Darby O'Gill and the Little People is a 1959 Walt Disney Productions feature film starring Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery and Jimmy O'Dea, in a tale about a wily Irishman and his battle of wits with leprechauns. The film was directed by Robert Stevenson and its screenplay written by Lawrence Edward Watkin after the books of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh. The film's title is a slight modification of one of the two Kavanagh books, Darby O'Gill and the Good People. This title, and her other book; The Ashes of Old Wishes And Other Darby O'Gill Tales were the original source for this movie.
In the small Irish town of Rathcullen, County Kerry, Darby O'Gill (Albert Sharpe) is the aging Caretaker of Lord Fitzpatrick's (Walter Fitzgerald) estate, where he lives in the nearby Gatehouse, with his lovely, almost grown, daughter Katie (Janet Munro). But Darby spends most of his time in the town pub, regaling his friends with tales of his attempts to catch the Leprechauns, in particular, their King, Brian Connors (Jimmy O'Dea). Lord Fitzpatrick decides that Darby is past his prime as a laborer; so he decides to retire Darby on half-pay, and give him and Katie another cottage to live in, rent-free. He also decides to bring into Darby's old position a new younger man from Dublin named Michael McBride (Sean Connery). Darby begs Michael not to tell Katie that he, Darby, is being replaced, to which Michael reluctantly agrees. That very night, Darby is captured by the Leprechauns. The odyssey begins when he is tripped down the old ruined well on top of the fairy mountain Knocknasheega, by his horse, Cleopatra (who is actually a Pooka). Once captured, Darby discovered that King Brian brought him into the Leprechaun Court as a "favor" to Darby, that he might avoid having to make any shameful admission to Katie about losing his job. But Darby has no desire to remain the King's prisoner/guest "forever", and thus be separated from Katie. So Darby tricks all the Leprechauns into going off onto a fox hunt by playing "The Fox Chase" for them on a beautiful Stradivarius violin, loaned to him by King Brian. The Leprechauns, after a wild dance, mount their tiny white horses and leave for a hunt in the night, through a large crack in the mountainside wall which King Brian magically creates. Darby then escapes through this after the last of the Leprechauns ride out. However, Darby also attempts to steal some of the Leprechauns' treasure, but it all falls out through a hole in his coat pocket and he's left with nothing.
Later, King Brian comes to fetch Darby, angry for being made a fool of. Another battle of wits ensues and Darby traps the Leprechaun King by getting him so drunk that he doesn't notice the sunrise which strips him of his powers until the next sunset. So trapped, he is forced to grant Darby three wishes before he can return home. Darby wisely makes his first wish be that King Brian not return to Knocknasheega, but to remain at his beck and call for a fortnight (two weeks), giving him time to think of two other, equally wise wishes. King Brian is furious, but forced to comply. But the wily Leprechaun King does manage to trick Darby into (partially) wasting his second wish, by appearing only as a rabbit in Darby's game bag, causing Darby unwittingly to say to Michael; "I wish you could see him (the King)". King Brian does meet Darby halfway however, by appearing to both Michael and Katie in his true form in their dreams. Darby decides that he wants to use his third and last wish to ensure Katie's happiness. King Brian says to Darby that what Katie probably wants most of all is a "good, steady lad with temperate ways". Someone, in short, like Michael.
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