Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Luck of the Irish (1948)

THE LUCK OF THE IRISH is a grand film, a whimsical fantasy which features Tyrone Power at his most handsome and charming. It's a wonderful way to spend 99 minutes, and what better day to watch it than St. Patrick's Day?

Steven (Power) is a writer whose car meets with a mishap as he tries to find his way around Irish roads. He spends the night at an inn run by Nora (Anne Baxter) and also has a run-in with a leprechaun (Cecil Kellaway). Or did he dream up the little man, the waterfall, and the pot of gold? But if it was a dream, where did Steven get that centuries-old doubloon in his pocket, and why do his wishes keep coming true?

Steven soon returns to New York to run the political campaign of David Augur (Lee J. Cobb). Steven feels like a sellout at times, but is tempted by the prospect of running Augur's publishing empire, as well as by Augur's daughter Frances (Jayne Meadows).

Steven feels his new Irish manservant Horace (Kellaway) looks strangely familiar, but can't quite figure out why. And then Nora ends up in New York too, and Steven finds his life at a crossroads.

I enjoyed this film from start to finish, and the ending is particularly delightful.

I suspect THE LUCK OF THE IRISH owes some of its inspiration to the "Scottish" musical BRIGADOON, which opened on Broadway roughly 18 months before THE LUCK OF THE IRISH was released. The opening, with the lost hero stumbling into a fantasy world, and the later conflict where he is torn between a glamorous life (and girlfriend) in New York City and the simpler pleasures found in Scotland or Ireland struck me as quite similar.

That said, the film is credited with being based on a novel by Constance and Guy Jones, who also wrote the book which inspired the William Powell-Ann Blyth fantasy MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID, released the same year as THE LUCK OF THE IRISH.

Power is simply wonderful. He has a real knack for comedy -- some of his reactions to the goings-on around him are priceless. Baxter is charming as Nora, and Meadows is also excellent as a young woman who knows what she wants and sets out to get it.

Kellaway previously starred in another excellent fantasy, I MARRIED A WITCH (1942). He received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in THE LUCK OF THE IRISH.

The DVD copy which is part of the Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection allows viewers an interesting color choice: it can be watched with the Ireland scenes tinted green, as it appeared when the film first played in theaters, while the New York scenes are in black and white. I thought the green tint gave the film some wonderful additional "atmosphere." If you prefer a straight black and white print, that's also an option.

The lovely score, which utilizes traditional themes including "Greensleeves," was by Cyril Mockridge. Lionel Newman was the music director, with orchestrations by Herbert Spencer and Maurice De Packh. The music sets the tone from the opening credits and adds a great deal to the film.

I'm always glad to see director Henry Koster's name in the opening credits. Koster films I've enjoyed recently include THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), THE RAGE OF PARIS (1938), FIRST LOVE (1939), and COME TO THE STABLE (1949).

I've now seen six of the ten films in the Tyrone Power Matinee Idol set and loved them all. THE LUCK OF THE IRISH is paired on a two-sided disc with another Power fantasy, I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU (1951). Extras include a very nice featurette, "Jayne Meadows Remembers," as well as photo galleries.

Reviews of other films in the set: LOVE IS NEWS (1937), SECOND HONEYMOON (1937), DAY-TIME WIFE (1939), and THAT WONDERFUL URGE (1948).

THE LUCK OF THE IRISH is also shown from time to time on Fox Movie Channel.


Blogger Tom said...

Nice review, Laura. I didn't like this movie as much. Some of the magic seemed to disappear when the setting moved to New York. The comparison to Brigadoon is interesting; I haven't seen that one yet.

3:05 AM  

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