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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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