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Finian’s Rainbow

   

Finian’s Rainbow (1968) starring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele, Keenan Wynn

Fred Astaire sang and danced his last musical lead in Finian’s Rainbow, director Francis Ford Coppola’s movie of the 1947 Broadway hit. Astaire plays an Irish rogue who plants a stolen crock of leprechaun gold in the soil near Fort Knox to reap what he thinks will be a rich harvest. In tow are his spirited daughter (Petula Clark), a lovestruck leprechaun (Tommy Steele) and a bigoted Southern senator (Keenan Wynn) transformed by misbegotten magic.

Editorial review of Finian’s Rainbow courtesy of Amazon.com

A funny thing happened to Finian’s Rainbow in between its debut as a Broadway musical in 1947 and its appearance as a film in 1968. After 21 years, its theme of racial tension in the American South was no longer cutting edge, and the fact that its heroes are a group of sharecroppers called the Rainbow Valley Tobacco Cooperative dates it even further. Add a number of subplots and the heavy hand of a 29-year-old Francis Ford Coppola directing his first and only musical, and the two-and-a-half-hour running time feels bloated. Hermes Pan (best known for the classic Astaire-Rogers movies) is credited with choreographing the overbusy musical numbers, but he was reportedly overruled by Coppola at every turn. Still, there is a lot to enjoy in this movie, most notably Fred Astaire in his last lead role in a musical.

Pluses

Fred plays Finian McLonergan, an Irishman who has traveled to America in hopes of planting a pilfered pot of gold near Fort Knox and watching it grow. Even at 69, Fred shows he is still capable of a sprightly step and warbling “Look to the Rainbow.” Another plus is the casting of ’60s pop icon Petula Clark as his daughter, as she sings with an unaffected loveliness. Finally, the score by Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg includes two of the best Broadway songs ever written–“Old Devil Moon” and “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?“–as well as the comic ditty “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love.” –David Horiuchi

Cast of characters

  • Fred Astaire (The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle) … Finian McLonergan
  • Petula Clark (Goodbye Mr. Chips, This is My Song) … Sharon McLonergan
  • Tommy Steele (The Happiest Millionaire) … Og
  • Don Francks (X-Men: The Animated Series) … Woody Mahoney
  • Keenan Wynn (Annie Get Your Gun) … Senator Billboard Rawkins
  • Barbara Hancock (Tarzan TV series 1968) … Susan the Silent
  • Al Freeman Jr. (Malcolm X) … Howard
  • Ronald Colby … Buzz Collins
  • Dolph Sweet (Heaven Can Wait) … Sheriff
  • Wright King (Planet of the Apes) … District Attorney
  • Louil Silas … Henry

Songs

  • This Time of The Year (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Al Freeman Jr. and chorus
  • How Are Things In Glocca Morra?(1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Petula Clark.
  • Look To The Rainbow (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Fred Astaire and Petula Clark.
  • Old Devil Moon (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Don Francks and Petula Clark.
  • Something Sort of Grandish (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung and Danced by Tommy Steele and Petula Clark
  • If This Isn’t Love (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Don Francks, Petula Clark, Fred Astaire and chorus.
  • That Great Come-And-Get-It Day (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Don Francks, Petula Clark and Chorus
  • When The Idle Poor Become The Idle Rich (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Fred Astaire, Petula Clark and chorus.
  • Old Devil Moon (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Petula Clark and Don Francks.
  • Rain Dance Ballet (1946) Music by Burton Lane, Danced by Barbara Hancock
  • The Begat (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane. Sung by Keenan Wynn and Gospel Trio (Avon Long, Jester Hairston and Roy Glenn)
  • When I’m Not Near The Girl I Love (1946) Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane, Sung by Tommy Steele, Danced by Barbara Hancock
  • Oh, Dem Golden Slippers (1879) Written by James Allen Bland, Sung a cappella by Keenan Wynn

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