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The Music Man

12 Ratings: 2.8
A movie directed by Morton Da Costa

An energetic con artist convinces the citizens of a small turn-of-the-century community to form a boy's band - which he plans to lead. This classic Hollywood musical features such hits as "76 Trombones," "Ya Got Trouble," and … see full wiki

Genre: Music, Musical
Release Date: June 19, 1962
MPAA Rating: G
1 review about The Music Man

The Music Man 1962

  • Jul 17, 2003
Pros: all that music and family values

Cons: n/a

The Bottom Line: ________________

There are a few songs that bring to mind certain things in your life or stir up memories and I think few will argue that the stirring sound of '76 Trombones’ brings to mind this movie. Add to that ‘Ya Got Trouble’ ……”Right here in River City, with a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for pool” …….. ah yes. Two songs that take you to the town square of River City, Iowa and put a smile on your face.

I’ve always liked musicals along with all the pomp and circumstance swirling around them. The outlandish scenes, the extras, the costumes, organization, choreography, and indeed, the music. Not all musicals are good movies, in fact, The Music Man isn’t that good in and of itself, but the music is what this one is about anyway and it swells with music.

From the ridiculous, Buddy Hackett singing and dancing to ‘Shipoopi’, to the sublime, Shirley Jones & Robert Preston with ‘Til There Was You’, The Music Man will find something for everyone with their musical collection.

The opening scene with the salesmen aboard the train, moving from city to city plying their wares, is both aggravating and catching and is our first introduction to the charisma that becomes The Music Man. Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill, the purveyor of magic to the townsfolk of River City, Iowa, with his fictitious boys band. A buck for an instrument, three bucks for a uniform – it all adds up for the flimflam man that sells dreams for a living.

Much like Burt Lancaster in the 1956 “The Rainmaker”, this sleepy town is looking for something to give it a shot in the arm and Professor Harold Hill is the one with the needle in his hand. He runs his con, selling dreams to the children and hope to the parents. He does deliver, one cannot dispute that, because the instruments and the uniforms do show up, but his own inept musical ability is the problem behind this scam.

[As an aside, I don’t see where it is he making a killing here, since he does buy the equipment promised unless he is getting it dirt cheap and is keeping the difference. Even so, that would have to be a small portion in comparison]

Hill’s downfall is the lovely librarian, Marian, played by Shirley Jones. Considered an ‘old maid’ because she hasn’t married and also a bit of a town tart because it was rumored that she gained the books in the library through unsavory measures – the horror – she isn’t well accepted in the town by the busybodies. The busybodies are lead by the mayors wife, Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, played by Hermione Gingold. Her dance troop, organized through another scam by Hill, was a treat to observe. Perhaps the best scene with these women is when they first started gathering.

It was an overhead shot and you could see the multi-hued plumage on their hats, which was quite outlandish. This lead to their rendition of “Pick A Little, Talk A Little”, and they indeed looked and sounded like a flock [are they called flock?] of barnyard hens. Pinched faces, feathered hats, snipping about Marian the librarian. Part of this assembled group of snippets was the wonderful Mary Wickes and she couldn’t sing then either.

Naturally there is a love interest between Hill & Marian, that becomes his downfall, orchestrated by her mother Pert Kelton, a wonderful actress with a great Irish brogue. And there has to be disappointment, the winsome scene-stealer, introduced as Little Ronny Howard, as the shy and backward Winthrop. He is Marian’s younger brother [although I did have problems with the age difference, etc.] who had become reclusive after his fathers death, added to the fact he suffered from a horrible lisp. He has placed all his hope and dreams in this new found friend, Harold Hill, and when the truth comes to light, tries to retreat back into his shell.

Of course, in The Music Man, there is no retreat. It is all brass band and big noise. So many great scenes, so many great songs. A wonderful performance by The Buffalo Bills as the barbershop quartet adds some fun and who can forget ‘Lida Mae’?

It’s a blow out musical that takes you along for the march for a couple of hours. It goes back to the roots of America and the roots of family life that just isn’t present anymore. You can learn to live with the slow paced story because there is so much activity the rest of the time with heated dancing and glorious singing. It was based on the hometown of writer Meredith Willson, who came from Iowa. It was directed by Morton DaCosta.

~Academy Award – Best Music Score
~Golden Globe – Best Motion Picture, Musical
~Golden Laurel – Top Male Musical Performance [Preston] and Top Musical
~WGA Award – Best Written American Musical

If you can choke through the performance by Shirley Jones, not a favorite of mine, then The Music Man will be a great time for you. It makes you want to get up and march, which I did, but Diane frowned at me so I turned the movie off and watched it later when I could march to my hearts content. The music will run through your head all day but it’s enjoyable, so you learn to live with it. At least I didn’t mention that repetitive Disney song ‘It’s a small world’ – snicker – now THAT can run through you head the rest of the day.

This special edition DVD included 30-minute making-of documentary "Right Here in River City" and introduction by Shirley Jones.



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