The Music Man Reviews
Professor Harold Hill (Robert Preston) arrives in River City with a plan to make some money from the gullible citizens. He tells them he is organising a River City boy's band with the intention of leaving town with their money before the instruments arrive. He hasn't allowed for the fact that he will meet beautiful librarian Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones) and fall for her charms. Marian is at first very suspicious of Hill and then begins to realise he is doing a lot of good things for River City. Hill changes his plan, decides to stay and against all the odds manages to form the boy's band. The high class supporting cast includes Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford (who played the frustrated - and sometimes exasperated - Colonel Hall in the "Sergeant Bilko" TV series), Hermoine Gingold, a very young Ron Howard (only eight years old at the time, and now of course a respected film director), Harry Hickox, Percy Helton, Max Showalter and Pert Kelton. The film contained so many outstanding characters it is difficult to know where to start. Robert Preston of course was ideally cast as Harold Hill - it was definitely the best role of his career and the one he is most fondly remembered for. He worked tremendously hard, put his songs over with style and enthusiasm, was full of energy, and seemed to be enjoying himself enormously. The delightful Shirley Jones gave another captivating performance as Marian the librarian and sang several engaging songs throughout the film. Paul Ford was brilliant as Mayor Shinn and had many comic moments trying to get Hill run out of town or sent to jail. Buddy Hackett as Hill's friend Marcellus gets involved with the phoney plan to form the band and does his best to keep Hill out of trouble. Ron Howard impresses with his featured number "Gary, Indiana" (which for the sake of the plot he had to sing with a lisp!). Two of my favourite character actors were in the film (Percy Helton and Max Showalter). Unfortunately they both only appeared briefly in the opening number which was a shame as I would have liked to see them do more. Max Showalter was previously known as Casey Adams and had appeared with Marilyn Monroe in "Niagara" and "Bus Stop" plus many other films. The "Buffalo Bills" barbershop quartet close harmony group sing some nostalgic numbers which are very enjoyable and help to establish the period atmosphere of the film. Director Morton Da Costa introduced the gimmick of having the screen go dark after several of the numbers which I thought was a clever innovation. Even though Robert Preston had played the role of Harold Hill on Broadway with great success for 1375 performances Frank Sinatra was Warner Bros first choice for the film. However, they were told quite firmly by Meredith Willson (he wrote the book, words and music): "No Robert Preston, no movie!".
Songs include: "You've Got Trouble Right Here in River City", "The Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me", "Till There Was You", "Goodnight my Someone", "Wells Fargo Wagon", "Marian the Librarian", "Gary, Indiana" and of course the big show stopper "Seventy Six Trombones". There was a TV version of "The Music Man" in 2003 with Matthew Broderick. Although I admire this actor and have enjoyed much of his work this was a part that belongs firmly with Robert Preston and for anyone else to take it on is a mistake.
Robert Preston (to Buddy Hackett): "Must create a desperate need in your town for a boy's band".
Preston: "Ladies and gentlemen, either you are closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the calibre of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community!".
Shirley Jones (to Paul Ford): "Honestly, a bunch of grown men. Along comes this fly by night salesman and you're all taken in".
Paul Ford: "I want that man's credentials".
Preston: "Think, boys. Think!".
Preston (to Jones and Ron Howard): "Well, for the first time in my life - I got my foot caught in the door".
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In my defense, I did see this as a stage production before the movie version. But now I'm so used to this one, I try to watch it here and there.
Robert Preston is The Music Man, the traveling, swindling salesman, who "gets his foot caught in the door", and can't rip off an off-beat town after getting attached to the people. Great music and characters and Mrs. Partridge (Shirley Jones) as Marion the Librarian.
One of my fav movies, having been a band geek and all.
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