The Music Man (1962 film)

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The Music Man
The Music Man (1962 film poster - three-sheet).jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed byMorton DaCosta
Screenplay byMarion Hargrove
Based on
Produced byMorton DaCosta
CinematographyRobert Burks
Edited byWilliam H. Ziegler
Music byMeredith Willson
Ray Heindorf
Distributed byWarner Bros
Release date
  • June 19, 1962 (1962-06-19)
Running time
151 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$15 million[1]

The Music Man is a 1962 American musical film directed and produced by Morton DaCosta, based on Meredith Willson's 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which DaCosta also directed. Robert Preston reprises the titular role from the stage version, starring alongside Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Ron Howard, and Paul Ford.

Released by Warner Bros. on June 19, 1962, the film was one of the biggest hits of the year and was widely acclaimed by critics. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, with composer Ray Heindorf winning Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment. The film also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and Preston and Jones were both nominated in their respective acting categories. In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2]


In 1912, notorious con man Professor Harold Hill arrives in River City, Iowa, anxious to swindle the famously stubborn citizens. Masquerading as a band instructor, Hill’s plan is to convince the townspeople into paying him to create a boys marching band. Once he collects payment for instruments and uniforms he will take the next train out of town.

With his associate, Marcellus Washburn, Hill realizes he needs a red herring ploy, so he incites concern among River City's parents that their boys are being seduced into sin and vice by the town's new pool table. He convinces them that a marching band is the only way to keep boys out of trouble, and begins collecting money for the band. Anticipating that Marian Paroo, the town's conscientious librarian and piano instructor, will attempt to discredit him, Hill sets out to seduce her into silence. Also in opposition to Hill is the town's Mayor Shinn, owner of the billiard parlor, who orders the school board to obtain Hill's credentials. When they attempt to do so, Hill avoids their questions by teaching them to sing as a barbershop quartet via "sustained talking". Thereafter, Hill easily tricks them into breaking into four-part harmony whenever they ask for his credentials.

Hill's wooing of Marian, who distrusts him, has little effect, though he succeeds in winning the admiration of her mother Widow Paroo and attempts to befriend her unhappy younger brother, Winthrop. When Marian discovers that Hill's claim to being a graduate of "Gary Conservatory, Gold Medal, Class of '05" is a lie (the town of Gary was founded in 1906, so there could be no music conservatory with that name before that date), she attempts to expose him, but is interrupted by the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon. When Winthrop, after years of moody withdrawal, joins in the townspeople's singing and speaks effusively about his new cornet, Marian sees Hill's work as beneficial and hides the evidence of his deceit from Mayor Shinn. Hill tells the boys to learn to play via the "Think System", in which they simply have to think of a tune over and over and will know how to play it without ever practicing on their instruments.

Hill's con is nearly complete: all he has to do is collect the rest of the money and disappear. Meeting Marian at the traditional footbridge – the first time she has ever been there with a man – he learns that she knew of his deception but did not tell because she is in love with him. He is about to leave town when Charlie Cowell, a disgruntled anvil salesman who was run out of Brighton, Illinois because Hill had conned the townspeople there, comes to River City and exposes Hill. Sought by an angry mob and pressed to leave town by Marcellus and Marian, Hill realizes he is in love with Marian and does not want to leave her.

Hill is captured by the mob and brought before a town meeting to be tarred and feathered. Marian defends Hill; the townspeople, reminded of how he has brought so many of them together, elect to relent. Mayor Shinn reminds the townspeople how much money Hill has taken, with no apparent result. When he demands to know "Where's the band?" Hill is saved by the town's boys, who play Beethoven's Minuet in G presumably via the "Think System." Although their technical expertise leaves much to be desired, the boys' parents are enthralled. As the boys march out of the town hall, they are suddenly transformed in the townspeople's imagination into a spectacular marching band in resplendent uniforms, playing and marching with perfection, led by Hill. Hill is reunited with Marian, and all the other main characters join in during the credits.


Casting notes[edit]

The members of the original Broadway cast who appear in the film are Robert Preston (Harold Hill), Pert Kelton (Mrs. Paroo), The Buffalo Bills (The School Board), Peggy Mondo (Ethel Toffelmier), and Adina Rice (Alma Hix). Paul Ford (Mayor Shinn) was a replacement during the original run. Susan Luckey (Zaneeta Shinn) and Harry Hickox (Charlie Cowell) both reprise their roles from the first national tour while Monique Vermont (Amaryllis) was a replacement.[3][4]

Although Preston scored a great success in the original stage version of the show, he was not the first choice for the film version, mostly because he was not a major box office star. Jack L. Warner was notorious for wanting to film stage musicals with bigger stars than the ones who played the roles onstage. Bing Crosby was offered the role of Harold Hill, but turned it down.[5] Warner also offered the part to Cary Grant, but he declined, saying "nobody could do that role as well as Bob Preston". Grant also reportedly told Warner that he would not bother to see the film unless Preston was in it.[6][7][4] Warner wanted Frank Sinatra for the role of Professor Hill, but Meredith Willson insisted upon Preston.[7][8]


Warner Bros. Records issued the soundtrack album in both stereophonic and monaural versions.[9]

Source: AllMusic[10]

  1. "Main Title/Rock Island" – Orchestra, The Traveling Salesmen
  2. "Iowa Stubborn" – The Ensemble
  3. "Ya Got Trouble" – Robert Preston, The Ensemble
  4. "Piano Lesson" – Shirley Jones, Pert Kelton
  5. "Goodnight, My Someone" – Jones
  6. "Ya Got Trouble/Seventy-Six Trombones" – Preston, The Ensemble
  7. "Sincere" – Buffalo Bills
  8. "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" – Hermione Gingold, Mary Wickes, Peggy Mondo, Sara Seegar, Adnia Rice
  9. "The Sadder But Wiser Girl" – Preston, Buddy Hackett
  10. "Marian The Librarian" – Preston
  11. "Gary, Indiana" – Preston, Kelton
  12. "Being in Love" – Jones
  13. "The Wells Fargo Wagon" – The Ensemble
  14. "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You?" – Jones, Buffalo Bills
  15. "Gary, Indiana" (reprise) – Ron Howard, Kelton, Jones
  16. "Lida Rose" (reprise) – Buffalo Bills
  17. "Shipoopi" – Hackett, The Ensemble
  18. "Till There Was You" – Jones
  19. "It's You" – Buffalo Bills (does not appear on soundtrack album)
  20. "Goodnight, My Someone" (reprise) – Jones, Preston
  21. "Till There Was You" (reprise)– Preston
  22. "Seventy-Six Trombones" (reprise & finale) – The Ensemble

During the recording of the soundtrack musical numbers in late 1961 and early 1962 to which the cast would later lip-sync on the soundstage, some sessions included work on The Chicken Fat Song, a.k.a. President Kennedy's Youth Fitness Song, performed by Robert Preston.


Unusual for a musical film at the time, Morton DaCosta, who had directed the stage version of the musical not only directed the film, but produced it as well, ensuring that the film was faithful to the show. In addition to Preston, the actress Pert Kelton and the Buffalo Bills also reprised their stage roles.[3][4][7]

All of the show's songs were retained in their full versions with three exceptions: "Rock Island" was slightly edited, the middle verse of "My White Knight" was retained but the remainder of the song was replaced with "Being In Love" with new music and lyrics by Willson, and "It's You" was initially heard as incidental music and later sung by the school board in abbreviated form in the fairground scene, prior to Cowell exposing Hill as a fraud to the River City townspeople.[11]

Several phrases were altered for the film, as the writers felt they were too obscurely Midwestern to appeal to a broader audience; the minced oath "Jeely kly!" is Tommy Djilas's catchphrase in the play, while in the film he exclaims, "Great honk!" The word "shipoopi," which has no meaning and was concocted by Willson for the original Broadway show, was left unchanged.

When Amaryllis plays "Goodnight My Someone", she is playing the keys C, G, and E on the piano, but the notes actually heard are B, F#, and D#. Marian sings the song in B major.

It is revealed that "Harold Hill" is an alias used by the salesman while in River City. Early in the film, Hill runs into an old friend and crony Marcellus where the latter now works in the livery stable. Marcellus recognizes him and calls him by his real name, "Gregory."

Shirley Jones was pregnant while the film was in production. When she and Robert Preston embraced during the footbridge scene, the baby—who would be born on January 4 and would be named Patrick Cassidy—kicked Preston.[12] The costume designers had to adjust her dresses several times to conceal her pregnancy.

For the final parade scene, Jack L. Warner selected the University of Southern California's marching band, the Spirit of Troy. Many junior high school students from Southern California were also included, forming the majority of the band. It took approximately eight hours of shooting over two days to film the scene. All the musical instruments for the production were specially made for the film by the Olds Instrument Company in Fullerton, California. The instruments were then refurbished and sold by Olds with no indication they were ever used in the film.


The film had its premiere in Mason City, Iowa, the home town of Meredith Willson, during the North Iowa Band Festival on June 19, 1962.[13]


Alternate theatrical release poster

The film received positive reviews and grossed $14,953,846 at the box office,[1] earning $8.1 million in US theatrical rentals.[14] It was the 3rd highest-grossing film of 1962.

Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote "It's here, and the rich, ripe roundness of it, the lush amalgam of the many elements of successful American show business that Mr. Willson brought together on the stage, has been preserved and appropriately made rounder and richer through the magnitude of film."[15]

Robert Landry of Variety wrote: "Call this a triumph, perhaps a classic, of corn, smalltown nostalgia and American love of a parade...DaCosta’s use of several of the original Broadway cast players is thoroughly vindicated...But the only choice for the title role, Robert Preston, is the big proof of showmanship in the casting. Warners might have secured bigger screen names but it is impossible to imagine any of them matching Preston’s authority, backed by 883 stage performances."[3]

Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic wrote 'Robert Preston is a likable man whose likableness let him give one of the best phony performances of the postwar era, in that phony musical The Music Man'.[16]

Leo Charney reviewing for AllMovie wrote that the film "is among the best movie musicals, transforming Meredith Willson's Broadway hit into an energetic slice of Americana. Robert Preston's virtuoso portrayal of con man Harold Hill transfers from the stage (despite the studios' nervousness about casting no-name Preston), and the result is one of the most explosively vital performances in any movie musical."[17]

In 2005, The Music Man was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


The film won one award at the 35th Academy Awards and was nominated for five more.[20][21][22]

Award Category Year Nominee Result
Academy Awards Best Picture 1963 Morton DaCosta Nominated
Best Art Direction (Color) Paul Groesse, George James Hopkins Nominated
Best Costume Design (Color) Dorothy Jeakins Nominated
Best Film Editing William H. Ziegler Nominated
Best Musical Score (Adaptation or Treatment) Ray Heindorf[22] Won
Best Sound Recording George Groves Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical 1963 N/A Won
Best Director Morton DaCosta Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Robert Preston Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Shirley Jones Nominated
Best Original Score Meredith Willson Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Feature Film 1963 Morton DaCosta Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written Musical 1963 Marion Hargrove Won

Comic book adaptation[edit]

  • Dell Movie Classic: The Music Man (January 1963)[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for The Music Man. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "registry",, accessed October 24, 2016
  3. ^ a b c Landry, Robert J. (April 11, 1962). "Film Reviews: 'The Music Man'". Variety. p. 6.
  4. ^ a b c " The Music Man Credits", TCM, accessed October 24, 2016
  5. ^ Traubner, Richard. "The Music Man," Playbill (1988).
  6. ^ Nelson, Nancy (2003). Evenings with Cary Grant: Recollections in His Own Words and by Those Who Knew Him Best. Citadel Press. p. 270. ISBN 0-8065-2412-X.
  7. ^ a b c Miller, Frank. " 'The Music Man' (1962)", TCM, accessed October 24, 2016
  8. ^ "Making of" featurette included with the 1998 video release
  9. ^ The Music Man listing, retrieved March 4, 2010
  10. ^ M " 'The Music Man' Original Soundtrack", AllMusic, accessed October 24, 2016
  11. ^ DaCosta, Morton (Director) (2010-02-02). The Music Man (Blu-Ray) (Motion picture). United States: Warner Home Video. ISBN 1-4198-8842-0.
  12. ^ Ginell, Gary (December 28, 2013). "A Visit With Shirley Jones – Part 4: Filming The Music Man". VC On Stage: Ventura County Theatre News.
  13. ^ "WB Expends 175G Overturing 'Music'". Daily Variety. June 20, 1962. p. 1.
  14. ^ Top 20 Films of 1962 by Domestic Revenue
  15. ^ Crowther, Bosley (August 24, 1962). "Screen: Preston Stars in 'Music Man':Film Version of Stage Comedy Opens Here". The New York Times – via
  16. ^ Kauffmann, Stanley (1974). Living Images Film Comment and Criticism. Harper & Row Publishers. p. 129.
  17. ^ Charney, Leo. "Review", AllMovie, accessed October 24, 2016
  18. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  19. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  20. ^ "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  21. ^ "NY Times: The Music Man". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-05-02. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  22. ^ a b "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  23. ^ Dell Movie Classic: The Music Man at the Grand Comics Database

External links[edit]