It's the early twentieth century American Midwest. A con man, currently going by the assumed name Harold Hill, has used several different schemes to bilk the unsuspecting, he now traveling from town to town pretending to be a professor of music - Gary (Indiana) Conservatory of Music, class of '05 - being able to solve all the respective towns' youth problems by forming a boys' marching band. He takes money from the townsfolk to buy instruments, music, instructional materials and uniforms for their sons. However, he, in reality, has no degree, knows nothing about music, and after all the materials arrive and are distributed, hightails it out to move to the next town with all the money never to be seen again. Many of the traveling salesmen in the territory have been negatively impacted by him, as the townsfolk then become suspicious of any stranger trying to sell them something. For Harold's scheme to work, he has to gain the trust of the local music teacher, he usually doing so by ... Written by
The marching bands of the University of California and the University of Southern California were drafted in for the final parade scene. See more »
In the first town folk song, "Iowa Stubborn", a couple stand with a frame looking exactly like Grant Wood's "American Gothic". Grant would not paint this till 1930, 18 years after the setting of the show. See more »
Oh yes, that woman made brazen overtures, with a guilt-edge guarantee / She had a golden glint in her eye and a silver voice with a counterfeit ring / Just melt her down and you'll reveal / a lump of lead as cold as steel / Here, where a woman's heart should be.
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The letters in the film's title, in producer-director Morton da Costa's name, and in Meredith Willson's name (the first time it appears onscreen) are formed by a miniaturized, stop-motion animated marching band, who also form themselves into musical instruments on which the rest of the opening credits appear. See more »
Robert Preston brilliantly recreates his Broadway role.
One of the greatest musicals ever put onto film is how I would describe "The Music Man" with its show stopping numbers like "Ya Got Trouble Right Here in River City", "The Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me", "Wells Fargo Wagon", "Seventy Six Trombones" and many more.
Confidence trickster Harold Hill arrives in River City with the intention of setting up a boy's band and taking money for costumes and instruments but intends to leave town with the money before these arrive. Things don't exactly work out to plan when he finds himself falling for the town's librarian and he becomes involved with the lives of many of the River City citizens. Meanwhile, the mayor tries his best to have Hill run out of town but one by one the River City townspeople begin to realise that Hill has actually brought much happiness and contentment to several of them since his arrival. Marian the librarian gradually succumbs to Hill's charms and defends him against the wild accusations of the mayor.
A high class ensemble of players make this a captivating film - in addition to Robert Preston himself (absolutely brilliant as Professor Harold Hill) we have Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo (the librarian), Buddy Hackett as Hill's friend Marcellus Washburn, Harry Hickox as another salesman determined to expose Hill, Paul Ford as Mayor Shinn and Hermione Gingold as Mrs Eulalie Shinn. Paul Ford's excellent portrayal of Mayor Shinn was not that far removed from his role as Colonel Hall in the long running "Sergeant Bilko" TV series. (I half expected to see Phil Silvers turn up in River City with some new gambling scheme on his mind!). Also in the "Music Man" cast was a very young Ron Howard (aged only eight) as Winthrop Paroo who was outstanding in his featured number "Gary, Indiana" which he had to sing with a lisp!! (He is of course now well established as a competent film director). I was surprised to see the talented actor Max Showalter (also known as Casey Adams) only used in one scene at the opening of the film. An actor of his calibre should have had a much larger part I consider. I was delighted to see Percy Helton (albeit briefly), one of my favourite character actors, pop up as the train conductor at the beginning of the film. Percy Helton has appeared in hundreds of films and is instantly recognisable with his distinctive voice and chubby frame. A word of praise is due to "The Buffalo Bills" who provide many delightful musical interludes throughout the film. "The Music Man" was produced and directed by Morton da Costa and I loved his theatrical device when the screen went dark after some of the musical numbers - a fascinating innovation.
Some favourite lines from the film:-
Harry Hickox: "But he doesn't know the territory!".
Robert Preston: "Gentlemen, you intrigue me - I think I'll have to give Iowa a try!".
Paul Ford: "I said all along - get his credentials didn't I?".
Paul Ford: "Where's the band? Where's the band?".
Preston (to the boy's band): "Now think, men, think!".
In 1958 Robert Preston won the prestigious "Tony" Award as Best Actor in a musical (on Broadway) for "The Music Man" but was overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when it came to the "Oscars". Why Preston wasn't even nominated as "Best Actor" is a mystery to me as this was the perfect role for him having performed it so long on Broadway. He was ideally suited in the part of Harold Hill and played it to perfection. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards (including one for best picture but was beaten by "Lawrence of Arabia").
A fabulous musical with entertaining storyline, noteworthy acting talent, and impeccably photographed in ravishing colour. "The Music Man" is an exceptional musical which can be viewed again and again with increasing enjoyment. 10/10. Clive Roberts.
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