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Darby O'Gill and the Little People is a 1959 Walt Disney Pictures 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 is based on the books of Herminie T. Kavanagh.
The plot revolves around Darby O'Gill, an old caretaker who lives with his daughter, Katie, in the Gatehouse of Lord Fitzpatrick's estate. Darby spends most of his time at the pub, telling stories of leprechauns, most notably King Brian, who is Darby's friendly rival.
Lord Fitzpatrick feels that Darby is past his prime as a laborer, so he replaces Darby as caretaker with the handsome, strapping young Michael from Dublin. Michael falls in love with Katie, which is all right with Darby; but the lad has a rival in a local ruffian, the son of a devious widow who wants her boy to be the caretaker. King Brian's supernatural assistance is necessary to make everything come out all right, but the sneaky leprechaun won't play matchmaker without a fight.
This movie contains examples of:
- Balancing Death's Books: Darby uses his third wish to go in his sick daughter's place when Death comes to claim her. Ultimately averted though, as King Brian tricks Darby into making a fourth wish which negates the previous three wishes, but by that time his daughter has already recovered.
- Christmas Cake: Katie gets warnings about becoming one of these if she doesn't settle down soon.
- Chroma Key: Two remarkable examples are the moments where Darby plays "The Fox Chase" on a fiddle to an audience of dancing leprechauns and, most notably, the Banshee sequence.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Michael towards Katie, despite her snapping at him and letting Pony take her home.
- Exact Words: Part of King Brian's trickery. When Darby tries to show King Brian to Michael, Michael says he only sees a rabbit (and in fact, his POV only shows a little rabbit inside the bag). Darby wishes for Michael to be able to see Brian, to which Brian says the wish has been granted. Michael is able to see King Brian... as a rabbit.
- The Fair Folk: King Brian and the other leprechauns. Also, Darby's horse, Cleopatra, who is actually a pooka.
- Forced Perspective: Used to make the leprechauns look so small.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Darby makes one to save Katie's life. Not that he ends up actually sacrificing his life, though.
- Jerkass: Pony Sugrue
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: King Brian. Yes, he does just about everything he can to trick Darby, but he goes out of his way to be nice to him. He takes Darby into his kingdom with the intention of having him live a light-hearted existence there for the rest of his days and even though Darby didn't wish for Katie to fall in love with a steady young man, he still tries to get Katie and Michael together because he knows that Darby would want that. Plus, one of the times he does trick Darby, the trick works in such a way that it works out excellently for Darby.
- The Kindnapper: King Brian. When he hears that Darby has been evicted from the gatehouse, he decides to put the come-hither on Darby so that he can come live in the leprechaun kingdom instead. It's rather nice down there, too, with merriment, riches, and a Stradivarius violin for Darby to play, so it's obvious why King Brian sees it as a favor to Darby. However, King Brian doesn't intend to let Darby leave, and Darby doesn't want to stay down there, either.
- Literal Genie: King Brian, any chance he gets. Including the climax, when he uses it to save Darby's life.
- Meddling Parent: Pony's mother, Sheelah Sugrue
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Sean Connery
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: King Brian
- Our Banshees Are Louder: The banshee that appeared to warn that Katie was about to die. It also summoned the Cóiste-bodhar (Death Coach) to take away her soul to the afterlife.
- Portent of Doom: The banshee that wailed mournfully when someone was about to die.
- Really 700 Years Old: Though we don't know for sure about the other leprechauns, we are told that King Brian is around 5,000 years old.
- The Rival: King Brian to Darby.
- Romantic False Lead: In the first scene of the film, we see Sheelah Sugrue telling Katie what a good man her son Pony is, but Katie ends up with Michael instead.
- Take Me Instead!: Darby volunteers to take Katie's place in the Death Coach
- Three Wishes: "Three wishes I'll grant ye, great wishes an' small! But you wish a fourth and you'll lose them all!"