In an episode of the TV series Happy Days (1974), Howard and Marion Cunningham are coming out of a movie theater; they pause in the lobby and look at the poster for "The Music Man". Marion comments how much the little boy in the movie (Winthrop) "looks so much like Richie did when he was little". Both Winthrop and Richie were played by Ron Howard.
Shirley Jones learned she was pregnant with her son Patrick once filming had begun. She met with director Morton DaCosta over lunch to inform him of the situation. Her concern was that she would begin "showing" during its filming. He assured her that they could work through it with costumes and also by filming her from the waist up, if necessary. He did have one request, that she tell no one about it. Robert Preston did figure it out before filming had concluded, when Shirley's character, Marian, and his character, Professor Hill, kissed for the first time in the romantic footbridge scene. He leaned in for the kiss and jumped back, asking her, "What was that?" to which she replied, "That is Patrick Cassidy! Say 'Hello!' " Years later, her son Patrick had the opportunity to meet Preston. He walked up and introduced himself saying, "Hello. I'm Patrick Cassidy." Preston replied, "Yes, I know. We've already met."
Despite Robert Preston's Tony-award winning performance in the Broadway production, Warner Bros. executives wanted a bankable star in the lead role of Professor Harold Hill for the movie. Frank Sinatra was offered the part, but turned it down. Cary Grant was also approached, but told the Warner Bros. executives, "Not only will I not star in it, if Robert Preston doesn't star in it, I will not see it." Preston finally got the part, and the movie was a big success, despite Warner Bros' misgivings. The same Hollywood legend is told about My Fair Lady, that Cary Grant was offered the part of Henry Higgins but told the producer that if Rex Harrison wasn't given the part he wouldn't even go see it.
The original Broadway production of "The Music Man" opened at the Majestic Theater on December 19, 1957, ran for 1375 performances and won the 1958 Tony Award for Best Musical. Robert Preston, Pert Kelton, The Buffalo Bills, Peggy Mondo, Adnia Rice and Paul Ford reprise their roles in the movie. Ford was a replacement during the original run. Preston won the 1958 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
The inscription on the statue of Henry Madison (Madison Picnic Park, Madison Library, etc.) in front of which Harold Hill sings "Trouble" is inscribed as follows: "Clean your finger before you point at my spots." This quote is frequently attributed to Benjamin Franklin.
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."
During the "Lida Rose"/"Will I Ever Tell You" duet both Mrs. Paroo and one School Board man are in rocking chairs. They are synchronized throughout much of the song, starting, stopping and rocking together. This is only visible in the wide screen version.
When Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn is performing in the "spectacle" with her schoolchildren, she says "Now count to twenty in the Indian tongue..." and proceeds to count in what seem to be nonsense words ("Een! Teen! Tether mether fip!..."). It's actually a variant of traditional British sheep-counting.
The location set for River City's town square, where Harold Hill sings "You Got Trouble," was Warner Bros.' famous "Midwest Street,", featured in films like East of Eden (1955), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and The Muppets (2011), and in TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) and Sisters (1991). The storefront used for River City's Candy Kitchen is the same front used for Mr. Doose's old-time candy store in Gilmore Girls (2000) television series 40 years later.
Zaneeta has a meeting of the Epworth League. This organization was formed by combining young people's organizations of the Methodist Episcopal church, with its purpose being to promote intelligent and vital piety among the young people of the church.
In the original Broadway cast recording, there was a verse in the song "Rock Island" that goes, "Why it's the Uneeda biscuit made the trouble, Uneeda, Uneeda, put the crackers in a package, in a package, the Uneeda biscuit in an airtight sanitary package, made the cracker barrel obsolete!". This verse was omitted from the film version of the song. The Uneeda Biscuit was a revolutionary cracker that promised to be airier, flakier, and crisper than most other crackers. The cracker was kept fresh in a brand new concept of resealable packaging. Uneeda Biscuit was developed by the National Biscuit Company, nowadays known as Nabisco.
The Broadway play, on which the film is based, opened in 1957 to critical acclaim and huge box office success. Its run lasted five years and included 1,375 performances. "The Music Man" was nominated for eight Tony awards and won five for 1957. It won the Tony as the best musical - beating out "West Side Story."
The two songs "76 Trombones" and "Good Night My Someone" are the same tune, played in different tempos. Meredith Willson used this technique to present a masculine and feminine slant on the on the events surrounding Harold Hill's arrival in River City and his budding relationship with Marian.
When Harold Hill and Marian Paroo are standing on the footbridge, Marcellus Washburn appears in the nearby bushes, trying to get Harold's attention. Harold tells Marian, "Excuse me. I've been expecting a telegram from Rudy Friml. This may be it." Rudolf Friml was a Czech-born composer of operettas, whose best-known works were "The Firefly", "Rose Marie," and "The Vagabond King".
Paul Ford, who plays Mayor Shinn in this film, also plays Horace Vandergelder in The Matchmaker (1958). David Burns, the actor who played Mayor Shinn in the original Broadway production of "The Music Man", played Vandergelder in the original Broadway production of "Hello, Dolly!" (which is adapted from "The Matchmaker").
During production, President John F. Kennedy asked for creative contributions to the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness. In response, Meredith Willson wrote and Robert Preston and the band performed the song "Chicken Fat".
In the "Wells Fargo" song, a River Citizen sings, "Montgomery Ward sent me a bathtub and a crosscut saw." Montgomery Ward is the name of the world's first mail order business. Founded in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward, it went out of business in 2001. Also in the song, the School Board men sing, "The D.A.R. has sent a cannon for the courthouse square." The D.A.R. is the "Daughters of the American Revolution", a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization. Made up of descendants of soldiers in the American Revolution, they are dedicated to promoting patriotism and preserving American history. However, the organization is probably most noted for refusing to let the great African-American contralto Marian Anderson perform in 1939 at the D.A.R.'s Constitution Hall because she was black.
According to a "Behind the Scenes" text with the movie in the Special Edition DVD, a number of stars turned down the role of Harold Hill. Among them, Dan Dailey, Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly and Phil Harris. But, after Morton DeCosta saw Robert Preston in a stage performance of "The Front Page," he knew he had found his lead for "The Music Man."
Saturday Night Live did a parody skit of this musical, and of the Wells Fargo banking scandal. It had Harold Hill riding in with the Wells Fargo Wagon and offering the River City Iowa townsfolk bogus accounts; multiple accounts per person; as Wells Fargo was alleged to have done in real life; all the while singing the "Wells Fargo Wagon" musical number of the show.
"My White Knight" was the only song from the Broadway production not to survive the transition from stage to screen. The replacement song, "Being in Love," radically shifted the emphasis of the plot point at hand: In the original song, Marian paints a vision of the man of her dreams to explain why she has never fallen in love; in the replacement song, Marian recalls having been in love many times, with the caveat that none of her crushes returned her feelings. In a break with theatrical convention, songwriter Meredith Willson retained the plaintive, recitative-like bridge from "My White Knight," which he inserted wholly into "Being in Love."
A single facade on the Warner Brothers backlot represented 3 different establishments in the River City town square - the front is the entrance to City Hall, the left side, the entrance to the library, and the right side, the doors of the firehouse. Judicious camera angles and editing disguise this trickery.
In the Academy Award winning Best Picture of 1960, "The Apartment", Mr. Sheldrake lies to his wife so he can meet his mistress, and as his alibi says he is taking the regional manager from Kansas City to see the Broadway show "The Music Man."
When Harold says he can make a functional team out of the School Board men, one of Mrs. Shinn's group tells him they have hated each other for 15 years, suggesting that all 4 men have been in office since 1897.
The musicians in Harold Hill's Boys Band in the final scene were students from junior and senior high schools throughout Southern California. Auditions were held at Warner Brothers Studio and the band marched through the backlot set of River City filming for four days. Soon after the release of the film, the same band then marched at the Hollywood Bowl during the finale of Meredith Willson Night.
During the piano lesson Amaryllis is seated at an upright piano with the standard 88 keys. For the reverse shot, in order to fill the entire width of the screen, the keyboard suddenly expands by 28% to approximately 112 keys.
In the lead in to the 76 Trombones number, Professor Harold Hill mentions the following musical personalities: Patrick Gilmore, a bandmaster who wrote the lyrics to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again"; Pat Conway, a bandmaster whose band was as famous as Sousa's; The Great Creatore, an Italian bandmaster who toured on the Chautauqua circuit; W.C. Handy, a black musician known as "The Father of the Blues"; and John Philip Sousa, "The March King", composer of "The Stars and Stripes Forever," the national march of the United States. But they couldn't have come to town on the very same historic day, because Gilmore died in 1892 and Creatore first came to the U.S. in 1899--more flim flam from Professor Hill.
While Charlie Cowell is inciting the crowd to go after Howard Hill, Oscar Jackson (Rance Howard) is seen in the crowd nodding in agreement. A few minutes later Marcellus Washburn asks Oscar if he's seen Professor Hill, to which he replies, "Haven't been looking for him."