Cast & Crew
Francis Ford Coppola
Upon arriving in Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, with his daughter Sharon, Irish rascal Finian McLonergan buries a pot of stolen leprechaun gold, mistakenly believing that it will multiply because the ground is near Fort Knox. When the bigoted local senator, Billboard Rawkins, tries to foreclose on popular young Woody Mahoney's tobacco land, Finian pays the balance of Woody's debt and forever endears himself and Sharon to the sharecroppers of the valley. Woody and a fledgling black scientist, Howard, are partners in trying to develop a mint tobacco plant; but, since the leaves of their plants will not burn, Howard is helping to finance their experiments by working as a domestic for the greedy and intolerant Rawkins. Meanwhile, Og, a leprechaun, has been following the McLonergans to America to retrieve the gold; without it he is doomed to become a mortal. Eventually geologists detect the presence of Og's gold in the valley, and Rawkins renews his bid to seize Woody's land. Unaware that the pot of gold carries with it three magic wishes, Sharon wishes that Rawkins could turn black so that he would better understand the plight of the sharecroppers. When Rawkins actually does turn black, Sharon is arrested as she is about to marry Woody and sentenced to be burned as a witch. To save her, Og, who alone knows the secret of the gold pot, wishes Rawkins white again. Og, now almost totally mortal, falls in love with Woody's mute sister, Susan the Silent, and he uses the last wish to give her the power of speech. As he becomes human and the gold turns to dross, the barn fire intended for Sharon spreads to Woody's experimental laboratory and proves that the mint tobacco leaves will actually burn. Woody and Sharon are then happily wed, and the optimistic Finian leaves the valley to seek his fortune elsewhere. Musical numbers : "Look to the Rainbow" (Sharon, Finian, and Woody), "This Time of the Year" (Chorus), "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" (Sharon and Finian), "If This Isn't Love" (Woody, Sharon, Finian, and Chorus), "Something Sort of Grandish" (Og and Sharon), "That Come-and-Get-It Day" (Woody, Sharon, Chorus, and Ensemble), "Old Devil Moon" (Woody and Sharon), "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich" (Finian, Sharon, and Chorus), "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love" (Og), "Rain Dance Ballet" (Susan and Chorus), "The Begat" (Rawkins and Gospeleers).
Francis Ford Coppola
Al Freeman Jr.
E. Y. Harburg
Richard C. Harris
William L. Kuehl
M. A. Merrick
Jean Burt Reilly
The film was Finian's Rainbow (1968), starring Fred Astaire in his last screen musical. It marked the first major studio feature for Coppola, who up until this point had directed B-movies like The Playgirls and the Bellboy (1962) and Dementia 13 (1963). Coppola maintains that it was not his talent that landed him the job, but his age: he states in Francis Ford Coppola, A Filmmaker's Life, "The only reason I got the job was because I was young. Warner's had this creaky old property lying around, and they wanted a young director to modernize it. It was between me and Billy Friedkin." The creaky old property was actually a huge Broadway success twenty years earlier, and this was the first attempt to bring it to the silver screen. Theories explaining its delay ranged from writer E. Y. Harburg's steep asking price to hesitation surrounding the story's controversial racial tolerance subtext. Regardless of the reason for its late arrival to film, Finian's Rainbow was rushed into production at the behest of Warner Brothers; they wanted to capitalize on the recent success of The Sound of Music (1965), so time was of the essence. Given only a fraction of other film musicals' budgets, Coppola was regulated to the Warner's lot to shoot the movie. To cut costs even more, the studio reused the forest sets from Camelot (1967).
Astaire signed on to the film, agreeing to part from his usual dapper persona to play a rough and tumble type of character. In the original script, Finian did not dance and barely sang; Astaire expanded the role to include his talents onscreen. The dancing in the film became a point of contention. Astaire had insisted on the hiring of his favorite collaborator Hermes Pan as choreographer but Coppola disliked the man's work and fired him halfway through production, leaving only himself to map out the dance sequences. Largely employing improvisation techniques, Coppola managed to eke out the action, but admitted its shortcomings: "There was no planning, no set choreography. It was a matter of doing what seemed right at the time."
Astaire's co-star was Petula Clark, a British pop star best known for her top forty hit "Downtown." Curiously, both actors were apprehensive about working with the other: Clark was too intimidated to dance with the legendary performer, and Astaire fretted about singing with Clark. The tension dissipated when, after the first recording session, Astaire jumped about and shouted, "I sang with her! I sang with her!" Nonetheless, it was an odd pairing; industry speculation alluded to Clark's contract with the Warner's music division as a cost-effective motive. Another Brit pop star whose singing career had peaked in the late fifties was cast as the leprechaun - Tommy Steele. But his over-the-top performance wavered wildly out of Coppola's control. As the director explained later, "I felt the leprechaun should be more shy and timid and bewildered. . . And at my insistence Tommy started to do just that in rehearsal, and he was really good at it. . . Somehow during the actual shooting, little by little, he slipped back into his familiar character. . . He eluded me." Rounding out the supporting cast were Keenan Wynn, son of vaudevillian legend Ed Wynn, and Don Francks, a Canadian TV star and lounge singer.
Frustrated by the film's problems, Coppola sped through production, completing the film in twelve weeks. "Everyone at Warner's thought Finian's Rainbow was going to be a big hit; they were just wild about it. They decided to blow the picture up to 70 - from its original 35mm specifications - and make it a road show picture. And when they did that, they blew the feet off Fred Astaire when he was dancing. No one had calculated the top and bottom of the frame. I just wanted to be done with it, but I was upset thinking that this thing might be an enormous success."
Coppola had nothing to worry about: the film flopped almost immediately at the box office and marked the beginning of the end for big budget movie musicals with few exceptions. Finian's Rainbow earned vicious reviews, such as the one from Time: "The movie might have survived were it not for the ham-handed direction of Francis Ford Coppola." But there were also some fans; The Saturday Review lauded, "They have kept it just the lovely show it always wasn't tuneful, well-intended, occasionally funny, always appealing." Finian's Rainbow picked up two Oscar nominations for Best Sound and Best Score, but perhaps the most rewarding outcome of the film was off-screen. Coppola hired an unknown film student named George Lucas to be a production assistant. Working on the film together would form the foundation for their lifelong friendship, lasting long after the final credits rolled on Finian's Rainbow.
Producer: Joel Freeman, Joseph Landon
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, Fred Saidy
Art Direction: Hilyard M. Brown Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
Editing: Melvin Shapiro
Music: Burton Lane
Cast: Fred Astaire (Finian McLonergan), Petula Clark (Sharon McLonergan), Tommy Steele (Og, the Leprechaun), Don Francks (Woody Mahoney).
by Eleanor Quin
Finian's Rainbow Soundtrack on CD
Released by Warner Brothers in 1968, Finian's Rainbow is set in the mythical Southern state of Missitucky. Astaire plays Irishman Finian, who comes to town with his daughter Sharon (Clark). He shows up with a crock of gold stolen from the leprechaun Ogg (Tommy Steele), believing the treasure will grow larger if planted in American soil. After a racist Judge Rawkins (Keenan Wynn) antagonizes the community -- including Sharon¿s love interest, Woody Mahoney (Don Francks) -- Sharon is granted a wish by Ogg: that Judge Rawkins turn black in order to gain sensitivity with regard to prejudice. Although less radical upon the film's release, such racial subtext was significant given the story's late-'40s genesis.
Petula Clark on dancing with Fred Astaire, from the liner notes to this release:
"I have a little dance routine in the movie with Fred. It's not a Ginger Rogers type routine, but still the idea of dancing with Fred Astaire was pretty scary, so I worked very hard on it with Hermes Pan, who was Fred's wonderful choreographer...The song was "Look To The Rainbow," and eventually the moment came when I had to actually dance with Fred. He walks into the bare studio -- just a little tape machine, a choreographer and myself. They put the music on, Fred takes me in his arms and I swear it was if I had been born to dance. It was the easiest thing in the world to dance with him."
Finian features timeless musical numbers written by Yip Harburg (The Wizard Of Oz) and Burton Lane (Dancing Lady), most notably the favorites "How Are Things in Glocca Morra," "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love," and "Something Sort of Grandish." This remastered Rhino Handmade release presents the entirety of the 1968 soundtrack LP, plus the overture, entre'acte, and exit music selections not originally included.
Finian's Rainbow is available as an individually numbered limited edition of 2,500 copies. For more information, visit the Rhino web site at http://www.rhinohandmade.com/
Finian's Rainbow Soundtrack on CD
Fairy land was never like this!- Og
What fools these mortals be!- Og
Now that you're half mortal, you're indecent.- Finian
My family's been having nothing but trouble with immigrants ever since they come to this country!- Senator Billboard Rawkins
The song "Necessity" appears on the soundtrack album, but was cut from the film.
Because of its satire on racism, this popular 1947 Broadway musical was considered such a hot potato in Hollywood that film studios would not touch it unless they were allowed to change the story. Its original creators, E.Y. Harburg, Burton Lane, and Fred Saidy held out and by 1968 it was able to be filmed with very few changes.
Blown up to 70mm for some road-show presentations. The song "Necessity" is credited in some sources but was apparently deleted from the final print. Some sources list Keenan Wynn's role as Judge Rawkins.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1968
Petula Clark made her screen debut with this film.
Film was first major-studio effort for Francis Ford Coppola.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1968