Finian's Rainbow (DVD)
Fred Astaire headlines an all-star cast in the big-screen version of oneof the greatest musicals ever to come from the Broadway stage--Finian'sRainbow.Everyone in the world knows that all Americans are millionaires--butonly Finian McLonergan (Astaire), of Glocca Morra, Ireland, knows why.By a process of mathematics, logic and moonbeams, Finian deduces thatit's the soil around Fort Knox: Why else would Americans dig the goldout of California to bury it again in Kentucky? All Finian has to do iswait for a full moon, waylay a leprechaun (Tommy Steele), borrow hismagical crock of gold and devise a "reason" for his daughter, Sharon(Petula Clark), about why they must travel to Rainbow Valley in thestate of "Missitucky."
A funny thing happened to Finian's Rainbow
in between its debut as a Broadway musical in 1947 and its appearance as a film in 1968. After 21 years, its theme of racial tension in the American South was no longer cutting edge, and the fact that its heroes are a group of sharecroppers called the Rainbow Valley Tobacco Cooperative dates it even further. Add a number of subplots and the heavy hand of a 29-year-old Francis Ford Coppola directing his first and only musical, and the two-and-a-half-hour running time feels bloated. Hermes Pan (best known for the classic Astaire-Rogers movies) is credited with choreographing the overbusy musical numbers, but he was reportedly overruled by Coppola at every turn. Still, there is a lot to enjoy in this movie, most notably Fred Astaire in his last lead role in a musical. Fred plays Finian McLonergan, an Irishman who has traveled to America in hopes of planting a pilfered pot of gold near Fort Knox and watching it grow. Even at 69, Fred shows he is still capable of a sprightly step and warbling "Look to the Rainbow." Another plus is the casting of '60s pop icon Petula Clark as his daughter, as she sings with an unaffected loveliness. Finally, the score by Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg includes two of the best Broadway songs ever written--"Old Devil Moon" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"--as well as the comic ditty "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love." --David Horiuchi