|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.
If you enjoyed THE MUSIC MAN,
you may like "Anastasia," "The Sting," "Papermoon,"
"The Producers," "Waking Ned Devine," "Guys and Dolls,"
and/or "My Fair Lady."