Darby O’Gill and the Scared Little People

The Hipp Theatre needs my help—yours, too, if you're interested.

For the past several years, the movie theatre in my home town of Gregory, South Dakota, has been run as a nonprofit organization staffed completely by volunteers. In order to keep showing movies, they'll need to buy expensive digital equipment. They've sent fundraising letters to all the Gregory High School alumni they could find, asking for donations to help today's kids enjoy movies "the way we did."

Great idea. Except I don't remember ever enjoying movies at the Hipp Theatre when I was in high school. Maybe the fact that my social life consisted largely of reading four or five library books a week had something to do with that. Surely I must have gone to a movie at least once or twice. If so, apparently neither the movie nor the date was that memorable.

What I do remember vividly about the Hipp Theatre, though, is watching a Disney movie there called Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Darby O'Gill was an elderly Irish man who kept trying to catch, or maybe did catch, the king of the leprechauns. His daughter was courted by a handsome young man who kept singing a lilting little song to her. The song still pops up in my mind at random moments: "Oh, she is my dear, my darling one, her eyes so sparkling, full of fun . . . "

Besides the song, the most memorable part of the movie included wailing banshees and something called the "death coach." I'm a little hazy on the details, mostly because I watched that part in terror with my hands over my eyes, huddled in my seat next to my Aunt Ginny and peeking every now and then to see if the scary things were gone yet. As I've always remembered it, I was about four years old at the time.

Well, thanks to the marvels of the Internet, I looked up Darby O'Gill and the Little People just now. I discovered two facts, one startling and one disturbing.

The startling fact was that the handsome singing lover was a young actor named Sean Connery. Maybe that explains why I've had a crush on the man my whole life.

The disturbing fact was that the movie was released in 1959. I was born in 1951. When I sat there in the theatre, not breathing, trying not to peek at the fearsome banshees, I wasn't four years old. I was at least eight.

That realization was a bit embarrassing. At least until I remembered that, in another theatre and another decade, I watched Jurassic Park the same way. I was 42 at the time. At least by then I was adult and sophisticated enough that I didn't have my hands over my face. I just shut my eyes and held my breath whenever I thought another dinosaur was going to burst through the wall and grab somebody.

Meanwhile, my daughter, at the blasé age of 11, sat there calmly munching her popcorn.

Either I was emotionally scarred for life by the banshees, or I'm just a wimp. I don't think I care to figure out which.

Still, I guess my memory of Darby O'Gill and the Little People is reason enough to donate a bit to the Hipp Theatre. Good for all the hardworking volunteers who think a small-town movie theater is worth keeping open. I hope they succeed.

I also hope, even in today's world, that there are still a few kids who watch the scary parts with their fingers over their eyes.

Categories: Remembering When

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One thought on “Darby O’Gill and the Scared Little People

  1. Ginny

    Years and years ago, movies were shown in the town hall of the now extinct little hamlet of Dixon, SD. I remember sitting beside my mother with my head securely hidden under the ‘fur’ collar of her coat while ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ played on the screen. I can still see an image of a soldier caught on a barbed wire barrier, slowly dying……after that my head was under the collar.Ginny

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