The Music Man (1962)

DailyView: Day 67, Movie 115

We’re back with another 4th of July movie for the DailyView, and this time I found a classic playing on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) called The Music Man. Set here in Iowa, this is a well known musical with a bunch of songs that were familiar to me. I had a basic idea of the story, but I had never watched this until now.

Con man Harold Hill (Robert Preston) arrived in River City, Iowa with a plan. He pretended to be a music professor from Gary, Indiana (Gary, Indiana…Gary, In-di-an-a). His scam was to convince the townspeople that the youth problems would be solved by forming a band, selling the kids the musical instruments, uniforms and music.

His co-conspirator, Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett) provided some comedic relief to keep the “Professor” real. He was a friend of one of Hill’s former grifter colleagues. Hill needed the librarian and local music teacher Marion (Shirley Jones) to support his ideas so the townspeople would go along, but he found more than he expected from her and her little brother Winthrop (Ron Howard).

Of course, the heart of The Music Man is Robert Preston and Shirley Jones and the movie only works if their chemistry and talents work, and they absolutely do. Shirley Jones, who winds up in the Partridge Family, had been coming off Oklahoma and so she had a significant experience in the genre.

Seeing a young Ron Howard (dubbed Ronny Howard in the credits) was a weird surprise. Howard’s character, Winthrop, was another way that Harold Hill won over Marion. Winthrop was sullen and withdrawn, refusing to speak much at all because of the death of his father from the year before. He also had to deal with a speech impediment that was an area of embarrassment. Ronny Howard showed the future he was going to have soon with the Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days, American Graffiti and the eventual director chair.

There is amazing choreography in The Music Man too as the dance numbers fill the screen with joy and energy. The scene near the end at the dance festival is so much fun and lively.

The Music Man came from Broadway and most of the songs by Meredith Wilson were used. The Broadway production won multiple Tony Awards prior to the adaption for the big screen. The Music Man has been recreated for years since, with high schools performing the play over and again.

The film is a tad long and does feel like a play being filmed (much like the movie Fences or Hamilton), but there is a reason it is considered such a classic. The world loves the story of redemption and watching the love of a good woman change this con man appeals to the audience as a whole.

Plus, the music is great.

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