Finian’s Rainbow (1968): Coppola’s Musical Starring Fred Astaire and Petula Clark

Inexperienced film director Francis Ford Coppola made the E.Y. Harburg-Fred Saidy musical Finian’s Rainbow two decades after it played on Broadway.

Set in the mythical southern state of Missitucky, the story centers on the Irishman Finian (Fred Astaire) and his daughter Sharon (Petula Clark), who arrive in the community carrying a crock of gold, which they’ve stolen in the Auld Sod from Ogg the Leprechaun (Tommy Steele).

Finian believes that if he buries the crock on American soil, it will grow into an even larger treasure.  Meanwhile, Sharon falls in love with sharecropper Woody Mahoney (Don Francks), who is threatened by the perfidy of Senator Rawkins (Keenan Wynn).

While Finian haggles over three wishes with the tricky Ogg, Sharon runs afoul of the racially bigoted Rawkins. She wishes that Rawkins would turn black so that he could walk in someone else’s shoes

To rescue Sharon and Woody from being burned as witches, Ogg grants a wish that turns him into a human being; Ogg has fallen in love a mountain woman named Susan the Silent (Barbara Hancock).

The racial tolerance message of Finian’s Rainbow, considered radical in 1948, was out of date in 1968.  Coppola’s direction leaves much to be desired.

As Finian, Fred Astaire asked that the role be expanded so that he can dance.

The original score remains intact, including the hit song “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?”

Oscar Nominations: 2

Sound:

Score: Ray Heindorf

Oscar Context:

The musical Oliver! Won the Sound and Scoring Oscar by John Green

Credits

MPAA: G

Running time: 121 minutes.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Written by E. Y. Harburg, Fred Saidy

DVD: March 15, 2005