ⓘ The Music Man (1962 film)

The Music Man (1962 film)

ⓘ The Music Man (1962 film)

The Music Man is a 1962 American musical film starring Robert Preston as Harold Hill and Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo. The film is based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name by Meredith Willson. The film was one of the biggest hits of the year and highly acclaimed critically.


1. Plot

In July 1912, traveling salesman "Professor" Harold Hill arrives in River City, Iowa, ready to swindle the famously stubborn citizens "Iowa Stubborn". Masquerading as a band instructor, Hill plans to con the townspeople into paying him to create a boys marching band. Once he has collected their payment and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, he will hop the next train out of town, leaving them without their money or a band.

With his associate Marcellus Washburn, Hill incites concern among River City’s parents that their boys are being seduced into sin and vice by the town’s new pool table "Ya Got Trouble". He convinces them that a marching band is the only way to keep the boys out of trouble, and begins collecting their money "76 Trombones". Anticipating that Marian, the towns librarian and piano instructor, will attempt to discredit him, Hill sets out to seduce her into silence. Also in opposition to Hill is the towns Mayor Shinn, owner of the billiard parlor, who orders the school board to obtain Hills credentials. When they attempt to do so, Hill avoids their questions by teaching them to sing as a barbershop quartet via "sustained talking." Thereafter, Hill easily tricks them into breaking into song whenever they ask for his credentials.

Hill’s attempts to woo Marian, who has an extreme distrust of men, have little effect "Marian the Librarian" despite his winning the admiration of her mother "Gary, Indiana" and his attempts to draw out her unhappy younger brother Winthrop. When Marian discovers that Hills claim to being a graduate of "Gary Conservatory, Gold Medal, Class of 05" is a lie Gary was founded in 1906, she attempts to expose him but is interrupted by the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon "Wells Fargo Wagon". When Winthrop, after years of moody withdrawal, joins in with the townspeople and speaks effusively with Marian due to the excitement at receiving his cornet, Marian begins to fall in love with Hill and hides the evidence she has uncovered from Mayor Shinn. Hill tells the boys to learn to play via the "Think System," in which they simply have to think of a tune over and over and will know how to play it without ever touching their instruments.

Marian falls further in love with Hill, and in counterpoint with The Buffalo Bills, they sing "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You". Hills con is nearly complete; all he has to do is collect the rest of the money and disappear. Meeting Marian at the footbridge – the first time she has ever been there with a man – he learns that she knew of his deception but did not tell because she is in love with him "Till There Was You". He is about to leave town when Charlie Cowell, a disgruntled anvil salesman who was run out of Brighton, Illinois because Hill had conned the townspeople there, comes to River City and exposes Hill. Sought by an angry mob and pressed to leave town by Marcellus and Marian, Hill realizes he is in love with Marian and cannot leave "Till There Was You Reprise").

Hill is captured by the mob and brought before a town meeting to be tarred and feathered. Marian defends Hill, and the townspeople, reminded of how he has brought so many of them together, elect not to have him tarred and feathered. Mayor Shinn reminds the townspeople how much money Hill has taken, with no apparent result. When he demands to know "Wheres the band?" Hill is saved by the towns boys, who play Beethovens Minuet in G. Although their technical expertise leaves much to be desired, the boys parents are enthralled. As the boys march out of the town hall, they are suddenly "transformed" into a spectacular marching band in resplendent uniforms, playing and marching with perfection, led by Hill "76 Trombones 2nd Reprise". Hill is reunited with Marian, and all the other main characters join in during the credits.


2. Cast

Many members of the original Broadway cast appear in the film, including Robert Preston, Pert Kelton, and The Buffalo Bills.

Although Preston scored a great success in the original stage version of the show, he was not the first choice for the film version, mostly because he was not a major box office star. Bing Crosby was offered the part, but turned it down. Jack L. Warner, who was notorious for wanting to film stage musicals with bigger stars than the ones who played the roles onstage, wanted Frank Sinatra for the role of Professor Hill, but Meredith Willson insisted upon Preston. Warner also offered the role of Hill to Cary Grant, but Grant declined, saying "nobody could do that role as well as Bob Preston". Grant also reportedly told Warner that he Grant would not bother to see the film unless Preston was in it.


3. Songs

Warner Bros. Records issued the soundtrack album in both stereophonic and monaural versions.

Source: AllMusic

During the recording of the soundtrack musical numbers in late 1961 and early 1962 to which the cast would later lip-sync on the soundstage, some sessions included work on The Chicken Fat Song, a.k.a. President Kennedys Youth Fitness Song, performed by Robert Preston.


4. Production

Unusual for a musical film at the time, Morton DaCosta, who had directed the stage version of the musical not only directed the film, but produced it as well, ensuring that the film was faithful to the show. In addition to Preston, the actress Pert Kelton and the Buffalo Bills also reprised their stage roles.

All of the shows songs were retained in their full versions with three exceptions: "Rock Island" was shortened, the middle verse of "My White Knight" was retained but the remainder of the song was replaced with "Being In Love, has with new music and lyrics by Willson, and "Its You" was sung by the school board in abbreviated form in the fairground scene, prior to Cowell exposing Hill as a fraud to the River City townspeople.

Several phrases were altered for the film, as the writers felt they were too obscurely Midwestern to appeal to a broader audience; the minced oath "Jeely kly!" is Tommy Djilass catchphrase in the play, while in the film he exclaims, "Great honk!" The word "shipoopi" has no meaning and was concocted by Willson for the original the Broadway show, was left unchanged.

When Amaryllis plays "Goodnight My Someone" at 27:40, she is playing the keys C, G, and E on the piano, but the notes actually heard are B, F#, and D#. Marian sings the song in B major.

Shirley Jones was pregnant while the film was in production. When she and Robert Preston embraced during the footbridge scene, the fetus - who would be born on January 4 and would be named Patrick Cassidy - kicked Preston. The costume designers had to adjust her dresses several times to conceal her pregnancy.

For the final parade scene, Jack L. Warner selected the University of Southern Californias marching band, the Spirit of Troy. Many junior high school students from Southern California were also included, forming the majority of the band. It took approximately eight hours of shooting over two days to film the scene. All the musical instruments for the production were specially made for the film by the Olds Instrument Company in Fullerton, California. The instruments were then refurbished and sold by Olds with no indication they were ever used in the film.


5. Reception

The film received positive reviews and grossed $14.953.846 at the box office, earning $8 million in US theatrical rentals. It was the 5th highest-grossing film of 1962.

Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote "Its here, and the rich, ripe roundness of it, the lush amalgam of the many elements of successful American show business that Mr. Willson brought together on the stage, has been preserved and appropriately made rounder and richer through the magnitude of film."

The Staff Variety reviewer wrote: "Call this a triumph, perhaps a classic, of corn, smalltown nostalgia and American love of a parade.DaCosta’s use of several of the original Broadway cast players is thoroughly vindicated.But the only choice for the title role, Robert Preston, is the big proof of showmanship in the casting. Warners might have secured bigger screen names but it is impossible to imagine any of them matching Preston’s authority, backed by 883 stage performances."

Leo Charney reviewing for AllMovie wrote that the film "is among the best movie musicals, transforming Meredith Willsons Broadway hit into an energetic slice of Americana. Robert Prestons virtuoso portrayal of con man Harold Hill transfers from the stage despite the studios nervousness about casting no-name Preston, and the result is one of the most explosively vital performances in any movie musical."

In 2005, The Music Man was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • "Seventy-Six Trombones" – Nominated
  • 2004: AFIs 100 Years.100 Songs
  • 2006: AFIs Greatest Movie Musicals – Nominated