Tyrone Power had much better known films than The Luck of the Irish during his all-too brief film career (tragically cut short at the age of 44 due to a heart attack) such as The Mark of Zorro, The Razor’s Edge, and Nightmare Alley, but his turn as newspaper man Stephen Fitzgerald romancing a pair of women ably demonstrates that he was a star in spite of what was otherwise silly material better suited for a 1980s sitcom than a vehicle for one of the biggest box office draws of his time.
On paper the tale of a leprechaun travelling to America to be Fitzgerald’s manservant in an effort to make a love connection between Fitzgerald and an Irish lass he met during a business trip on the Emerald Isle should have been a series of Fitzgerald doing double takes, acting flummoxed by magical antics and sheepishly attempting to explain to his boss how his magical butler managed to deliver the Anderson account documents cross country, plan the charity gala and repair all his shoes in just a single afternoon. And had this starred Cary Grant, it would probably would have.
Instead you have Tyrone Power tackling the elderly leprechaun (twice), fighting a fireman at an Irish wedding reception, trying to get laid by the boss’s daughter even though his true love is the simple Irish gal Nora and once married to Nora, slapping her on the ass! Damn, I’d rather have Power’s magical abilities than that leprechaun’s!
It’s a good thing too that the film is anchored by Power’s smoldering, vaguely surly manliness because the rest of what transpires is a disappointing combination of dull plot developments (Fitz loses his wallet so Nora thinks he’s poor and summons his old boss to give him a job, when he isn’t really poor at all!), uninteresting characters (has there ever been a power hungry boss more friendly that D.C. Augur or a power hungry woman so pleasant and sensible as his daughter Frances?) and a scheming leprechaun so low key that while he is endearing, you just wish he would cut loose some in your face magic tricks beyond making Fitz slip on a rug.
Fitz is in Ireland on his way back to the States, having accepted a job with media mogul D.C. Augur and turning his back on his old freelancing career that allowed him to write what he really felt, but didn’t pay very well. After wrecking his car, he comes upon Horace in the woods while going for help. Later, he meets Nora, the local innkeeper and they fall in love looking at an unconvincingly composited shot of the ocean.
Fitz comes to suspect that there is more to Horace then meets the eye and forces him to dig up his pot of gold during their next encounter in the woods. Fitz refuses to keep the pot of gold, thus earning Horace’s loyalty and setting into motion Horace’s efforts to help true love triumph over gaudy big city lust.
As circumstances bring Nora and Fitz together again in New York, it all plays out as you expect in these supernatural romantic comedies, the only surprise being how little drama the film is able to muster from Fitz’s complicated job situation and love life. The issue with his working for Augur will induce shoulder shrugging as – gasp – Augur is paying Fitz to write what Augur wants him to write to assist him on his senate campaign! Why is Fitz surprised by that? Maybe it was more than he thought he signed up for, but it doesn’t make Augur any sort of villain. Don’t like it, Fitz? Resign.
Likewise, his relationship with Augur’s daughter is a real “so what” from a dramatic point of view. She doesn’t hide what her priorities are (status and power) and doesn’t do anything to Fitz to cause him problems (truth be told, if anything Fitz treats her like garbage, pretending he wants to marry her while pining away for Nora) so there is no great crisis caused by her for “true love” to overcome or crowd pleasing moment where she gets her comeuppance. She simply breaks off their engagement when it becomes clear she isn’t his first choice.
Cecil Kellaway is fine as Horace doing what he can with what the story gives him to do, which doesn’t amount to much beyond cockblocking Fitz and Frances and attempting to manipulate Fitz’s schedule so he meets Nora and misses the Augurs.
Horace is a leprechaun despite appearing to be a normal-sized man and in another show of the film’s missed opportunity, he alludes to some dark past that resulted in him not being smaller, but never elaborates on it or gives him any closure on that issue. (How much more interesting would things have been if Fitz had to help him somehow become a tiny leprechaun again?)
With the winning Tyrone Power and the game Kellaway making good foils for each other while sharing Fitz’s apartment, I wanted to like The Luck of the Irish a lot more than I did. With no real villains and thus no tension or payoff, it was hard to become too invested in what happened with Fitz and Nora. Fitz only has to overcome his own lust and greed, but I was never sure why I should care if he did nor not. Undercooked flavorless Irish stew in dire need of the smack on the ass Tyrone gave his co-star, it’s all so much bland blarney.
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