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Confidence man Harold Hill arrives at staid River City intending to cheat the community with his standard scam of offering to equip and train a boy's marching band, then skip town with the money since he has no music skill anyway. Things go awry when he falls for a librarian he tries to divert from exposing him while he inadvertently enriches the town with a love of music. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
River City was based on Meredith Willson's home town of Mason City, Iowa. The movie had its world premiere there. See more »
In the candy shop when Hill and Marion are sipping on their strawberry sodas, Hill releases his straw and the straw floats to the top. The camera angle changes with Hill holding the straw and it's at the bottom of the glass. See more »
No, please, not tonight. Maybe tomorrow.
Oh, my dear little librarian. You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don't know about you, but I'd like to make today worth remembering.
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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 »
It's early in the Twentieth Century, and there's trouble, my friends, in River City. Iowa, that is, in this delightful adaptation of Meredith Wilson's long running Broadway musical, `The Music Man,' directed by Morton DaCosta and starring Robert Preston as the fast-talking, fleet-footed traveling salesman, Harold Hill. `Professor Harold Hill,' as he calls himself this time around, is in the business of selling band instruments and uniforms, all with the guarantee that he will teach the youngsters of the parents who fork over the cash for his wares how to play. There's only one problem, and it's the fact that -- as one of his fellow competitors puts it-- `He don't know one note from another!' Alas, can it be the con is on?
When he jumps train in River City to escape the wrath of an angry gathering of his peers, whom he has `Given a black eye' to in the territory, thanks to his dubious business practices, he sets about plying his trade on the good folks of middle America. But right out of the chute, he runs into some problems: The Mayor of River City, George Shinn (Paul Ford) wants his credentials, the lovely young local piano teacher and librarian, Marion (Shirley Jones), has her doubts about him, and he lacks an `angle,' something to convince the local citizenry of the need for a `boys band' to get them out of the trouble they're in-- even if there isn't any until he `creates' it.
One of his problems is solved when he runs into Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett), a former shill of his, who mentions the new billiard table that just arrived in town. And that's all the Professor needs; because now they've got trouble, `With a capital T' that rhymes with P' and that stands for Pool'!' With that, he's up and running and he's got everything timed, right down to the `Last wave of the conductor's hand on the last train out of town.' Yee-gods and great honk! River City, Iowa, is about to have their very own boy's band.
Robert Preston gives the most memorable performance of his career as Hill, the silver-tongued salesman who can palaver past postulated proffered predicaments quicker'n an eggheaded egret's emblematized egression. It's just a matter of charm, style and timing, and Preston imbues Hill with em all, and more. He brings a mesmerizing presence to the screen in this role that is absolutely perfect; Preston IS Harold Hill, and he makes him his own in such a way that it's impossible to visualize anyone else in the role. It certainly gave Preston a chance to demonstrate his amazing versatility, and he really made the most of it, carving out a niche for himself in cinematic history.
The beautiful and talented Shirley Jones is terrific, as well, as `Marion the Librarian,' the young woman with a heart of gold who becomes a formidable opponent for Hill as he tries to charm his way past her suspicions of him. Jones personifies everything that is pure, moral and good, without being prudish, and it makes Marion a truly endearing character. And, like Preston, her performance is so good it's impossible to picture anyone else in the part. She's simply magnificent.
The made-to-order supporting cast includes a very young Ron Howard, unforgettable as Winthrop Paroo, Marion's little brother, Hermione Gingold (Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn), Pert Kelton (Mrs. Paroo), Monique Vermont (Amaryllis), Susan Luckey (Zaneeta), Timmy Everett (Tommy Djilas), Harry Hickox (Charlie) and Mary Wickes (Mrs. Squires). Featuring a number of memorable songs, including `76 Trombones,' `Till There Was You,' `Gary, Indiana' and of course the catchy `Trouble In River City' number, `The Music Man' is an uplifting, totally transporting film that makes the world seem like a pretty good place after all. This is the `Good Old Days' the way we'd like to think they really were, and it's all courtesy of the magic of the movies. I rate this one 10/10.
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