Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St. Patrick's Day Fun: Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Darby O'Gill and The Little People was released in 1959. I remember be taken to it as a four or five year old in the 1960's for a movie matinee and being so scared when the pooka scene came on, and crying so loudly that my older sister had to take me out of the movie theater. She was a teen, and was not very happy with me for ruining her Saturday at the matinee.

Well, since then, I've gotten over that childish fear, and this movie is one of my all time favorites for St. Patrick's Day. To see my other favorite movie, go here Luck of the Irish

In Darby O'Gill, Sean Connery plays an Irish caretaker to an estate in Rathcullen in what appears to be an early 20th century time. Mostly horses and wagons for transportation. Connery's character is not the main character, however.

Darby O'Gill is an aging caretaker to an estate in Rathcullen. The owner of the estate decides to hire a younger caretaker and pension Darby off at half pay. Darby is upset. He's not the best caretaker, to be honest. He spends most of his time in the pub drinking and telling stories about his encounters with the little people. He has tried to capture one for some time, and succeeds. But, when he opens the bag in the pub to show his companions, he finds that King Brian has turned himself into a rabbit, and so everyone thinks he's just a deluded old fool. Darby has a daughter, Katie, and he doesn't want Katie to know he's losing his job because he's ashamed. This means they have to move out of the cottage they live in as well.

Darby's replacement arrives, a handsome Dubliner named Michael (Sean Connery).  Darby begs Micheal to not tell his daughter Katie that he's being replaced.  Michael agrees for the time being.

Meanwhile, the King of the Lephrechauns, Brian, kidnaps Darby. He's taken to the inside of a mountain and held as a guest of the little people. There is gold beyond imagination there, feasting and song. It seems a paradise, except for one thing, Darby can never return home. He soon tires of this and misses his daughter Katie. So, he begs the King so set him free. King Brian warns him that if he did so, others of the little people might be tempted to take their ire out on his daughter, Katie. Legend says that once someone is kidnapped by the little people, they can never go home.

Darby is a clever old fellow. He plays a song on the violin during a feast for the lephrechauns, stirring them up with a song of the hunt that makes them wish to leave the inside of the mountain and go out riding on the hunt. The mountain opens, and Darby escapes.

Darby in King Brian's lair inside the mountain

Michael and Katie have been having a little romance. They go about exploring the countryside together, having fun. Michael (Sean Connery) sings to her, and they sing a cute song together  "She's my dear, my darling one, my smiling and beguiling one, no other, no other, can match the likes of her!"  My husband and I still sing it together today, it's catchy!
Sean Connery as Micheal, Janet Munro as Katie

So, handsome Michael is the romantic lead, and also a problem character for the main protagonist, Darby. He's younger, and has taken over Darby's job.  Katie has a temper, and she and Michael end up sparring words. The lephrechaun's do their mischief against Darby by making Katie severely ill with a fever. The coiste-bodhar (the death coach) and the banshee make their appearance. Darby tries to bargain with the little people for Katie's life.  Of course, once Katie recovers, Michael and Katie have a happily ever after.

This movie is fun, romantic, and PG. It's something kids can enough along with their parents. Granted, CGI had not been created at the time so the graphics might seem cheesy, but it is a treasure from the Disney vault and worth the effort to find. The little people are played by real people, not just special effects creations.

The movie is based on two books by Hermione Templeton Kavanagh;  Darby O'Gill and the Good People,  and Of Ashes and Old Wishes and Other Darby O'Gill Tales.  The movie, of course, takes a few liberties with the books, but that is to be expected when books become films.

Two things I have to say about the folklore:

  • The term 'little people' actually is used for the fey folk, fairies, not lephrechauns true Irish folklore, so in this film I see a blending of Lephrechaun lore and Fairy lore.  Lephrechauns were little shoemakers who hoard gold.  Fairies lived inside of mountains, and were known to kidnap humans in lore. They (fairies) were often called the 'Other Folk' or Other Crowd by the Irish.  
  • For a discussion on The Other Crowd and reference to a good book on the subject, see this post Fairy Magic, have you met any of the good folk?
  • The idea of lephrechauns living in the mountains and taking on the characteristics of the fey is troublesome if you actually know Irish folklore. The fairies and the lephrechauns of legend are two very different types of magical beings. 
That said, there is still a lot to enjoy in this very old movie that celebrates Ireland. Enjoy the trailer below: 

If you are looking for an Irish Romance in books, I am offering my two historical romance novels for free on St. Patrick's Day.  This offer is one day only, March 17th, 2016

Some Enchanted Waltz, a full length historical romance featuring an Irish rebel as a hero in 1798. 

Bright Scoundrel, a full length historical romance featuring an Irish rake returning to his ancestral home to find it full of ghosts and dark creatures. 

Thanks for visiting my blog, and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!  

Monday, March 7, 2016

St. Paddy Day Romance Movies: Luck of the Irish!

Shamrocks are everywhere, and the wearing of the green is upon us!  I love this time of year. For many years I have indulged myself and my kids in Irish culture during this season. We've cooked the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage popular with Irish Americans, and we've made homemade Irish Soda Bread. My Love of all things Irish extends to romance, naturally. I love to read romances set in Ireland, and I also devour movies with lovers set in Ireland. 

Let's take a look at one wonderful , fun, lighthearted Irish romance movie to get you in the mood while your Irish Soda Bread is baking in the oven.   Irish Soda Bread Recipe at bottom of page. 

The Quiet Man,  1952

This movie is my all time favorite.  It's an oldie, being over sixty years old, but it's well worth the watch.  It was filmed in Ireland, and stars John Wayne as an Irish American returning to his Irish roots after a traumatic event in his life.  

Shawn Thornton Arrives in Rural Ireland

Shawn Thornton (John Wayne) arrives in the small village and sets out to buy the cottage he was born in.  He meets an old companion, who aids him in settling in to his new life as an Irish farmer.  This story is full of lovely Irish landscapes from the 1950's, and plenty of Irish bluster. Shawn makes an enemy in the village, another gruff, burly fellow who seems to run the town. And he meets a goddess in the hills, a lovely red haired woman herding sheep.
When he first sees her, he asks his companion, "Is she for real?" He's used to big city gals in America, not a simple, barefoot shepherdess strolling the countryside with her hair down in casual clothing. His friend assures him he's not imagining things.  The woman is Mary Kate. A 'spinster', according to the village people and the times.  She's unmarried, and past her first blush of youth. 

Lovely Maureen O'Hara as Mary Kate
Shawn is so captivated with her that on his second encounter, as she is coming out of the church, he does something shocking. He cups water from the fount outside the church in his hand and holds it out to her to do her cross.  This is shocking in the era because only a husband would be allowed to do such a thing, so it's a bold, flirty move. Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara) responds to his brash behavior by dipping her fingers in and making the sign of the cross. Note, this is outside the church, not in public. So, she's a little embarrased and taken aback by her own response and shyly tugs her shawl close and runs off. It's cute, it's the fifties. She's shy because she's not had a suitor before.

Shawn starts to court Mary Kate, and of course there are difficulties in their relationship. She's from the old world of Irish heritage and he's from America, the new world as it were. They are besotted with each other, and of course their personalities clash. Mary Kate has a temper and she has some high expectations about what is proper in a marriage contract. They have romantic moments, however, and share a few kisses in the rain at an old abbey. (Love that scene). 

The lovers encounter a big hurdle in the brother of Mary Kate, none other than the town bully. Shawn has a backstory that conflicts with taking the man on. Shawn was a prizefighter in America. He killed a man accidentally with his mighty paw during a fight, and since then has vowed to never fight again. So, he's required to fight a physical battle with Mary Kate's brother to win an argument and the man's respect, but won't do it. There are whispers from his adversary that he's a coward, which goads him on. 

Mary Kate is a complicated woman. She loves Shawn, but has such strict codes of honor regarding her marriage inheritance (some furniture of her mother's and a small monetary inheritance), that she makes it hard for Shawn. She marries him, but when her brother refuses to give her her due portion as her marital inheritance, Mary Kate refuses to sleep with Shawn. She says she will cook and clean for him but not share his bed until he gets up enough 'nerve' to fight (yes physically fight) her brother for what is rightfully hers. So, complicated romance, even after the marriage. Plenty of fun, and a good clean romance. 

The Quiet Man has plenty of scenes of Irish culture, including a very well cut scene displaying an annual horse race that is similar to Galway Races. It's fun, as are the pub scenes and the courting scenes. This is an idyllic Ireland, to be sure, as many critics say it's not authentic. However, it is a wonderful movie featuring Irish Lovers, and the breathtaking Irish countryside, including quaint whitewashed cottages and ruined abbeys. There's a happily ever after, of course, but I won't tell you what it is. 

Here's a Romantic view of the movie: 

Next Time, I'll talk about another wonderful Irish Romance from long ago you may have missed.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe:
I found this recipe over twenty years ago in an Irish cookbook. It's lovely.
2 pounds flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate of soda in Irish recipe)
17 fluid ounces of buttermilk
1 ounce of butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
sift flour, salt and soda in large bowl with a wooden spoon. Gradually work in buttermilk.
Combine mixture thoroughly. The dough should be smooth but firmer than normal bread.
Turn onto lightly floured surface and kneed lightly for 3 to 4 minutes. Divide into two portions. Form each portion into a a firm ball then gently press with the palm of your hand to flatten round cake. Should be about 8 inches across and 1 and 1/2 inch thick.
Generously butter the two baking sheets and position a cake in the center of each. Cut a deep cross, extending to the edges, on the top of each cake. Place in the center of oven and bake for 35 minutes or until pale and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for thirty minutes. Eat while still slightly warm.
** I came across this twenty two years ago in an authentic Irish cookbook that I found at my library. I cannot remember the name of the book, but I do hold that this is a authentic recipe from the old country.