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
In the diner, Harold Hill attempts to remember a William Shakespeare quote: "Cowards die a thousand deaths, the brave man... only 500," to which Marian replies "something like that." The quote he looks for is from "Julius Caesar", Act 2, Scene 2, when Gaio Giulio Cesare says, "Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once." See more »
Interior scenes that feature the windows of the library front doors show frosted and etched glass designs sometimes, and at other times only a plain frosted glass. See more »
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 »
One of the best musicals ever made. So much of the movie is perfect: plot, music, most of the cast. One weak spot is Susan Luckey as Zaneeta, though the part is not well written. Another is Monique Vermont as Amaryllis, worse than average for a child actor. But the 8-year-old Ronny Howard as Winthrop is excellent. He shines at the end when Harold Hill gets his foot caught in the door. Of course, Preston is perfect, as is Shirley Jones, who never looked better. (Someone said Heaven is where all the men are 33 and all the women are 30. Jones was in her late 20s.) Paul Ford, Hermione Gingold (overdoing it once), and Pert Kelton are all outstanding.
The director Morton DaCosta uses a gimmick here and in Auntie Mame that I don't care for. At the end of some scenes, all the lights go out except those on the principals. Sometimes that's more of a jolt than necessary, because we've gone from outdoors to inside the studio.
My favorite song is Sadder But Wiser Girl. The reference to Hester winning just one more A meant nothing until 11th grade when we read The Scarlet Letter. And after Preston sings that line, he looks guiltily over his shoulder at Amaryllis to see if she understands how naughty he's been.
My second favorite is Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You. Such a beautiful song. It pains me that the rocking chairs at either end of the screen are sometimes out of sync. It should have been done perfectly.
One brilliant touch concerns the Buffalo Bills. Early on, Mayor Shinn says "The members of the School Board will not present a patriotic tableau. Some disagreement about costumes, I suppose." At the time, the four are dressed quite differently. As their singing progresses, they start dressing more and more alike, until at the end they're dressed alike (I'm pretty sure).
Marion's epiphany during The Wells Fargo Wagon is quite sweet.
As is a lovely line from Goodnight, My Someone: But I must depend on a wish and a star/ As long as my heart doesn't know who you are. (Sigh.)
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