October 2012, By David Kamp
Enter Sean Connery, dark hair slicked with pomade, eyes locking hungrily upon a beautiful green-eyed girl.
Her return glance leaves no doubt—the feeling is mutual. His slouch and casual banter exude languor and nonchalance, but there’s an undercurrent of coiled menace to this man, as though he might, at any moment, spring into table-overturning, crockery-shattering action.
Except nothing of the sort happens. Instead, the other fellow in the scene cuts the tension by taking out his fiddle and favoring the room with a jaunty tune learned, he says in a stagy brogue, “in the old ruins on the top of Knocknasheega!” This isn’t a James Bond picture.
It is 1959, and Connery is putting in time in a cornball live-action Disney feature called Darby O’Gill and the Little People. He’s the second male lead, billed beneath not only Albert Sharpe, the elderly Irish character actor in the title role—a kindly farmhand who sees leprechauns—but also the green-eyed girl, the ingenue Janet Munro. Though verily pump-misting pheromonal musk into the air, to a degree unmatched before or since by any actor in a Disney family movie, Connery is still a jobbing scuffler, not a star. He has no idea of what lies in store for him.