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What to Watch Sunday: The Music Man

The Music Man (1962)

I think I owned the soundtrack to The Music Man before I saw the movie, but it became a fast favorite in my teenage years, especially once I put those tunes in context. This Meredith Wilson show established Shirley Jones, Robert Preston and Buddy Hackett as forever favorites in my heart, and, as a 2003 TV movie version would prove, really make the show what it is.

Preston is Harold Hill, a con man who goes from town to town in the 1910s selling boys’ bands. His scam is that he teaches each town’s young men to play invisible instruments while “waiting” for the real ones to arrive. He then skips town before anyone realizes there are no instruments. When he gets to River City, Iowa, however, he finds himself trapped after falling in love with Jones’ Marian the librarian and music teacher. Hill is also fairly fond of Marian’s little brother, played by a young “Ronny” Howard, who would grow to become that famous red-headed director.

The townsfolk and Hill’s buddy Marcellus Washburn (Hackett) are behind some of the songs featured in the film/play, with Washburn’s “Shipoopi” being a serious favorite of mine. For years in high school I dreamed of my Shipoopi. Stories set in any era before the 1920s usually have little draw for me, but for some reason The Music Man proved its worth.

  • The Music Man is set for 11:45 a.m. ET Oct. 9 and 1:45 p.m. Nov. 24 on TCM.
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6 Responses

  1. Good suggestion. The Music Man is a fun movie! Love Robert Preston’s Harold Hill.

  2. If I know someone who doesn’t love “The Music Man” – well, I just don’t want to know about it.

  3. Rachel, THE MUSIC MAN is pretty much irresistible; even folks I know who swear they don’t like musicals can’t resist this one! Ironically, I fell in love with THE MUSIC MAN because I’m a Beatles fan: I first heard “Till There Was You” as a cover version on a Beatles album! Robert Preston was The Man! That said, Craig Bierko did a fine job as Harold Hill on Broadway, too, but Preston and Shirley Jones were a wonderful romantic comedy team. I very much enjoyed your post, Rachel, as always!

  4. Rachel, THE MUSIC MAN has long been one of our family’s favorites; it’s certainly a “Wowza!” in my book! 🙂 The irrepressible Robert Preston was born to play Professor Harold Hill, and he and Shirley Jones make such a delightful match. Ironically, I discovered THE MUSIC MAN because I’m a Beatles fan; I first heard it “Till There Was You” as a cover version on a Beatles album. In fact, here’s a clip from YouTube:

    I must agree with Caftan Woman: if there’s someone out there who doesn’t love THE MUSIC MAN, I don’t want to know about it! Nice post!

  5. My favorite Broadway musicals are (in no particular order) The Music Man, The Producers, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and A Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum. Their main characters are all (As I describe them) a charlatan with a heart of gold. Anyone who knows me will understand perfectly why that character type so speaks to me.

    Craig Bierko was indeed good in the most recent revival, but I felt he based his performance far too closely on Preston, to the degree of practically channeling him. Max casella, who played Marcellus, however, had more fun with his role, likely easier because, while Hackett was good, there’s nothing particularly memorable about his performance.

    Dick Van Dyke played Hill in one of the revivals – I’d have sorely liked to have seen that. So Too Van Johnson from the London run.

    Matthew Broderick’s version on TV fell short with me. Hill is bold, and Broderick doesn’t do “bold” well. He was stellar as Finch in How to Succeed, however.

    • Soooo glad to hear you mention Max Casella –he is my favorite actor. It was his role in the new Broadway version that led me to buy the movie soundtrack (accidentally) and the “new original Broadway cast” soundtrack. He was well cast as Marcellus.

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