The Music Man (1962)

I have never understood those hats.

“This is a refined operation, son, and I’ve got it timed down to the last wave of the brakeman’s hand on the last train out of town.”

The Music Man is, as one reviewer put it, what musicals are all about. It has the grand numbers, the syrupy romance, the comedy, and Shirley Jones. What more could you want? Maybe Grace Kelly and Joan Fontaine.

No, I’m kidding. This film boasts a great cast, with schmaltzy Robert Preston leading the pack. It confuses me that actors such as Paul Ford (Mayor Shinn), Susan Luckey (Zaneeta Shinn), and Harry Hickox (Charlie Cowell) didn’t enjoy a more successful film career.

Although just a supporting part (with far too little screen time), Mayor Shinn was my favorite character in the film. Nearly every line he shouted (“Watch your phraseology!”, “Not one poop out of you, Madam!”, and, of course, “Fourscore…”) made me laugh out loud. He would probably make it into my list of Top 20 Favorite Characters.

Robert Preston fits his part to a “T”. “Tee”? How do you write that? Never mind. He is the prime example, the sparkling epitome of a darn good traveling salesman. (Seriously, The Music Man should be required viewing for all persons who are considering a career in salesmanship.) His “songs” remind me somewhat of Danny Kaye’s tongue-twisters. He recites them perfectly, with unequaled enthusiasm. He’s funny, he can sing, he can dance, and he can convince every single soul in River City, Iowa that they desperately need a boys’ marching band.

Shirley Jones’s character, Marian Paroo, is wonderful. She despises Harold Hill (Preston), but he persistently lays on more and more charm until she finally gives in. Funny, he uses my technique.

Okay, so the “she-hates-him-at-the-beginning-but-comes-to-love-him-before-the-credits-roll” story line is a tad overused, but the chemistry between Jones and Preston make it seem almost new. I was amazed and amused by the intrigue of their inexplicable relationship.

The film features Buddy Hackett in a small part, and he never fails to make me laugh. That’s a bonus. The film also presents a 7-year-old Ron Howard, who sings a delightful, melodic rendition of “Gary, Indiana“.

Ha! But seriously, folks. To recap:

PROS:

1. It’s hilarious.

2. It’s innocent fun.

3. It has some GREAT songs, including “Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me”, “If You Don’t Mind Me Saying So”, “Sincere”, “Shipoopi”, and “Marian the Librarian”.

4. It has a great cast: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, Hermione Gingold, Susan Luckey, and Ron(ny) Howard.

5. It’s filmed in beautiful Technicolor.

6. It’s one of the best Broadway adaptations ever made.

7. It’s long, but every minute is entertaining.

8. It has that sort of slightly-altered reality. It’s somewhat surrealistic.

9. It’s a bit sappy. But in a good way. A very good way.

10. It’s a “glimmering slice of Americana”. Whatever that means.

CONS:

1. “Gary, Indiana“.

Seriously, you will have that song stuck in your head for WEEKS. I suggest skipping that entire song, or at least muting it. Consider that song the film’s intermission.

Synopsis

Harold Hill (Preston), a freewheeling con man, stops by River City, Iowa, after fellow (I use the term loosely) salesmen inform him that the town is the biggest test possible of a salesman’s abilities. Hill intends to cheat the town by offering to equip and train a boys’ marching band, and then skip town with the money. Things go awry when he falls for a beautiful librarian (Jones) who threatens to expose him to the townspeople.

Information

Directed by Morton DaCosta;

Written by Meredith Wilson (play on which it was based), Franklin Lacey (play on which it was based), Marion Hargrove (screenplay);

Starring Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill, Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo, Buddy Hackett as Marcellus Washburn, Ron Howard as Winthrop Paroo, Paul Ford as Mayor George Shinn, Hermione Gingold as Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, and Susan Luckey as Zaneeta Shinn;

Produced by Morton DaCosta (producer), and Joel Freeman (associate producer);

Music by Ray Heindorf (conductor, orchestrator, music supervisor), and Meredith Wilson (music and lyrics).

Facts

Although Robert Preston had played the role of Harold Hill on Broadway, he was not even considered for the film until Cary Grant turned down the role. Frank Sinatra was Warner Brothers’ other choice for the role, but Meredith Wilson told them, “No Robert Preston, no movie”.

Shirley Jones discovered, during production, that she was pregnant with her son, Patrick.

The original Broadway production opened at the Majestic Theater on December 19th, 1957, and ran for 1,375 performances. The show won the 1958 Tony Award for Best Musical, and Preston received the 1958 Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Pert Kelton (Mother Paroo) and The Buffalo Bills also reprise their roles in the film.

Before starring in The Music Man, Robert Preston had never sung a note.

The songs “76 Trombones” and “Goodnight My Someone” are the same tune arranged in different time signatures.

River City was based on Meredith Wilson’s home town of Mason City, Iowa. The movie had its world premiere there.

The marching bands of the University of California and the University of Southern California were drafted in for the final parade scene.

Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana… *sigh*

-luke

Advertisements

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://stayclassic.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/the-music-man-1962/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That’s really cool about those two songs… but it makes sense they sound sooo great as a duet!!!
    As to Gary Indiana agreed accept when Ron Howard sings it that fake lisp makes me laugh sooo hard!!!
    Great synopsis,
    Cate

  2. Great movie, I’ve always loved it,loved your overview.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: