Finians Rainbow Review

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Irishman Finian McLonergan steals a crock of gold from Og the leprechaun and arrives in the Southern state of Missitucky convinced that its value will grow if he plants it in the ground, as the Americans had done with Fort Knox.


Several attempts had been made to film E.Y. `Yip' Harburg and Fred Saidy's 1947 Broadway hit before Francis Ford Coppola stepped into the breach some 20 years later. Work had commenced and been abandoned on an animated version - with vocalisations by Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong - while a Dick Van Dyke package had come to nothing in 1965. But, in truth, Hollywood had little faith in a project whose acerbic social commentary was bound to upset the guardians of the Production Code, while its depiction of a Senator changing colour and the co-mingling of black and white sharecroppers would have been too much for Southern audiences, for whom screen musicals were carefully stripped of their African-Americans so as to avoid giving offence.

To his credit, Coppola reinforced the racial satire by adding a new character, Howard, the botanist who attempts to cultivate mintolated tobacco and lampoon the servile Stepin Fetchit type that Hollywood had spent 50 years passing off as the acceptable face of black America. But he singularly failed to equate the message with the current state of the Civil Rights campaign. Thus, its contention that blacks are just the same as whites beneath the skin is not only outdated, but also positively patronising.  

Coppola similarly misjudged many of the musical sequences. Petula Clark admirably handles such tunes as `How Are Things in Glocca Morra?', but Tommy Steele is allowed to overact and his mugging spoils the likes of `When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love'. Sixty-eight year-old Fred Astaire, in his 31st and final musical, was given greater license to create his own routines with Hermes Pan. But much of the satirical sting was drawn from `When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich' and Warners ludicrously chopped off Fred's feet when they blew the print up to 70mm, as they were so pleased with the film's glossy whimsy.  

 Audiences thought otherwise, however, and this promising, but compromised picture was a resounding flop.  

Falls into the "interesting failure" category.