It was Dick Van Dyke who was to play Finian in the musical adapted from the 1948 Broadway hit “Finian’s Rainbow.” Warner Bros. had purchased the rights to the film back in the early 1950's. Yet, for whatever reason, the studio had never gotten around to this.
That is to say, until 1968! The film was set for release sometime in 1968 and to be directed by 29 year-old Francis Ford Coppula. It was to star Tommy Steele, Petula Clark - who would make her film debute in America- and Dick Van Dyke. However, when the deal with agile Dick Van Dyke fell through, Warner Bros. replaced him with a true Hollywood icon and legend: the one and only, now 69-year-old Fred Astaire! Some people derisively say that Astaire took the role just to cure his arthritis, but I think he took the role because it was the perfect role for him.
The story follows an Irish rogue and his daughter who come to Rainbow Valley in Kentucky right next to Fort Knocks. The man comes to the free world with a dream and a pot of gold! Trouble arises from the ground when a greedy and racist senator detects gold on the land and starts causing 13-shamrock trouble! The film deals with a number of problems such as racism and prejudice and the impact they have on society. Age, on the other hand, does not matter in screen legend Fred Astaire's case in the film for he sings, he dances, and does it extremely well. The only difference from the young Fred Astaire and the old Fred Astaire is that he wears a worn-out hat instead of a topper, a ruddy old cardigan instead of black tails, and instead of a white tie he wears an old scarf that he drapes warmly around his shoulder. This is still Fred Astaire!
With Fred Astaire as Finian, Petula Clark as Finian's daughter Sharon, Tommy Steele as Og, the Leprecon, Don Franks as Sharon’s lover Woody Mahoney, Barbara Hancocks as Susan the Silent and the classic Disney villain, Keenan Wynne as the senator, this film is a sure Irish delight! As this was Fred Astaire's last musical, I think the role he played in this funny and witty musical was just the kind of role he wanted to play. Fred Astaire’s last musical was one of the greatest musicals of its time!
movie rating on scale of 0-100: Robert Steven Mack - 98/100
Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack