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the music man

THE MUSIC MAN (1962)

A talented con artist, posing as a band leader and organizer of boy's bands, arrives in River City, Iowa, to do his usual sell and flee scam, but he gets his foot caught in the door, which ultimately saves him from his dishonest trade and opens up a whole new honest world of music, because of his love for a woman, and her love for him, and his underlying wish to be a real band director.

The cast includes: Robert Preston, Buddy Hackett, Shirley Jones, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford, and Ronny Howard.

Musical Score: Meredith Wilson.

THE MUSIC MAN was nominated for the Best Picture award.

Produced and Directed by: Morton DaCosta.

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The Music Man, the film version of the Broadway smash hit musical, has been described as "Sheer entertainment; Hollywood's show magic at its best." The entire cast, musical numbers, superb direction, script and staging makes The Music Man one of the shiniest jewels from the musicals made in the 1960's. The joy, energy, enthusiasm, teamwork, direction, production values and fabulous musical and dance numbers, put into this film production, all flows together to create a classic musical that brings one to another time period, another way of life in a small town in the year of 1912. In a most entertaining, humorous way, the film explores the age-old human problems that come from human weaknesses & vanities found in the townspeople, as well as Harold Hill, and how they solved some of them by changing attitudes, perceptions and opening up to other possibilities.

Although Professor Hill comes to town, planning to sell band instruments, uniforms, with the promise to teach the boys to play and then skip town when he has the money, as he usually does, he changes his mind, as he is made to realize all the good he has inadvertently caused, and finds himself involved with not only a sad, little boy (Ron Howard), but also realizes that he loves Marion (Shirley Jones), as she loves him, to the point where he decides to stop running and face the consequences.

The magnificent Robert Preston recreates his Tony-winning Broadway performance, as con man, Professor Harold Hill, with much aplomb, energy, enthusiasm and skill. His performance adds zing and energy to the rest of the talented cast's performances, creating vibrant screen chemistry with all whom he shares a scene with. My favorite scene with Preston has to be when Professor Hill hatches an angle to create a need for a boy's band in a town where "people do with what they have, or do without." After spying the brand new Pool Hall, Hill springs to life and launches into an intense, rap-like, entertaining rant done to a beat, that gets the townspeople all in a dither, planting worries in their minds about "how to keep the young ones moral after school."

The talented Shirley Jones does a find job, playing the suspicious librarian/piano teacher, Marion, who is misunderstood and looked down on by the other town ladies. (The uniquely humorous "Pick a little, Talk a little" musical number explains their disdain of her). Marion has high ideals in running the library, and in looking for a husband, and thinks Professor Hill is lacking in all of them, until she gets to know him better and sees the possibility of good in him, as he inadvertently helps others, especially her little brother (Ronny Howard), in spite of himself. Shirley Jones sings with conviction, in a clear, strong, pleasant tone, and does justice to the beautiful love songs given to her character, Marion.

Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold and Paul Ford are comedic, character actors in their own right, and are perfectly cast for their parts. Buddy Hackett plays an ex-con partner, loyal friend of Hill's, who has turned straight, but is willing to help Preston carry out his scam. He also sings his musical numbers in a very entertaining way, and dances as well. Hermione Gingold is at her best as the extremely strong-willed, mayor's wife, and Paul Ford plays his character as the Mayor with a comedic style that is most enjoyable.

Ronny Howard - Just 7 years old, but did a great job, saying his lines with feeling and singing his songs, all with a pronounced lisp. He would go on to be on the Andy Griffith Show, and do well in movies like American Grafitti. He became a movie director, directing such films as Splash and Apollo 13.

The musical numbers are different, original and creative, due to the Oscar winning genius of Meredith Wilson and Ray Heindorf. Besides the "Pick a little, Talk a little" and "Trouble in River City" numbers described above, the opening number is also unique. It takes place on a train car, filled with different types of salesmen. To the beat and varying speeds of the moving train wheels, various salesmen do a clever, rap-like song explaining the nature of their business, starting off talking about taking only cash, but soon turn to the subject of the infamous Professor Harold Hill. It's a wonder how they kept a straight face through this amusing number, that sets the stage perfectly for the unfolding story. This scene shows the high quality of direction evident throughout the film provided by Morton DaCosta.

Screenplay: Marion Harkgrove. Music Supervised by: Ray Heindorf.

Rated G - This fine musical is highly recommended as family entertainment. The pacing in parts, in some of the musical numbers may be a little long by today's standards, but the film is as entertaining now as it was when it hit the big screen back in the 1960's.

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If you enjoyed THE MUSIC MAN, you may like ANASTASIA, THE STING, THE PRODUCERS, WAKING NED DEVINE,
PAPERMOON, GUYS AND DOLLS, and/or MY FAIR LADY.