Pop Culture Blind Spot: Darby O’Gill And The Little People

Three truths and a lie, St. Patrick’s Day Edition:

  • I grew up Irish dancing and thus I never went to school on St. Patrick’s Day because I had performances.
  • I mostly look like a leprechaun.
  • Every year, my family watched Darby O’Gill and the Little People sometime around St. Paddy’s day.
  • I despair every time someone calls it St. Patty’s Day. Who’s Patricia?

Answer: As you probably guessed from the post title, I’ve never seen Darby O’Gill and The Little People. The 1959 Disney movie is a cheesy, beloved Irish-American classic starring (according to Wikipedia)… Sean Connery?! Woah. In my defense, in the 90s if your family didn’t have the VHS tape of a movie or it didn’t air on a station you got, you just didn’t see it. I’m rectifying that now, so please don’t disinvite me from the next ceilidh or soda bread baking night.

Set design of Irish movies from the 1940s-1970s is the main reason for a lot of lingering Irish stereotypes. Namely, that it’s always vaguely the 1800s with thatch roofs and dirty stucco walls and like … spinning wheels and butter churns and shawls everywhere.

Is the old lady, The Widow Sugrue,  the same old lady from The Wedding Singer? I know it’s impossible but one has to wonder.

It’s not.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Pretty Young Lass Needs A Husband

It takes me about 3 minutes to get into the mode where I understand what anybody is saying. It’s not because I’m not used to Irish accents. It’s because these aren’t Irish accents (Katie’s is often OK. Widow Sugrue’s reminds me of elementary school plays where you didn’t know how to do the accent you were supposed to do so you just talked weird).

It’s called Darby O’Gill and The Little People, and for whatever reason I assumed Darby would be a leprechaun too. Nope. Just a guy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Group Of Men Telling Legends In A Pub.

The special effects of Darby talking to leprechaun King Brian are surprisingly very good. Sometimes I think modern CGI makes things look more fake than old-school camera tricks.

The image links to an explanation of some of the *movie magic.* I’m duly impressed.

It also reminds me of the parts of Mr. Rogers when take the trolley to the Land of Puppetville or whatever that was.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Village Priest Solving A Financial Problem.

Young Sean Connery could get it.

By the way, Sean Connery is one of those people who’s never been young. He’s 29 here and his face is care-worn and weathered.

Everyone’s sideburns are huge. Little House on the Prairie sideburns.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Woman Leans Out A Half-Door.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Old Man Plays The Fiddle.

These leprechauns have the best outfits. They’re total Keebler Elf getups.

I’d live inside this Leprechaun Ceilidh. It’s like the Trolls hideout without all the LSD, or Munchkinland without the specter of murder. Yet, anyway.

So many dorky Irish in-references: Brian Boru, the harp that once thro Tara’s halls, a tribe of people cowering away from direct sunlight (no? Just me?).

When Darby plays his fiddle really fast and the leprechauns start dancing crazy, you could forget what I said about “without all the LSD” before. This is trippy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Somebody Gets Someone Drunk In Order To Trick Them.

Always been a sucker for a cat vs leprechaun sequence. Another triumph for old-school special effects.

All these songs sound the same. Bless Janet Munro and Sean Connery. They’re trying so hard to have Irish accents in their scenes together. Sean Connery has natural 21st Century American Invisalign Teeth. Janet Munro, an English actress, definitely looks Irish.

Darby would be a cute name for a dog, right?

Darby, requesting whisky: The best in the house!

Barmaid: [look of shock and fear, because best in the house means things are SERIOUS. Also because Darby gives the drink to a man inside his rucksack.]

I start laughing out loud when Katie starts singing in a drippy voice while preening her weird short bangs and suddenly I can’t stop laughing.

Keep expecting this to turn into an SNL sketch where King Brian is really gross or filthy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Woman Gets Offended When Man Loves Her.

The banshee looks like you’re meant to be looking at it through special glasses.

“29. Sean Connery is TWENTY NINE” – me, out loud, trying to convince myself that Very Adult Man Sean Connery isn’t even 30 here.

The ghostly horse and carriage is actually spooky in a laser light show at the planetarium kind of way. If I saw this as a kid I’d be unnerved.

By the way, the headless horseman doesn’t really have an Irish accent, either.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I laugh every time they sing that stupid song.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Characters Drive Away In A Horse-Drawn Cart.

The bottom line: I enjoy old movies, and this was an enjoyable old movie. The underlying question with our Pop Culture Blind Spot posts is whether cult favorites are good of their own accord, or if you have to have some sort of earlier sentimental connection to them to really love them.  I could see being really into Darby O’Gill And The Little People if I had loved it as a kid, and seeing at is an adult I have a healthy appreciation for the old-school special effects and the imaginative story. It actually made me realize, in comparison, how much more I liked last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Pop Culture Blind Spot, The Quiet Man. In the battle between Rugged Men Who Aren’t Irish Playing Rugged Men Who Are, Sean Connery vs John Wayne, John Wayne takes this round.


Stand Up For The Fans In Green: How Ireland Won Euro 2016

We’re a few weeks away from the end of the Euro, but I’m ready to declare a winner: the high-spirited, fun-loving fans of the Boys in Green. In a sport where hooliganism runs wild, and in a year where Europe is as divided as ever, Irish fans decided that their ‘thing’ was to be as extravagantly wonderful as possible. The result: all of Europe, and soccer fans around the globe, fell in love with them.  The boys in green gained supporters from all over, and spectators waited to see what fantastic thing Ireland’s fans would do next. All of the stunts were typical of the Irish sense of humor. You probably know about English humor – dry, wry, self-deprecating – but Irish humor isn’t that. It’s un-self conscious and rooted in happiness, goofiness and a love for the absurd. Team Ireland is officially out of the Euro, but in my heart, Ireland’s endearing, good-hearted fans are the real winners. And it’s not just me: today Irish fans were awarded the Medal of the City of Paris. Just for BEING FOOTBALL FANS. Just for being themselves. God bless.

We are going to rank these Euro moments on a scale of one to five, measured by Ireland’s most precious export:

Do not think that a video is subpar if it rates one Niall Horan: after all, one Niall Horan is good enough for One Direction. For the purposes of this discussion, Niall will be presented in his purest form:

Lullaby For The Boys In Green

Here’s a thing that sounds like it’s true of people everywhere, but I swear it’s an Irish thing: Irish men love babies. Groups of Irish men love singing. Find me something better than this group of Ireland supporters on a train singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to a small baby and announcing “we’ve got a baby!” like they’re in the presence of a small prince.

Niall Quotient:


Sing A Prayer For The Boys In Green

Imagine you at your most obnoxious drunken college self, and then imagine a nun walked into your train car. You would absolutely treat that nun to a rendition of the Our Father and try to dance with her. Also, this is a very jazzy rendition of the Lord’s Prayer and must have been the standard one at these guys’ schools and churches. A+

Niall Quotient:

Fix The Car For The Boys In Green

Cars don’t usually come off well in giant football celebrations. My favorite part of this isn’t the Irishmen pounding out the dents – which was great – or singing “fix the car for the boys in green.” It was the fans frantically stuffing money into the car’s windows to make up for the damage.

Niall Quotient: 

Change A Tire For The Boys In Green

Irish fans help elderly French couple change flat tyre at Euro 2016

As the Irish fan says, there’s the difference between Irish fans and English fans: we change the wheel of a car. (Wheel changing Irish fan: you single?)

Niall Quotient:

Stand Up For The Balcony

For a brief, shining moment, the biggest celebrity of Euro 2016 was this guy who had a balcony. The crowd cheered when he walked out and booed when he left. He probably should have anticipated this when he moved above an Irish pub.

Niall Quotient:

Stand Up For The French Police

Only these guys could commandeer a tunnel and make people like them for it because they serenade the French police while they’re at it.

Niall Quotient:

Stand Up For The Ulsterman

Little geopolitics for you: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland: Not the same. Not nearly the same. Centuries of troubles to show for it. But when a Northern Ireland fan, Darren Rodgers, died tragically of a fall, the Irish fans paid tribute by chanting “stand up for the Ulsterman” during their game against Sweden. It’s one island, after all.

Niall Quotient:

Stand Up For The Sexy Wives

Even Ireland’s smack talk doesn’t sting. Ireland’s taunt to Sweden’s fans?  “Go home to your sexy wives.” Have you seen Swedes? They’re not wrong.

Niall Quotient: 

Stand Up For The Foreign News

To be fair, this Hungarian news anchor was in the presence of greatness and he knew it.

Niall Quotient:

Stand Up For This French Girl

Ha. Hahahahahahaha.

Niall Quotient:

Stand Up For The Dancing Queen

Ireland’s favorite past time: group singalongs. Sweden’s favorite past time: following confusing furniture building instructions ABBA. Match made in heaven, played in France.

Niall Quotient:

Stand Up If You Lost Your Kid

When a child got separated from his father, the Irish fans chanted “Steve, here is your son.” They crouched down then sang “Stand up if you lost your son.” Happy ending: Steve got his kid back (Steve’s wife: probably not thrilled).

Niall Quotient:

Pop Culture Blind Spots: The Quiet Man

Just last week I wrote this post about things Irish-Americans will understand, but the truth is I’ve been missing a big part of the typical experience. Friends, I’ve never seen The Quiet Man. Pop Culture Blind Spots are all about getting acquainted with the classics and cult favorites that we’ve somehow missed out on, and it doesn’t get much more classic than John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It’s still Irish-American Heritage Month, and this pop culture blind spot is FULL of Ireland, America (John Wayne, hello!) and a healthy heaping of heritage.

  • What I know about The Quiet Man: John Wayne is an American (I hope, because he’s not great with accents) who goes to Ireland and falls in love with Maureen O’Hara before dragging her across a meadow on Christmas. Maybe he’s trying to be a cowboy in Ireland? Maybe Ireland doesn’t need cowboys. But maybe Maureen O’Hara needs a cowboy.

Based on this poster: a lot’s going on.

  • Also, I’ve been present when The Quiet Man was on – my dad has it on TV at some point every Christmas – but I’ve never actually watched it.
  • Huge props to whomever first put credits AFTER the movie instead of before. Like most old movies, this one begins with a solid few minutes of people’s names.
  • They segregate Irish cast members under a heading The Irish Players and for some reason that cracks me up.
  • John Wayne meets a priest whose whole purpose is to give exposition about him and his parents.
  • Okay, so Sean (John Wayne) was born in Ireland, and now is returning, but he was in America long enough to sound like John Wayne, the voice that comes out of the eagle on a $1 bill.
  • Wow, Ireland has a normal amount of trees. Background: I have relatives who maintain that “the English” cut all the trees down in Ireland and that’s why there … aren’t trees there? First of all, sounds fake. Second of all, if Ireland had a climate where trees grow, wouldn’t trees eventually come back? According to the cinematography of The Quiet Man, yes.
  • No lie, this is filmed in BEAUTIFUL technicolor.
  • This lush countryside with the sheep, collie, and Maureen O’Hara in it is 100% how Americans stereotype Ireland. Just need a thatched cottage (forthcoming, I’m assuming) and a leprechaun (probably not) or family with many children (maybe).

  • Thatched roofs appear by the 10-minute mark, don’t worry.
  • Maureen O’Hara has my natural hair type, and I’d really like those poofy 40s hairdos to come back.

Lit’rally my stupid hair.

  • Speaking of 1940s hairdos, when is this set? Is it mid-century, or is it, like, 1880? So far the modes of transportation are bicycle, horse, and train, so that doesn’t help. I got up to let my dog in during the first minute of the movie so this may have been addressed already. Widow Tillane is showing kind of a lot of ankle if it’s set in olden days, no offense.
  • Wow, everyone sure is wrapped in a lot of tweed in this movie.
  • Mr. Danaher (Victor McLaglen) tries to have an Irish accent some of the time (not all of the time).
  • Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) and the other Danahers live in a spacious cottage with a hutch full of fancy china, so at least they aren’t going for the thing where everyone in Ireland is poor.
  • Is this a drinking game? Cool, drink for family with many kids (Mary Kate has an indeterminate number of brothers, unless they’re just house guests).
  • Unrelated: a teen walking a pit bull just let it poop in my front lawn then walked away. SO RUDE, wow. I was going to go bang on my window but I was afraid of spite poop from now til eternity.
  • Drink for people singing folk songs in a pub.
  • I like how there’s a stock character of Old Ethnic White Man With Long Beard who looks completely the same for every ethnicity. Whether you’re Russian, Irish, German or French, eventually you’ll look like this guy:

Far left.

  • Drink again for people singing folk songs in a pub.
  • I don’t know when the title is going to make sense, but as of a half hour in, John Wayne talks a normal amount at a regular volume.
  • OK, I’ll bite. I’ve heard in/een added to girl names before to make it a nickname, but never guy names. Michaeleen, Seanin… I guess it’s a thing! That’s fun.

Sean: So you can talk.

Mary Kate: Yes I can, I will, and I do.

…Maybe he’s only quiet compared to her then.

  • Now Sean and Mary Kate are in love because they looked at each other at mass, which reminds me, I’ve been meaning to go to mass more.
  • A (Protestant) Reverend and his wife visit Sean. They’re mostly made of tweed.
  • Over 60 years later, The Quiet Man still looks like a product of Ireland’s travel bureau.
  • My favorite thing about Mary Kate is she’s always wearing a blanket cape like me in the winter watching Netflix.
  • Mary Kate will only get married if her property goes with her. Married women could own property in the UK after the 1880s (assuming this is pre-independence?).I’m not sure yet when TQM is set. The costuming and set design are vague and woolen.
  • I had to look it up, because it was driving me crazy. Released in 1952, set in the 1920s. Some of the folksy dresses are probably fine because it’s a rural area, but I think Mary Kate’s hair is a bit anachronistic. Probably because it’s my hair, scalped off of my head and placed on Maureen O’Hara’s.
  • They’re at the races, and nobody started singing “ev’ry duke and earl and peer is here,” so I did.
  • No offense but this isn’t going to be a great jockey:

    I can’t find a photo of him in his racing silks, but trust me, hilarious.

  • “Two women in the house, and one of them a redhead.” File under: should be offended, but that’s actually fair.
  • Man. Everyone is very pissed that Mary Kate (MK, I call her) isn’t putting her bonnet on a pole, which is culturally relevant somehow.
  • Call me crazy, but I’m starting to really like the name Mary Kate. Too Olsen Twins? Maybe it could be short for Mary Katherine. Too Molly Shannon? Just putting it out there.
  • IF there were such a thing as drag racing horses, that’s what happens.
  • Well, I’ve thought Mary Kate’s brother was her dad for the past hour. Let it be known that MK has a giant brother who is approximately 40 years older than her.
  • MK has a “fearful temper” which in the 1920s just meant opinions, sometimes.
  • Sean and MK steal a bicycle built for two after they get engaged, but as far as I’m concerned the only crime they’re committing is being too darn adorable (plus petty theft I suppose).
  • Everyone folk-sings “I’m sorry I never got married” at Sean and MK’s wedding. Fun party.
  • BRB overdubbing this whole wedding scene with Helpless/Satisfied from Hamilton.
  • MK’s Old Brother announces that he’s marrying Widow Whatever-aher at Sean and MK’s reception. Talk about thunder-stealing. Also he didn’t clear it with Widow first, which isn’t great. All of these people are like 2 generations apart and it’s very confusing.
  • Sean flashes back to boxing, punching a guy out, and accidentally killing him. WOAH PLOT TWIST. Genuinely did not say that coming.
  • Saddest moment in the movie: MK says “ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having my own things about me.” Her lifelong dream was to be allowed to own stuff. What does her old brother care anyway? He’s probably almost dead or about to marry into all that sweet Widow Talooley money or whatever.
  • OH OK. MK is going to go Lysistrata until she gets her dowry.
  • MK gets her furniture, and it looks GREAT. But no money because her brother’s a dick.
  • MK talks Irish to the priest, who is fishing and wearing some tweed, but not like a Protestant amount.
  • How about from now on I just tell you if there’s a pub scene that doesn’t end in singing?
  • Meanwhile in the protestant minister’s house, you can tell that he’s a protestant minister by the wife and the giant globs of silver on the mantle. He and Sean have a tete-a-tete about the deadly boxing max and the Danaher dowry.
  • Not to make too much of the cinematography, but I feel like I should be paying more than my monthly Netflix membership to watch this, it’s so pretty.
  • Basically all of the male minor characters are Alfred P. Doolittle from My Fair Lady.
  • Know whose butts looked good in those saggy woolen pants they used to wear? Nobody’s butts. Not a single butt.
  • OK, help me with this. Sean pulls MK off a train and drags her by the arm through the town. A flock of Irish Players trail behind them. A guy at the pub announces that he’s “walking her back, the whole way.” The crowd grows, and Sean grows increasingly yank-y and rough. MK looses a shoe. She falls, he drags her anyway, then yanks her up and pushes her down a hill. Sean then drags MK by her coat collar. A woman hands Sean “a good stick to beat the lovely lady.”
  • You know how sometimes with old movies, it’s hard to understand how the original audiences found them at all surprising or riveting? I am every bit as befuddled as the 1952 audiences were. WHAT IS GOING ON. WHY CAN’T SHE WALK REGULAR. SINCE WHEN IS SEAN A WIFE-BEATER. WAS THIS COMEDY IN THE ’50s. IS THIS A SCHEME? IS THE WHOLE TOWN IN ON IT, BECAUSE IF NOT THEY ARE VERY VERY CHILL ABOUT ALL OF THIS WIFE-DRAGGING.
  • Here, just watch it actually:

  • Danaher won’t fork over the dowry money. Sean throws MK back at her bro, because no dowry/no wife. Old Brother Danaher throws the money at Sean. He and MK burn it. She was in on this, right? I still think he was unnecessarily rough. MK says she’ll have dinner ready for him, then leaves Sean to beat up her brother.
  • What follows is a ten-minute long fight sequence involving:
    • indiscriminate punches thrown by all of the villagers
    • … in a pile of hay
    • a shot fired by Michaeleen to call attention for the rules of the fight
    • Widow Tooraloora watching through an opera glass
    • Old Brother Danaher landing in a river
    • Bookies
    • A deathbed scene for the Bearded Ethnic White Man, interrupted when he pops up to watch the fight
    • Buckets of water thrown on Danaher
    • A priest rubbing his hands with glee
    • Other buckets of water thrown on everyone else
    • A sub-fight about who is buying the drinks
    • A door breaking into smithereens, a word I don’t use nearly enough
    • A singalong
    • Sean and Old Brother Danaher showing up, drunk and woozy, for dinner at MK’s on her great furniture she owns.
  • Time passes. A crowd is told to cheer like Protestants, which apparently is the word “hooray!” Old Man Danaher and Widow Talooraeay get married! Sean and MK scamper back to their cottage, married and adorable.
  • Well, it’s official. This movie has nothing to do with Christmas. Or, now that I think about it, a man who’s particularly quiet.


You Know You’re Irish-American When…

Although I’d argue that I’m just plain American (even if I have ancestors who were from somewhere else), this time of year I can’t help but notice that there are a few things that set apart Americans from Irish backgrounds.  Irish-Americans are also different from Irish people, and if you’re reading this from Ireland most of these items won’t sound familiar to you. Yes, Irish-Americans are their own weird little subculture. Are you a part of it?

You know you’re Irish-American when…

  • As soon as you were old enough to count to three, you were old enough to count to “one two three, two two three, three two three.”

  • Not only have you been to a feis and a ceilidh, you can spell and pronounce both.
  • You have siblings or cousins with the following names: Molly, Megan, Caitlin, Shannon, Erin, Katie, Kelly, Sean, Ryan, Brian, Kevin, Patrick. Nope, those aren’t all Irish names. Doesn’t matter.
  • The men in your family – above a certain age – all wear those flat tweed caps.


    As a kid, one of my non-Irish-American friends remarked that my dad always wears a beret.

  • You have at least one acquaintance with the same first and last name as another famous Irish-American. For instance, my cousin shares a name with Shannen Doherty (but spelled differently), and my Irish dance teacher was Eddie Murphy (… he’s Irish, right?).
  • Your grandmother (even if she was a Republican) idolized JFK until the day she died.
  • To this day, your aunts use “he looks like JFK” as the ULTIMATE compliment.

    I think I almost got blacklisted from the family when I said he “just looks like a regular guy.” Now JFK Jr., on the other hand…

  • You have attended a funeral where nobody was named Danny. Danny Boy was sung anyway.

  • You, or someone in your family, would argue to the grave that Danny Boy and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling are NOT real Irish songs.
  • By the time you were 6, you owned a piece of claddagh jewelry, knew the whole story behind it, and could identify what the different parts symbolized.
  • You cringe when non-Irish friends say that they bought a claddagh for themselves. The horror!
  • Someone in your family is still really pissed at the English. Like, more than you expect contemporary people in Ireland to be.
  • And they’re probably really jazzed about the centennial of the Easter Uprising, too.
  • You own at least one of those itchy sweaters, probably more, purchased every time somebody in your family goes to Ireland.

    Accurate, except where are the rest of the kids?

  • You have had to set friends straight on the proper way to make tea. You have all but given up on ordering tea out. Thanks for the lukewarm water that I’m supposed to, um … dunk?… a tea bag in, though?

St. Saoirse Of Irish-America.

  • Christmas shopping is easy because you have one relative who collects Belleek, Connemara Marble, or Waterford Crystal.


  • As a child, you believed in –  and were terrified of – leprechauns, fairies or banshees.

    Scarred for life.

  • You know EXACTLY what I’ll tell me ma.
  • You had your first drink at the AOH (that’s Ancient Order of Hibernians to outsiders).
  • All of your uncles have retained their childhood nicknames within the family: Danny, Tommy, Jimmy, Mickey, etc.
  • Even if you aren’t super into St. Patrick’s Day, people assume you are and practically congratulate you when the holiday rolls around.
  • You have at least one family ginger.


    … or a few.

  • You also have family lore about Black Irish (read: why your one brother has black hair).
  • There was a shillelagh and a St. Brigid’s Cross hanging in your house growing up.

    Bowl of fire entirely optional.

  • If you have the stereotypical Irish phenotype – freckles, light skin, light eyes, red hair – strangers ALWAYS tell you you must be “very Irish.” Which is weird because isn’t “very Irish” like… from Ireland? And everything else is not very Irish?

Literally me.

  • You were the family with the big bottle of sensitive skin-formula SPF 50. In the Northeast. In March. 
  • There are four or more children in your family. You have described it as a “small family.”
  • Listing all of your nieces and nephews’ names in order, properly, in one breath, is practically a party trick.
  • You grit your teeth when someone says St. Patty’s Day. Or Corn Beef.
  • Family parties: light on the food, heavy on the booze.
  • You, or someone in your family, has a first or last name that other Americans cannot spell or pronounce.
  • You have corned beef and cabbage around St. Patrick’s Day, but that isn’t the only time of the year that you eat boiled meat.
  • If you didn’t go to Catholic school, you went to CCD. Meaning you were one of those kids who used to get into our desks every Sunday.
  • And I’m not saying Irish-Americans can hold a grudge, but that was TWENTY YEARS AGO.
  • Irish Catholic guilt trips are real.
  • So is the Irish Goodbye. Every gathering wraps up with a round of “wait, when did Aunt Whoever leave?”