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The Music Man

The Music Man (1962) starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Ron Howard

Synopsis

Let 76 trombones lead the big parade! It’s The Music Man, the screen version of one of Broadway’s all-time blockbusters. Starring Robert Preston as the slick salesman and Shirley Jones as the not-quite-gullible librarian.

Review

The Music Man is a very enjoyable musical, chock full of songs — but with an odd twist. The protagonist is a villain. A slick-talking salesman who wants to prey on the town’s fears to sell musical instruments to every youngster in town. And the only person with common sense enough to check him out … falls in love with him.

Characters

Robert Preston as “Professor” Harold Hill

A slick-talking salesman … and con artist. He plays on the city’s fears to sell musical instruments to all of the youth of the city. And covers his inability to teach them with his “think” method. And yet, is a sympathetic person. He truly wants to be a musician and teacher. Despite his better judgement, he begins to fall in love with:

Shirley Jones as librarian Marian Paroo

A spinster, who’s looked down on by the “reputable” women of the community. They think she was … close … to an elderly, wealthy man. She’s both intelligent and compassionate. And afraid of falling in love, and being hurt again. She also is the only person in the town with the common sense to look up the “Professor’s” supposed Alma Mater, and see through his ruse. Despite knowing this, she falls in love with him anyway.

Ron Howard as Winthrop Paroo

Marion’s younger brother. He has a speech impediment, since the death of his father. Professor Hill takes a liking to him, initially for his sister’s sake. But over time, he becomes a true friend. He tries to help Winthrop deal with his problems. Towards the end, when Hill’s facade is ripped away, Winthrop and Hill have a man-to-man talk.

Buddy Hackett as Marcellus Washburn

Marcellus is a friend of Hill’s, and former partner in his con jobs. Accent on “former”. He’s since quit, found an honest living, and fallen in love with a young lady in the town. But Professor Hill recruits him to con the town anyway. Even though Marcellus will have to stay behind, after Hill skips town. A faithful friend to Hill, although the audience wonders … why?

Paul Ford as Mayor George Shinn, and Hermione Gingold as his wife Eulalie

Paul Ford as Mayor George Shinn, Hermione Gingold as his wife Eulalie, confronting Harold Hill (Robert Preston)

A match made in Heaven … or somewhere. They’re both obnoxious people, inflated with their own self-importance. The sort of people who shouldn’t be entrusted with power, but they have been. The mayor, to his credit, keeps trying to get hold of “Professor” Harold Hill’s credentials. But, he’s so easily distracted, as are his underlings, it’s comical. His wife is even worse. Not only an inflated ego, she goes out of her way to make life as miserable for Marian as possible.

Songs

  1. Main Title/Rock Island – Orchestra, The Traveling Salesmen
  2. Ya Got Trouble (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson.
  3. Piano Lesson (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson.
  4. If You Don’t Mind My Saying So (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Shirley Jones and Pert Kelton in the “Piano Lesson” number
  5. Goodnight, My Someone (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Shirley Jones
  6. 76 Trombones (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Robert Preston and Company
  7. Sincere (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by The Buffalo Bills
  8. Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Robert Preston
  9. Marian The Librarian (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Robert Preston
  10. Gary, Indiana (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Robert Preston
  11. Being in Love (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Shirley Jones
  12. Wells Fargo Wagon (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by the Company
  13. Lida Rose (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by The Buffalo Bills and Shirley Jones
  14. Will I Ever Tell You (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by The Buffalo Bills and Shirley Jones in a split screen with the “Lida Rose” number
  15. Pick a Little, Talk a Little (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Hermione Gingold, Mary Wickes, Peggy Mondo, Sara Seegar, Adnia Rice and The Buffalo Bills
  16. Goodnight, Ladies, Composer and Lyricst unknown
  17. Shipoopi, (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Buddy Hackett and Company
  18. Till There Was You (1957) Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson, Performed by Robert Preston and Shirley Jones
  19. Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean (1843) Written by David T. Shaw, Played and Sung by students at school

Editorial review of The Music Man courtesy of Amazon.com

The Music Man was one of the last great movie musicals from any studio, and it proved to be that rarest of events: a Broadway show that was measurably improved by its transition to the screen. Robert Preston made his musical debut–both live and on film–as “Professor” Harold Hill, the upbeat charlatan who promises to teach a small-town boys band by the “think system.” But it’s the part Preston was born to play and the one for which he will always be best remembered.

Composer Meredith Willson based The Music Man on his own small-town Midwestern boyhood, circa 1912, a quasi-mythical place where the old-maid librarian looks and sings like Shirley Jones. The boy himself is an adorable Ron Howard, lisp-singing “Gary, Indiana.” Willson’s entire score, featuring a combination of what are now standards, such as “Goodnight My Someone” and “Till There Was You” and show-specific numbers (“Trouble,” “76 Trombones“), is never less than infectious. This dazzling special edition is also as bright and sunny as any 4th of July in Iowa could ever hope to be. –Robert Windeler

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