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Songs: Burton Lane (music); E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, (lyrics) Arrangements/Orchestrations: Albert Sendry (uncredited), Ken Darby - Rhino Handmade RHM 2 7857, TT: 46.54, 17 tracks (stereo) Film * * Score ***** Producer: George Feltenstein, Performed: Warner Bros Soloists, Studio Orchestra & Chorus, Musical Director/Conductor: Ray Heindorf Collectors' Choice Music released the original motion picture soundtrack on CD in 2007. by Ross Care
In his book Can’t Help Singin’ Gerald Mast describes the original theatrical version of Finian’s Rainbow as “a fanciful 1947 Broadway blast from the left.” The plot somehow managed to combine Irish characters and folklore (including an errant leprechaun) with some cutting social satire on American race relations in the mythical southern state of Missatucky. The show was a long-running smash, its score adding several classics (“Old Devil Moon,” “How Are Things in Glocca Mora”) to the American theater song repertory. But the 1968 film did not materialize until long past the golden age of the vintage studio musical, and when it finally did was directed by, of all people, Francis Ford Coppola. Cinematically Finian’s Rainbow is a stylistic mishmash of department store window studio sets and location shooting that makes Missatucky look suspiciously like southern California in drought season. Concerning the direction Mast concludes: “Coppola is a foreigner to the tongue in which musical is spoken.” However, the Warner Bros. film was blessed with a perfect cast, including Hollywood veteran Fred Astaire, and British pop stars, Petula Clark and Tommy Steele, and the recent Rhino re-issue serves to remind us of just how good these performers and the show’s score are. The multi-talented Clark came to Hollywood after a series of Top of the Pops hits equally successful in America (on Warner Bros. Records, by the way), but unfortunately had less luck with Hollywood films of the post-studio musical era. But she acquits herself beautifully in Finian, bringing a beguiling Irish brogue to both her best role and her distinctive vocals, notably the touching “Look to the Rainbow.” Steele (as Og the leprechaun) had just had a transAtlantic hit with the West End musical, Half A Sixpence, which was also turned into a 1967 Hollywood film, and duets with Clark in a quaint gavotte, “Something Sort of Grandish.” The lyrical and varied music for Finian is by Burton Lane, a master melodist otherwise known for his superb score for MGM’s Royal Wedding, recently also restored on Rhino. Lyrics are by E. Y. “Yip” Harburg who had previously found gold at the end of another rainbow with his lyrics for The Wizard of Oz. The team also worked (but not together) on DuBarry Was A Lady, another recent Rhino release. And, speaking of DuBarry MGM would probably have, as they often did - On the Town, Brigadoon - tossed out half of the Broadway score and turned Finian’s Rainbow into a truncated, but perhaps more enjoyable and cinematic version of the original. But fortunately, at least for the listening public, Warner Bros. didn’t, and this (slightly) expanded version of the original ST LP provides a complete version of the great Broadway score in beautiful stereo and under Warner Bros. maestro, Ray Heindorf’s impeccable music direction.