The Music Man (1962 film)

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The Music Man
Original movie poster for the film The Music Man 1962.jpg
Movie poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Morton DaCosta
Produced by Morton DaCosta
Screenplay by Marion Hargrove
Story by
Based on The Music Man 
by Meredith Willson
Music by Meredith Willson
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by William H. Ziegler
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • June 19, 1962 (1962-06-19)
Running time
151 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $15 million[1]

The Music Man is a 1962 American musical film starring Robert Preston as Harold Hill and Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo. The film is based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name by Meredith Willson. The film was one of the biggest hits of the year and highly acclaimed critically.

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".

Plot summary[edit]

In July 1912, a traveling salesman, "Professor" Harold Hill (Robert Preston), arrives in the fictional location of River City, Iowa, intrigued by the challenge of swindling the famously stubborn natives of Iowa ("Iowa Stubborn"). Masquerading as a traveling band instructor, Professor Hill plans to con the citizens of River City into paying him to create a boys' marching band, including instruments, uniforms, and music instruction. Once he has collected the money and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, he will hop the next train out of town, leaving them without their money or a band.

With help from his associate Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett), who is now living in River City and is the only one who knows Hill's real name, "Gregory," Professor Hill deliberately incites mass concern among the parents of River City that their young boys are being seduced into a world of sin and vice by the new pool table in town ("Ya Got Trouble"). He convinces them that a boys' marching band is the only way to keep the boys of the town pure and out of trouble, and begins collecting their money ("76 Trombones"). Hill anticipates that Marian (Shirley Jones), the town's librarian and piano instructor, will attempt to discredit him, so he sets out to seduce her into silence. Also in opposition to Hill is the town's Mayor Shinn (Paul Ford), the owner of the billiard parlor where the new pool table has been installed, who orders the school board (portrayed by the barbershop quartet, The Buffalo Bills) 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." They are thereafter easily tricked by Hill into breaking into song whenever they ask for his credentials ("Sincere", "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little/Goodnight Ladies").

Meanwhile, Hill attempts to win the heart of Marian the librarian, who has an extreme distrust of men. His charms have little effect upon Marian ("Marian the Librarian") despite his winning the admiration of her mother ("Gary, Indiana") and his attempts to draw out her unhappy younger brother Winthrop (Ronny Howard). When Marian discovers in the Indiana State Journal of Education 1890–1910 that Hill's claim to being "Gary Conservatory, Gold Medal, Class of '05" is a lie (Gary was founded in 1906), she attempts to present the evidence to Mayor Shinn and expose Hill as a fraud, but is momentarily interrupted by the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon ("Wells Fargo Wagon"). When Winthrop, after years of moody withdrawal, joins in with the townspeople and speaks effusively with Marian due to the excitement at receiving his cornet, Marian begins to fall in love with Hill and subsequently hides the evidence she has uncovered 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 touching their instruments.

Meanwhile, Marian is falling more in love with Harold, and in a counterpart with The Buffalo Bills they sing "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You". Hill's con is nearly complete; all he has to do is collect the rest of the instrument and uniform money, and he can disappear. During his meeting with Marian at the footbridge, the first time she has ever been there with a man, he learns that she knew of his deception but didn't tell because she is in love with him ("Till There Was You"). He is about to leave town when Charlie Cowell, a disgruntled anvil salesman who had been run out of Brighton, Illinois because Hill had conned the townspeople there, comes to River City and exposes Hill and his plans. Sought by an angry mob and pressed to leave town by Marcellus and Marian, Hill realizes that he is in love with Marian and can't leave River City ("Till There Was You (Reprise)"). He is captured by the mob and brought before a town meeting to be tarred and feathered. Marian defends Hill, and the townspeople, reminded of how he has brought so many of them together by his presence there, elect not to have him tarred and feathered. Mayor Shinn in response reminds the townspeople "standing there like a cote of Shropshire sheep" of how much money Hill has taken from them for instruments, uniforms, technical instruction books, and the promise of creating a boys' band. When he loudly demands to know "Where's the band?" Hill is saved by the town's boys who have learned to play Beethoven's Minuet in G on their instruments. Although their technical expertise leaves much to be desired, the boys' parents are enthralled. The somewhat ragged boys band marches out of the town hall. But as they begin to march, they are suddenly "transformed" on the screen, and now the viewer sees the band not as it really is (shabby, awkward and unskilled) but instead sees what the boys' parents and the townspeople see: a spectacular, precise and magnificent marching band dressed in resplendent uniforms, and playing and marching with perfection. ("76 Trombones 2nd Reprise").


Many members of the original Broadway cast appear in the film, including Robert Preston, Pert Kelton and The Buffalo Bills.

The film made Robert Preston into an "A" list star in motion pictures, after years of appearing in supporting roles in famous films and in starring roles in "B" movies. Although Preston scored a great success in the original stage version of the show, he was not first choice for the film version, partly because he was not a box office star. Jack L. Warner, who was notorious for wanting to film stage musicals with stars other than the ones who played the roles onstage, wanted Frank Sinatra for the role of Professor Harold Hill, but Meredith Willson insisted upon Preston.[2] Cary Grant was also "begged" by Warner to play Hill but he declined, saying "nobody could do that role as well as Bob Preston".[3]


Warner Bros. Records issued the soundtrack album in both stereophonic and monaural versions.[4]

  1. Rock Island – Traveling Salesmen, Ensemble
  2. Iowa Stubborn – River City citizens, Ensemble
  3. "Ya Got Trouble" – Robert Preston, Ensemble
  4. Piano Lesson / If You Don't Mind My Saying So – Shirley Jones, Pert Kelton
  5. Goodnight, My Someone – Shirley Jones, Pert Kelton
  6. Ya Got Trouble/Seventy-six Trombones – Robert Preston, Ensemble
  7. Sincere – Buffalo Bills
  8. The Sadder But Wiser Girl – Robert Preston
  9. Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little – Hermione Gingold, Biddys
  10. Marian The Librarian – Robert Preston
  11. Gary, Indiana – Robert Preston
  12. Being in Love – Shirley Jones
  13. Wells Fargo Wagon – Ensemble
  14. Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You – Buffalo Bills, Shirley Jones
  15. Gary, Indiana (Reprise) – Ronny Howard
  16. Lida Rose (Reprise)
  17. Shipoopi – Buddy Hackett, Ensemble
  18. Till There Was You – Shirley Jones
  19. Goodnight, My Someone – Shirley Jones, Robert Preston, Ensemble
  20. Seventy-six Trombones

In addition, during 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 for The Chicken Fat Song, a.k.a. President Kennedy's Youth Fitness Song

Production notes[edit]

Unusually for a musical film at the time, Morton DaCosta, who had directed the show onstage, not only directed the film, but produced it as well, ensuring that the film was extremely faithful to the show. The actress Pert Kelton and the Buffalo Bills also reprised their stage roles. All of the show's songs were retained for the film with the exception of "My White Knight", which was replaced by "Being in Love" (this new song uses the same bridge as the one in "My White Knight").

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

Shirley Jones discovered she was pregnant while filming was under way; the costume designers kept having to adjust her dresses to conceal her pregnancy. In the scene at the footbridge when Marian and Harold embrace, Jones says that baby Patrick kicked hard enough for Robert Preston to feel him.

To film the final parade scene in 1962, Jack L. Warner selected the University of Southern California's marching band, the Spirit of Troy. He used many junior high school students from Southern California for 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 received positive reviews and grossed $14,953,846 at the box office,[1] earning $8 million in US theatrical rentals.[5] It was the 5th highest grossing film of 1962.

Academy Awards[edit]

The film won one Academy Award and was nominated for five more:[6][7]



American Film Institute[edit]

See also[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for The Music Man. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. ^ "Making of" featurette included with the 1998 video release
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ The Music Man listing, retrieved March 4, 2010
  5. ^ "All-time top film grossers", Variety. 8 January 1964 pg 37.
  6. ^ "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  7. ^ "NY Times: The Music Man". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25. 
  8. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees
  9. ^ AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Ballot

External links[edit]