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"Hill's the name, Professor Harold Hill--"
jhclues8 July 2001
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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Simply the best...........
djohn2581-128 September 2005
The Music Man is a musical film that was done right and which, if anything, improves on its well regarded source material. It ranks up there with the all-time great musicals of Hollywood's golden age (and such British marvels such as "Evergreen," which starred the incomparable Jessie Matthews.

This movie has it all - wonderful music, a fine script, good production values and a top cast. What makes it really special is Robert Preston's tour-de-force performance. His performance is, quite simply, one of the most memorably great performances in the history of film.

It's one of those benchmark performances that must make any other actor who takes the role shake in their boots, for as long as the memory of Robert Preston as Prof. Hill exists all others will be compared against him and, likely, found lacking.

The rest of the cast is superior. I especially love Pert Kelton as Marian the Librarian's mother. Kelton was the original Alice on the classic "The Honeymooners" (she played Alice's mother later on in the series) and she had incredible comic timing. She reminds me of a combination of Ethel Merman, with her brassy voice and larger-than-life presence, and the comic genius of the great Patsy Kelly. It's a shame Kelton was not put to better use in the movies. She was a natural.

And then there is Shirley Jones. Lovely to look at and wonderful to hear and a good enough actor to keep up with Preston.

Buddy Hackett usually annoyed me but he's perfect as Prof. Hill's sidekick and his "Shafoofie" (sp?) number is a blast.

Funniest scene - Grecian Urns.

A splendid movie and one of the last great musicals. They truly don't make 'em like that anymore.
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Robert Preston brilliantly recreates his Broadway role.
clive-389 December 2000
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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Still great after all these years
ToddTee28 February 2001
I first saw "The Music Man" on its first run in 1962. I just saw it again last night on cable. If anything, I enjoyed it more last night. I think that your belief in "fairy tales" such as this only grows with the passing of the years. Preston's performance is so near-perfect that the viewer starts to believe his line of corn-fed BS. The knowledge of what Ron Howard has become enhances the enjoyment of his fine work here. It's funny, magical and a musical treat to the ears!!
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The most heartwarming and engaging musical ever!
foxhole-31 January 2005
This wonderful production has to be watched on the big screen to be fully appreciated. It is,in my opinion, the best translation from Broadway musical theater material to the opening-up on the screen. The performance and general character portrayal of Robert Preston is irresistible and a joy to watch. As far as musicals are concerned, this is the one to take along to your desert island! Í always look forward to the next opportunity there is to show it on the screen of my cinema again. Sentimental, nostalgic, funny and romantic, this picture has it all. And that includes the wonderful melodic songs and the fantastic choreography. I'm running out of superlatives. It's my favorite musical.
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this is what musicals are all about
happycarnivore17 July 2003
bright, fun, colorful, unforgettable songs, likeable characters, great choreography, true to the time period, and i'd like to see anyone try to find an actor blend so naturally into a character as robert preston.
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A Lively Fantasy With Spirit and Fun; Preston and Jones Are Wonderful
silverscreen8883 September 2005
This was a very difficult musical, I suspect, for Morton da Costa to direct. To his great credit, it never looks to me like a stage musical; taking his cue from a few famous examples of adaptations done on non-musical films, he has used the entire River City, Iowa, USA town as his stage, moving his mobile cameras wherever the action could best be served. But I suggest "The Music Man" is most important not for its entertainment qualities, which are considerable perhaps, but for its importance as a fantasy-for-the-sake-of-an-idea plot. Without it, we might never have had "Finian's Rainbow", "Chicago" or "City of Angels" for instance. Hollywood's studio tsars, despite their surrealized applying of pseudo-Christian endings to plots, were always very cautious about introducing any "fantasy" element into a film. (Note the lengthy apologia by David Selznick for "Portrait of Jenny", for instance.) In this story, Meredith Wilson used his personal knowledge of the people and ways-of-thinking of Iowa to ground a charming and genial fantasy about music-course salesman Harold Hill firmly within its milieu--one of a group of U.S minds in need of more imagination. The town's kindly folk, in fact, are shown as barely tolerant toward its librarian, who inherited the institution from its elderly compiler; they are suspicious of how Marian Paroo acquired the stock, and suspicious of her desire to teach their young minds to think for themselves. Enter Professor Hill--to change the lives of the almost charming but repressed early twentieth-century denizens forever. The basic plot is very simple to state. Professor Hill comes to towns, sells the town's citizens on the idea of starting a boy's band, and then skips out before they can ever perform. Here, he is brought to the point of leading his troops, trained by his "think system", in a concert; and the townsfolk are enthralled by hearing their sons play. This simple tale starred Robert Preston as the wily city-bred Hill, Shirley

Jones as the lovely but doubting 'Marian the Librarian', Pert Kelton as her mother, Buddy Hackett as his fine friend, Paul Ford and Hermione Gingold as the pretentious Mayor and his wife, plus many citizens of the town young and old, Harry Hickox as the envious rival who exposes Hill and the Buffalo Bills singing quartet. Well-known songs in this sprightly US romp include, "Till There Was You", "Somethin' Special", "Goodnight My Someone", "Marian the Librarian" and "Trouble", among others. In the film, the leads are award caliber, everyone else from Ronnie Howard to Susan Luckey to the quartet do very well. Marion Hargrove adapted Wilson's libretto and songs written by Wilson and Franklin Lacey. The cinematography by Robert Burks was vivid and stylishly old-fashioned. Paul Groesse did the art direction, with set decorations being supplied by George James Hopkins and his staff. The very elaborate costumes were the work of the brilliant designer Dorothy Jeakins. This is a sense of life film written by, about and for non-practicing Christians of the last century that was mounted somehow in 1962, as an homage to a simpler and more optimistic time. We can all be grateful it was; it is a great deal of fun and its ending is a happy part of the fantasy, which needs to be seen to be appreciated.
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My favorite musical.
Marc-10522 June 1999
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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"You watch your phraseology!"
slymusic3 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Wonderfully directed by Morton DaCosta, the movie version of "The Music Man" is absolutely top notch. Bravo to composer Meredith Willson for the terrific story (set in small-town Iowa in 1912) and the delightful songs (not the least of which is "Seventy-Six Trombones"), arguably making "The Music Man" one of the most popular and beloved musicals ever created. All of the various members of the cast were very wisely selected, and they all perform their parts to the hilt. I believe there is no question that Robert Preston WAS Prof. Harold Hill, the lovable con artist scheming to make a buck by passing himself off as a professor of music and forming a boys' band. The beautiful Shirley Jones, with her fine soprano voice, captures the skepticism that librarian/piano teacher Marian Paroo initially displays towards this new "music professor's" credentials. Buddy Hackett is perfect for the role of Prof. Hill's bulging-eyed right-hand man Marcellus Washburn. Child actor Ron Howard captures the innocence, hope, and charm of Marian's much younger brother Winthrop. Paul Ford as Mayor Shinn is quite adept with his fumbling of words. And Hermione Gingold is quite amusing in her characterization of Mayor Shinn's wife.

Highlights: Winthrop has a humorously exaggerated lisp, which is most notable not only when he sings his two numbers ("Gary, Indiana" and the end of "The Wells Fargo Wagon") but also when he expresses his delight in receiving his cornet from Prof. Hill. During the song "Pick-a Little, Talk-a-Little," the camera cuts to an overhead shot of the ladies' hats and then a close shot of a group of hens, adding to the amusement of the song. The tune "Marian the Librarian" has a lengthy interlude with lively, boisterous dancing. Prof. Hill's classic musical moments occur with "Ya Got Trouble" and "Seventy-Six Trombones"; Marian's finest musical moments occur with the romance numbers "'Till There Was You" and "Goodnight, My Someone." During the opening train car scene, the speed of the locomotive is rhythmically proportional to the speed of the passengers' dialogue; when the train picks up full speed, the dialogue grooves! When Prof. Hill first arrives in River City, the townspeople greet him musically with a "we-don't-really-care-about-you-but-welcome-anyway" attitude. Every time the four schoolboard gentlemen (The Buffalo Bills) try to obtain Prof. Hill's credentials, the crafty professor stalls them and they burst into song; the harmonies never sounded better! The boys' band under Prof. Hill's direction clearly sounds horrible, but it IS heartwarming to see the boys' parents smile and even shed tears as they acknowledge their children. Prof. Hill convinces the absent-minded Mayor Shinn that his son, whom he doesn't have, can operate the spit valve of a B-flat Fluegel horn. Mrs. Shinn humorously displays her pompousness in her opening confrontational scene with Marian at the library. And finally, Tommy Djilas (Timmy Everett) thankfully ends a potentially embarrassing moment by setting off a firecracker behind Mrs. Shinn.

When I first saw the stage version of "The Music Man" back in 1988 with John Davidson in the role of Prof. Harold Hill, my impression back then was that it was a great musical. Watching the movie version of "The Music Man" has boldly reconfirmed for me my belief that it is a truly exceptional musical.
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Preston Seems Made For The Lead Role
ccthemovieman-125 February 2008
I remember almost being shocked hearing this film again in the '90s after seeing it for over 30 years. Some of the music almost sounded like today's - or the 1990s - rap music! It's kind of weird.

There are memorable songs in this musical, ones that became pretty darn famous, such as "76 Trombones" and "Trouble In River City." Most of the songs, in fact, on this soundtrack, are pretty lively and interesting.

I enjoyed seeing the Midwest scenery. Having gone to college in Iowa, I've always been a pit partial to that state, and the wonderful small towns there. I am also partial to corny (speaking of Iowa) and sentimental stories to this film gets "props" for providing plenty of that. An extra point goes for the name of the barbershop quartet in this story: "The Buffalo Bills."

Robert Preston, as "Professor Henry Hill," gets center stage, here, and - warning - he can wear you out. Most people love him in this role but, for others, he can be grating....and I understand that, too. Preston's fast-talking can you give a headache, if you aren't ready for it. However, the man is so convincing in this role, he seems born to play it.

There are so many songs in this movie that the story is almost secondary. It's really a stage show, so don't expect some super story. Frankly, I liked that fact is mainly music. I've read where the new special-edition DVD really brings out the colors in this movie, so I'm anxious to check it out. I haven't seen the film since that VHS viewing a decade ago.
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Amazingly authentic
eltechno4 July 2013
Just watched the movie for the xxth time—it has gotten to be a 4th of July tradition. I was first exposed to this musical when my older sisters were cast in a high school theatrical version back before this movie was released.

What's not to like? Preston is brilliant. Jones is the perfect example of how the perfection of human beauty is enhanced with a beautiful voice. It's romantic and nostalgic and wonderful.

But what makes Music Man so special is that it is based on a cultural reality. Iowa (like the rest of the Big Ten turf) is awash in an incredible band music tradition. Those amazing bands that play halftime music at Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State don't fall out of thin air—they are supported by a feeder system. Music Man was supposedly about Mason City and I would be shocked if they don't have a first-rate high school band to this day.

But all these bands had to start somewhere. Someone had to convince folks that they should spend money to teach their children to make music. Now it is unlikely that someone as smooth-talking as Hill ever existed, but someone had to perform the job he did. And anyone who was promoting a band was very likely to be something of a showman—it comes with the territory. So while Hill was an exaggeration, real Hills existed.

Note here, this isn't a story of a con-man who got away with one. Because it doesn't matter if Hill knew a note of music. If this had really happened, there would be no downside. Suddenly, the town would have a bunch of new instruments and in love with the idea their town could make it's own music. The town probably had enough Marions so they could get basic instruction started. Besides, it would take at least five years before the town band could make music anyway, so no one could have expected Hill to actually form a boy's band during the summer. Guys like Hill were important but hardly sufficient. The great youth bands in Iowa would wait until her universities started cranking out qualified music teachers.

The idea that Iowa could have developed from virgin grassland to a society with roads, schools, and a successful export economy in only 60 years (1850 to 1910 when this musical was supposedly set) implies a LOT of plain hard work. It is also implies promoters. And the guys who brought music to the Midwest were the sort of people who didn't wait for permission to get something started. It's why the sensible librarian / piano teacher Marion recognized the promoter's value to the community.

There's a lot of truth in this wonderful, silly, beautiful movie.
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Charismatic, colourful, cheerful and chirpy
benbrae7611 September 2006
I fell in love with this musical after hearing a specially commissioned production for BBC Radio 2 starring Jim Dale in the title role. It was superb (particularly the opening patter "Railway Carriage" number, which comes into it's own on audio).

I finally acquired a copy of the Robert Preston movie (which somehow I'd always managed to miss), and the viewing was well worth the wait. It brought all the "audio" characters to life.

Meredith Wilson's score is unique and I was pleased to note that it hadn't been mucked around with. The photography was stunningly colourful, and the acting and singing chirpy and charismatic. However, I must comment on Winthrop's (Ron Howard) awful out-of-tune screeching. Perhaps this was supposed to add a natural charm, but if so it failed, and was the only downside to the film.

Maybe this musical doesn't have the best songs ever written, but the overall package exudes a certain "je ne sais quoi", which puts it squarely up there amongst the very best.
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But he doesn't know the territory!
michael.e.barrett28 February 2001
It seems redundant to add my comments when so many people have already done justice to it, but I'm still in the glow of having finally seen this movie as God intended--in Cinemascope! When I saw it long ago on TV, I was struck by how unusual it was but kept noticing certain distracting bits around the edge of the screen--it was the fade-outs and split-screen effects I was missing! Watch this film in letterboxed form ONLY please--it's visually, musically and dramatically innovative.

Its splendors have already been mentioned. I add two minor treats: 1) appearance of lanky character actor Hank Worden (of "The Searchers" and "Twin Peaks") as the undertaker, and 2) script so full of bizarre slang and expressions, it's as if P.G. Wodehouse or Damon Runyan were writing turn-of-the-century Americana.

My two carps are minor: I would have told Morton Da Costa to lose all the heavy-handed cutaways to the train wheels ("Rock Island") and chickens ("Pick a Little, Talk a Little") because we already got the point, and Ron Howard's cute lithp is a turn-off for me, but I never like cute kids. However, he's good at the climax, and when Shirley Jones hears him singing "Wells Fargo Wagon" and tears the evidence against Harold Hill out of the book (a librarian!), it's one of the most convincing turnarounds in musical history. Especially because she's still not fooled by the hucksterism, she just perceives it differently in comparison with the easily manipulated small-towners around her. She realizes that he's selling hope and joy despite himself ("There's always a band.") And when she just thanks him for his gift ("Till There Was You") and doesn't mind if he flees, of course he realizes he would be insane to leave. Another heartfelt turnaround.

One of the most graceful musicals, marked by blurring of the line between straight dialogue and songs--as the line "there was love all around but I never heard it singing" implies, you can hear the singing if you listen for it in the world. It's in the trains and the chickens and the bands you hear in your head and the pride in your children playing that clarinet by the "think system." Moving.
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Professor Henry Hill and The Music Man both have indescribable charm and allure
calvinnme2 July 2016
I may only come across it for a moment, or have it on as background noise while I do something else. No matter where I come in on the movie, from the beginning on, it never fails that two-and-some-hours later, I come to myself watching the closing credits. I don't know why. I have no connection with the the mid-west rural America turnabout of the last century of the story. I grew up in Dallas, and have lived at the southern end of that sprawling coastal urban mass of people known as BosNYWash for the last 23 years. Nonetheless, the movie is unfailingly entertaining. It never pales or becomes dull in repeat viewings.

Of course, the music can be credited with a large part of its appeal. It is by turns, rousing, witty, sweet, and moving. The lyrics are inventive, amusing with the spoken songs; clever, with enough satire to send up the provincialism of small towns; polished, as a reflection of Mr. Hill's technique; simple and direct, when expressing deep-felt aspirations and emotions. The production numbers are all wonderful, the choreography of the the dancers, chorus, cameras, and editing smooth and energetic. And the performances are all great, with just that much larger-than-life necessary to make for a good show.

But other movies have that, and wouldn't keep me watching them time after time. It must be The Music Man deals with something more essential. There is a surprising amount of cynicism and worldliness in the story, not just by Harold Hill. The town folk are all ready to expect the worst of human nature. Not the usual picture of rural America, or the innocent rubes taken advantage of by the scheming con man. They are taken advantage of, but it's by Hill's manipulation of their weaknesses, fears, and proclivities, not their innocence. Paradoxically, the fakery Hill needs to practice brings about the good in the movie. To deflect investigation of his credentials, he turns the feuding school board into an inseparable quartet. Looking for a natural leader to coalesce the band around, he pulls the young Tommy out of a life of hooliganism, giving him responsibility. Conning Winthrop Paroo, he breaks the child out of his lonely and unhappy isolation. And for Marion Paroo, he brings birds, bells, and love.

I have an informal list in my head of my favorite musicals. They include movies like 42nd Street, the Rogers/Astaire musicals, Funny Face, and others. The Music Man, however, doesn't automatically come to mind. I'll have to work to change my thinking.
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One of the all-time best musicals!
Dumasse27 January 2005
"The Music Man" (1962) is truly among the best screen musicals of all time. Like "Singin' in the Rain" and "West Side Story," "The Music Man" leaves you humming along with the tunes even years after seeing it. Its influence is such that even people who have never seen the movie can improvise some of the lines.

The movie is chock full of memorable numbers, each perfectly constructed to convey the right mood at the right time. From the locomotive rhythm of "Rock Island" to the lilting "Till There Was You" to the rolling triumph of "Seventy-six Trombones," the songs move the story along, linking each scene to the next.

As with any good musical, the songs are not additional to the story. They are the story. The scant dialog is the mortar that fills the cracks between the musical numbers.

And the quality of the cast matches the perfection of the music. The singing and dancing parts went to people who could actually sing and dance. Even Buddy Hackett shines in "Shipoopi." (Okay, Ronny Howard was no Gene Kelly. But for a little kid, he was pretty darned good!) It's impossible to imagine anyone other than Robert Preston and Shirley Jones playing the parts of Harold Hill and Marian Paroo. Preston perfected the role on Broadway and executed it flawlessly on the screen. He was, and always will be, THE Music Man. Jones is beautiful, elegant, and more than a little sexy as Marian the librarian.

The supporting cast shines as well. Each actor brought his or her character to life. Hermione Gingold is a perfect Mrs. Shinn. But my favorite character by far is the fumble-tongued Mayer Shinn, underplayed wonderfully by Paul Ford. His comic timing is impeccable and his facial expressions knock me over every time.

My mother introduced me to "The Music Man" when I was very young. (It used to come on TV a LOT.) I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, even though I didn't completely understand it. As of this writing, my daughter is in a high school production of the show and a whole new generation is falling in love with it.
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"Ya Got Trouble, Right Here In River City"
bkoganbing13 January 2007
For a man who was primarily a director on stage, Morton DaCosta certainly knew how to fill the screen. Fill it he did with The Music Man, a festival of song and dance and heart warming nostalgia.

How could it be anything else. The original Broadway show was composer Meredith Willson's tribute to the idyllic childhood he had growing up in Mason City, Iowa. The town of River City and the characters therein are taken from Willson's memories. What memories they were.

We are fortunate indeed to preserve one of the great Broadway performances of all time, that of Robert Preston in The Music Man. With all due respect to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, both of whom were mentioned for the lead, I cannot imagine ANYONE else as Professor Harold Hill. This man truly made Harold Hill his own part, the same way Yul Brynner did with King Mongkut of Siam. Other than Preston, only the Barbershop Singing Quartet the Buffalo Bills, and Pert Kelton as Mrs. Paroo made it to the screen.

Preston who got his start at Paramount during the late Thirties, played second leads in A films and usually died in them. He made a career decision in the Fifties to go back to the stage and got the role of a lifetime in The Music Man. The original Broadway production ran from 1957 to 1961 for 1341 performances.

Only an actor of rare charisma could have played Harold Hill. If you have a less than mesmerizing Hill your production will fall flat. The character is a lot like Starbuck in The Rainmaker, the conman, the outrageous swindler who brings joy to people even as he's fleecing them. Possibly Burt Lancaster could have done it, but who knows if Lancaster could have sung.

Shirley Jones who got to the screen just in time to play the female leads in three Broadway classics, The Music Man, Oklahoma, and Carousel. Having won an Oscar two years earlier for Elmer Gantry, Jones brought a little box office herself to the production. She got to sing a couple of great ballads Goodnight My Someone and Till There Was You. The latter was the big hit of the show and on record, Anita Bryant's copy sold the most.

Morton DaCosta cast the rest of the film well with such luminaries as Paul Ford, Buddy Hackett, and Hermione Gingold. It was worth the price of a ticket just to hear her say "Balzac." Meredith Willson did some gentle kidding of his hometown as to what passed for culture in the place of his upbringing.

Young Timmy Everett played the role of Preston's young protégé Tommy Djilas. A really talented dancer, Everett was lost to the world of entertainment way too soon.

As I said DaCosta really fills the screen with The Music Man. Nothing shows that better than the production number of 76 Trombones that was sung twice in the film, the second time in an even bigger finale. That number was what really put The Music Man over on Broadway. But the way the entire screen is used, almost as eye filling as the children of Israel leaving Egypt in The Ten Commandments, you can't imagine how it was ever done on stage. But it was and by the same fellow.

I doubt Mason City, Iowa was as idyllic in those pre-World War I years, but step back a little in time and watch The Music Man. Maybe it wasn't as idyllic, but it sure seems a lot more simple.
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A movie that works at many levels--and touches our hearts.
EdKoh23 April 1999
I first learned of the Music Man when my brother's fifth grade class put it on. (My brother played Mayor Shinn.) Our entire family learned the train scene, all of the monologues (especially "Trouble"), and the Music Man became part of our lives. I still remember most of those monologues, and I still love to watch Robert Preston and Shirley Jones create their magic and make their music. Like "My Fair Lady," the players have refined their parts to high art, but have not burned out; the details delight again and again. The chorus is the best I've heard (Wells Fargo Wagon), the cast is just great. When my older son was two years old, The Music Man was his favorite video; he watched it over and over, laughing and gurgling. He "outgrew" it, and is now almost ten. Last night we watched it (again): I, my wife, and both of our sons. It touched me as much as the first time I saw it. ("I always think there's a band, kid.") I hear and read criticism of Robert Preston's acting, that as a performer he is a dilettante. But I feel this criticism misses the point. Harold Hill is the dilettante, trying to pass himself off as a music expert--until he gets his foot caught in the door. Preston is perfect as Hill. I love this film, and will watch it with my loved ones for a long, long time to come.
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A Genuine Masterpiece
russellkishi28 July 2005
The film adaptation of "The Music Man" is so superbly crafted on every level that even the most jaded cynic might find something to admire in it. This was one of the blockbuster movie releases in the summer of 1962, and in fact the anticipation for its release began as soon as it went into production at Warner Bros. in Burbank during the summer of 1961.

Of course there are minor flaws that might be pointed out, but for the most part, this is a nearly perfect adaptation of the original 1957 Broadway hit. Thankfully, most of the creative forces behind the Broadway success were retained. Most notably, the director, Morton DaCosta, was entrusted to adapt the story from stage to screen, and also the great choreographer, Onna White, who expanded her original dance numbers to fit the wide screen.

I disagree with those who think Barbara Cook should have been retained from the original Broadway cast. While it may be true that she had a stronger soprano voice than Shirley Jones, the fact remains that Barbara Cook was not "pretty enough" to make the leap to the big screen. Shirley Jones was at the peak of her beauty when she was cast as Marian the Librarian. Her vocal register is darker and lower than Cook's, but this is exactly what was necessary in a screen adaptation. Cook's singing voice is ideally suited to reach the back rows of a Broadway theater. It would not have translated well to the screen.

I cannot add any further insights into the greatness of Robert Preston's portrayal. Everything has already been stated so well here. But every part, from smallest to largest, is damn near perfect. That even includes the bit part assigned to Percy Helton as the train conductor. And Ron Howard was a genuine prodigy who was ideally suited to the role of Winthrop. Even little Monique Vermont shines in her role as Amaryliss.

This film might well have deserved an Oscar for Best Picture of 1962. Unfortunately, it was eclipsed by the end of the year by another legitimate masterpiece, "Lawrence of Arabia." But let there be no doubt. "The Music Man" was one of the finest pictures of 1962, or any year.

I suggest that dedicated fans of this work seek out the Capitol LP , "And Then I Wrote The Music Man," featuring Meredith Willson recreating his original investors' presentation from the Broadway run, assisted by his wife, Rini.
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Wow! this knocked some good sense into me!
charlotte-keller24 February 2005
I believe out of all the Musicals that I have seen that this one is truly the best. My favorite characters were Professor Harold Hill, the Buffalo Bills and Marion. This a great story about a con man Harold, who decides to have a boy's band with the help of his friend Marcelles. The story goes on to tell about the love between Marion and Harold. The townspeople of River City, Iowa want to get rid of Harold but he warns them of trouble. The Mayor and Tommy Djilas try to make Harold's life harder in a way by getting the constable to come and arrest him. The scene that stands out in my mind is the meeting at the footbridge because the scene is so picturesque. Ronnie Howard is so cute as Winthrop. This movie is better in my mind than Matthew Broderick's version no offense!
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THE MUSIC MAN (Morton DaCosta, 1962) ***
MARIO GAUCI10 January 2009
A potentially syrupy subject-matter – the importance for an American small town of having its own marching band – provides the launching pad for this vigorous, adequately cinematic transposition of the celebrated Broadway musical success. Robert Preston reprises his signature titular role of confidence trickster Professor Harold Hill and he inhabits the character so perfectly (he had performed it around 900 times on stage!) that it's nearly impossible to believe that he had never sung professionally before and that he didn't cop at least an Academy Award nomination – although the film itself received six (including Best Picture). Shirley Jones is also excellent as the lonely spinster librarian who, after some initial mistrust, is won over (and eventually liberated) through her love for Preston; also in the cast are Paul Ford (as the Mayor of River City, Iowa), Hermione Gingold (a standout as his irrepressible wife), Buddy Hackett (as Preston's reformed partner), Mary Wickes, Charles Lane and little Ron Howard (as Jones' brother, plagued into introversion by his huge lisp). Distinguished composer Meredith Willson's finest creation is probably best known for the popular "76 Trombones" and the romantic ballad "Till There Was You" (which was even covered by The Beatles in their second album!) but his complex lyrics are best demonstrated in the opening onomatopeic salesmen song "Rock Island" and Preston's show-stopping "Ya Got Trouble" which, with the playful "Marian The Librarian", are the songs I liked best; on the other hand, I could have done without Hackett's silly "Shipoopi" production number. Another noteworthy (and amusing) contribution to the film comes in the unlikely form of a real-life quartet of male singers dubbed The Buffalo Bills who, playing leading citizens after Preston's inexistent musical credentials, always end up goaded by the latter into bursting into song and forgetting all about their official assignment!
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Handsome, snappy musical with fine Preston performance
moonspinner5527 October 2007
Meredith Wilson's tune-filled Broadway hit about a shady confidence man (Robert Preston, reprising his acclaimed stage performance) who travels from town to town duping residents into backing musical bands featuring no-talent youngsters. Stylish in widescreen, energetic to a fault, and capped with Preston's irrepressible performance, "The Music Man" is old-fashioned fun. The song score is rather disappointing (uninspired both lyrically and musically) and the supporting players are brash without being engaging (with the exception of charming Ronny Howard as Shirley Jones' son). There are many colorful, memorable sequences however, and director Morton DaCosta provides a jaunty pace. Ray Heindorf won an Oscar for his musical direction; Preston might have won one too, but perhaps it was felt he was too theatrical without adding any fresh nuances for this medium. **1/2 from ****
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Meredith Wilson's Masterpiece comes to life!
jmerkouris21 November 2004
This film version of Meredith Wilson's masterpiece is one of the great film classics of its or any other era. With Rodgers and Hammerstein's great run of musicals set to film completed, The Music Man revived the American Musical in film with a brilliant insight into a piece of Americana. Combining a fun and romantic storyline with delicious music and lyrics that have become classics in a timeless love story, The Music Man delivers the viewer back into a turn-of-the-century small Iowan town where a smooth traveling sales and con artist (Robert Preston) charms the citizens into his version of a marching band. His attempt to win over the admiration and affections of the town's piano teacher (Shirley Jones) backfires when he falls in love with her and for the first time in his life becomes the victim of ensnarement. With delightful characters, big dance numbers, and a wonderful melding of song and story, The Music Man stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of this film genre.
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Top of its Genre
"The Music Man" is such a wonderful film and very likely a wonderful stage production. There are times when musicals seem awkward and uncomfortable with weird segues between plot and musical numbers. "The Music Man" changes all of that, seeing the music in words and phrases. This is one exceedingly musical film about small town America. It's about finding the talent within each and everyone by believing that talent exists, then conjuring it up with heart. And to top that off, Robert Preston just rules this film with class!!!
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What a Great Musical!
Tbryant18 June 2002
If you read Ann Whittemore's review, you will note her comment about her 12 year old brother who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this movie. Well, that's me! And what a difference that has made in my life! It introduced me to musicals and I have been hooked ever since. I can still feel and smell the experience of walking into a cold RKO Theatre on Canal Street in New Orleans in the hot summer of 1962 - smelling the popcorn, and sitting down for what I thought would be a long, boring musical! I'd rather have John Wayne - thank you very much! Well, the joke was on me. I sat there transfixed on this wonderful movie and when it was over (all too quickly), I wanted to see it again -and again! It is to this day, my favorite musical (I just saw it last fall on Broadway and loved it)

My sister did leave out one of the best counter melodies of all time - Lida Rose & Dream of Now! As a 12-year old, I thought that was really cool and the filming of those songs was very impressive - I still do! Additionally, the Buffalo Bills were great and they could even act.

What's not to like in this musical! Great music - Robert Preston IS the music man - Ronnie Howard playing the adorable role that Eddie Hodges played on Broadway and Shirley Jones, the beautiful and talented Marion - ye gods! It was the difference in me watching "shoot um up" movies the rest of my life or getting some class and expanding my world and giving me a wonderful gift to be enjoyed the rest of my life.

Thanks Mother, Ann, and Giles for making me go and introducing me to the wonderful world of musicals!
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