The Music Man (1962)
Directed by Morton DaCosta
Starring: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett
Harold Hill (Preston) is a con man trying to sell the idea of a boy’s band in a small Iowa town. Once the idea is sold he can sell them the equipment along with a promise to teach the boys how to become a real marching band. His plan finds unexpected difficulties when he finds himself at odds with Marian (Jones) the librarian. Now Harold is working harder than ever to win her over too, with unexpected consequences.
This is a classic American musical, translated from the stage to the big screen. Originally this was written for the stage by Meredith Willson and performed on Broadway. The film adaptation was completed by Marion Hargrove. Morton DaCosta directed this film, the second of his career. In total he worked on three films before returning to his work on Broadway.
The cast for The Music Man includes Robert Preston (How the West Was Won), Shirley Jones (Elmer Gantry), and Buddy Hackett (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World). These three top a talented cast that brought this unique story to life. The cast of a musical is asked to take on their roles with a wide variety of skills. From singing to dancing, this film found the right people to do the job. They are also blessed by great songwriting and choreography. Ray Heindorf won an Oscar for his scoring on this film. It’s the only award the film won despite being nominated for six awards including Best Picture.
The acting in this movie feels more fitting for the stage. I think that’s a natural part of making a musical that’s been adapted from the stage. It’s good acting by all the main characters. Preston seems to drive the energy of this film from the first moment his character speaks. He’s a great centerpiece for the story and he has good chemistry with the rest of the cast. There are great moments from Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Pert Kelton. For Ron Howard fans this is also another great performance from the child actor.
I definitely enjoy a good musical. I’m always interested in a genre of film that seems to have all but disappeared in the world of modern cinema. In this movie the songs and music are only a part of the musical experience. Like most of my favorites The Music Man takes full advantage of a great story with great choreography and camera work. The sets all have a classic feel to them and work well with the overall effort. The costumes are also a fun aspect of this movie, feeling like they were created based on broad stereotypes of the characters they’re made for.
This is a fun film for the whole family. If you don’t like musicals this won’t be the one to sway you. If you do like them, you should make sure to see this one. If you’ve seen it before it has a ton of repeat value with the memorable songs and witty dialogue. I give this one 4.7 out of 5 stars.