I'd had more of a handle on the civil rights movement.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:21 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I don't think it says much about the 60s, as the script was based on a '47 Broadway musical. The option on the rights was about to expire when Warner's decided to move ahead. Ebert liked it.
And Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now was released by Warner's, but not financed by the studio.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:27 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Possibly it would have made more sense if I'd had more of a handle on the civil rights movement.

Doesn't help.

Tried watching this awhile back, the only thing that kept me going as long as I managed was the audio/visual was way off producing a surreal experience. Then I slapped myself and went and did something productive... like cleaning my fingernails or something.
posted by edgeways at 4:35 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I'm a sucker for those I iii IV V (and variations) tunes. Always have been.
posted by Trochanter at 4:46 PM on March 17


I remember when I first saw this, and it was a surprise a minute: "This was directed by WHOM?" "It stars WHO?" "It's about WHAT?". And the movie has all the sharecroppers saved by the invention of pre-mentholated tobacco, which was a kind of coup de grace of wrongness. However, the songs are wonderful (Yip Harburg!) and Fred Astaire was delightful.
posted by acrasis at 5:00 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


And here I thought that Fred Astaire's last movie was some regrettable disco movie. But no, I'm thinking of Gene Kelly.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:25 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


As a kid, I watched this fairly often with my musical-loving Gran, who thought it was second only to Carousel. It's how I discovered 1.) My Gran has no taste, and 2.) Leprechauns are perverts who will go after anything that moves, thereby necessitating strict avoidance of Ireland for the rest of my life.
posted by pineappleheart at 5:47 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


O.K., we did this musical at my junior high. (Small town Iowa.) One of the very very few kids of color at my school was cast as the racist guy. Hmm. So he was racist against green people. Oooookay. Then the awesome boy soprano who was cast as the leprechaun got puberty, lost his voice, and grew 5 inches in one month. No problem! He can speak/sing his lines, voice cracking every third note. THEN, the fabulous dancer girl playing the dancing mute sprite broke her leg. But no child gets left behind in a junior high musical. So she was on a folding chair on stage, pretend signing to the backup sprite dancer, to communicate with the tallest croaking leprechaun ever. It was a pure vortex of humiliation.
posted by Malla at 6:31 PM on March 17 [13 favorites]


I read somewhere that Coppola insisted on filming some of it in Napa, which annoyed Astaire, who was worried about dancing on land with gopher holes (fair enough) and also was distrustful of the local "hippies."
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:05 PM on March 17


regrettable disco movie

My new band name!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:06 PM on March 17


someone turned on TCM tonight.
posted by sfts2 at 7:49 PM on March 17


Oh, Finian's Rainbow. Such a beautiful score. Such an unfortunate plot.
posted by tzikeh at 8:22 PM on March 17


yoink: "I always thought Towering Inferno was Fred Astaire's swan song.

Turns out his last film was Ghost Story (1981). But I think Finian's Rainbow was his last singing/dancing role in a proper musical.
"

I say he's a big enough star to merit two or three swan songs.

Hell, give him a swan song cycle. Die Astairenlungelieb.

/I still love that Orson Welles' swan song was as the voice of Planet Transformer.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:35 PM on March 17


OMG. We did this as a musical my senior year of HS in Atlanta (my only year in a U.S. HS). As a newly-immigrated Swede, I was absolutely stunned at some of the weird subtext of the story, and yet it was fascinating and a fun experience. And the music was actually really great.

Personally, my big moment came during "The Great Come and Get It Day" townspeople scene, when I got to pipe up with "Does that mean I get a new washing machine?!!" which I thought was rather demeaning as a line - but hey, you do what you got to do in a musical, right?

I still sing many of the songs to myself, and the soundtrack is on my iPhone. For me, the weirdness of the story has been tempered with nostalgia over the years, I guess...
posted by gemmy at 9:51 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Oh, god. Finian's Rainbow. I used Glocca Morra and If This Isn't Love as audition pieces and recital pieces in high school, and I know I watched the movie at the time, but a lot of the weirdness rolled off my back then. I tried to rewatch it a couple of years ago and it was really just horrifying. The score did get me into a community theater production of Cinderella, though, so thanks for that, I guess, weird musical.
posted by Stacey at 6:08 AM on March 18


Lyrics by Yip Harburg of 1939 Wizard of Oz songwriting fame.

Also author of Brother Can You Spare a Dime, perhaps the best American song about the Depression.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:13 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Years ago I read (source long forgotten, unfortunately) that Coppola filmed the movie in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio but the studio insisted it had to be widescreen so it would seem like a more prestigious release. By cropping the image to fit the widescreen format, they had to crop off Fred Astaire's feet during his dancing sequences. Can anyone who has seen the film recently confirm? Incidentally, I have a cool recording of the score by Frank Sinatra and his pals, part of a four-disk set released as the Reprise Repertory Theatre.
posted by Man-Thing at 7:37 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Lyrics by Yip Harburg of 1939 Wizard of Oz songwriting fame.

Also author of Brother Can You Spare a Dime, perhaps the best American song about the Depression.


Also Lydia The Tattooed Lady!
posted by lumpenprole at 9:35 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I always thought that Finian's Rainbow should have been a Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman-style mashup of "Finnegan's Wake" and "Gravity's Rainbow."
posted by Pliskie at 9:49 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


It was a pure vortex of humiliation

My god please tell me this was put on tape and that you have had it digitized.
posted by Think_Long at 10:21 AM on March 18


Unfortunately, the performance was so long ago, it was before the proliferation of cheap home videotape cameras.
posted by Malla at 10:43 AM on March 18


I just last week pulled up a clip of this on YouTube while showing my daughter some classic musical dance numbers (the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers barn raising dance blew her mind). I couldn't remember anything about this one, just that I'd seen it as a kid. But even in her totally accepting three year old brain where pretty much nothing is weird, this was just too weird for her.
posted by waterlily at 12:41 PM on March 18


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