Friday, March 18, 2011

Finian's Rainbow & The Happiest Millionaire

I wanted to share with you two of my favorite movies to watch on St. Patrick's Day! Both of these are family friendly musicals featuring fun tunes.

The Happiest Millionaire

This is my mom's all time favorite musical! It's such a fun film!

Plot: The story begins in Autumn of 1916, and follows Irish immigrant John Lawless (Tommy Steele) as he applies for a butler position with eccentric Philadelphia millionaire Anthony J. Drexel Biddle (Fred MacMurray). Even though the family is a bit strange, Lawless soon fits right in and serves as the narrator for the rest of the film. Mr. Biddle runs Biddle Boxing and Bible School (located in his stable) and collects strange things like the live alligators in his conservatory. His wife, Cordelia (Greer Garson), stands quietly by, accepting his eccentricities with a sense of pride and class. Their two sons, Tony and Livingston (Paul Petersen & Eddie Hodges) are jokesters who are overprotective of their sister. The Biddle's daughter Cordy (Lesley Ann Warren), is a tomboy with a mean right hook who was educated by private tutors and has had limited contact with conventional society. She's frustrated by bot being able to attract suitors and wants to see what's beyond the Biddle manor. Mr. Biddle reluctantly lets Cordy go to a boarding school where her roommate humorously teaches her how to attract suitors. At a social dance hosted by her aunt and uncle, Cordy meets Angier Buchanan Duke (John Davidson) and they fall in love. He is fascinated with automobiles and wants to head to Detroit, Michigan to make his fortune instead of taking over his family's tobacco business. Cordy's parents are surprised when she comes home to announce her engagement, but, after meeting Angie, they take a liking to him. Then Cordy travels with Angie to New York City to meet his mother (Geraldine Page), but she feels out of place especially with the condescending comments from Angie's mother. When the Biddles and the Dukes make arrangements for a grand society wedding tensions between their families rise while Cordy and Angie feel pushed aside. Will the couple be able to stick together and make their own way?

This beautiful film is filled with lively songs that set the tone and move the story forward. From the very start of the film the viewer is whisked away into the vibrant story and delighted by the dancing and humor.

This is the opening song 'Fortuosity', sung by Tommy Steele as the Irish immigrant John Lawless. This is Miss Bea's favorite song because it's so lively and fun to watch!

The song 'I'll Always Be Irish' is one reason we love to watch this film around St. Patrick's Day. It's so much fun to watch John sing about his Irish heritage and hopes for a future in America. Although actor Tommy Steele isn't a true Irishman I think he does a wonderful job and seems to enjoy himself immensely in this scene.

The sweet courtship between Cordy and Angie is so much fun to watch. Lesley Ann Down and John Davidson both made their film debut in The Happiest Millionaire and they do a fantastic job! Such a cute couple!

This son is The Land of Golden Chariots, which Angie sings to Cordy to explain his love for automobiles and desire to manufacture them in Detroit. It's a short-ish clip but fun to see the couple as they drive through different seasons. Cordy's costumes are so lovely! 

Finian's Rainbow

One of my grandmother's favorite musicals. Every time I watch this it makes me think of her!

Plot: A lovable rogue named Finian McLonergan (Fred Astaire) absconds from his native Ireland with a pot of gold secreted in a carpetbag, plus his daughter Sharon (Petula Clark) in tow. His destination is Rainbow Valley in the mythical state of Missitucky, where he plans to bury his treasure in the mistaken belief that it will multiply. Hot on his heels is the leprechaun Og (Tommy Steele), desperate to recover his stolen crock before he turns human. Among those involved in the ensuing shenanigans are Woody Mahoney (Don Francks), a ne'er-do-well dreamer who woos Sharon; his mute sister Susan (Barbara Hancock), who expresses herself in dance; Woody's good friend and business partner Howard (Al Freeman Jr.), an African American botanist determined to grow mentholated tobacco, and bombastic Senator Billboard Rawkins (Keenan Wynn), who wears his bigotry as if it were a badge of honor. Complications arise when Senator Rawkins, believing there is gold in Rainbow Valley, attempts to seize the land from the people who live there and makes some racial slurs while doing so. Sharon furiously wishes he'd turn black himself—and, because she is in close proximity to the magical pot of gold, which is capable of granting three wishes, Rawkins does exactly that. Sharon is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned at the stake unless she can make him white again. Will Finian be able to find the pot of gold in time to save his daughter and will Og have to stay a human forever? 

This is really quite a silly musical, it's not my favorite storyline but there are some things that make it interesting. There are some lovely tunes sung by Petula Clark and Tommy Steele that I really enjoyed. The other songs are just pretty silly.

I wasn't able to embed any videos from the film but here's a video of Kate Baldwin & Jim Norton singing  How Are Things in Glocca Morra? on Broadway last year. This song is a lament sung by Sharon and her father wondering how things are in their home town, the fictional Glocca Morra, Ireland. Probably my favorite in this musical.

Yes, that's right, Fred Astaire is in this film! He's older so his voice and dance isn't as great as in his early years, he also struggles with keeping the Irish accent up. But he's charming as ever! You can see a video of him singing and dancing in the song When The Idle Poor Become The Irish Rich, by going to YouTube here.

I was unable to embed these videos of songs from the film but you can view them on YouTube:

I highly recommend The Happiest Millionaire to all ages! It's a great older family film by Disney. I you haven't see it buy a copy, I'm sure you'll love it as much as my family does! Finian's Rainbow is fun too, especially around St. Patrick's Day.

Have you seen either of these? What did you think of them?

What are your favorite films to watch on St. Patrick's Day?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please note that the girl in "The Happiest Millionaire" is Lesley Ann Warren NOT Down.

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