Pros: The music and dancing
Cons: If you're looking for some violence or sex, this ain't it!
"76 Trombones led the big parade, with one hundred and ten cornets close at hand. They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos, the cream of every famous band."
Ok, so this movie is 43 years old and you are thinking, "What in the Lord's name is a college-age student writing about a MUSICAL for, a very old one at that?" Well, contrary to popular belief, there are still some-very, very rare-but in some instances, people my age who like stuff like this. It's a family tradition (rarely followed anymore since my sister and I left the nest) on the Fourth of July to watch this movie, since it deals with that holiday a bit in the movie.
So, you think you can pull the wool over a good 'ol Iowan's eyes? Think again, since when Music Man himself, Professor Harold Hill (Robert Preston), breaks out the traveling salesman suitcase, the suspicious townspeople of River City don't take kindly to his arrival. They are good to build into that intuition too, since Hill IS a scam artist, as he goes from town to town selling instruments, music books, and band uniforms. The catch is: He doesn't know a treble clef from a crescendo! His partner-in-crime, Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett), provides both of them with comic relief moments.
Of course, there is always a damsel (not in distress however) in a show like this and that is the lovely Shirley Jones, who plays Marian the librarian. Don't know if director Mortan DaCosta planned it this way, but it sure is cute the way it rhymes together. Hill takes an instant liking to her, but she is repulsed by his charm. Ah, but sooner or later, they all come around and does she ever. Later in the movie, they have a sweet duet called "'Til There Was You" in which she really expresses her love.
But, there always has to be trouble and that is caused by busy body Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn (Hermoine Gingold; geez, not only a lousy stage name, but a real one too!), the mayor's wife, who takes a disliking to Marian for the way she inherited her position at the library, along with her posse of women who follow her every move. Eulalie is constantly trying to be the star of the show with her crew and doesn't realize that everyone in the town is making fun of her right before her very eyes. Her husband, George Shinn (Paul Ford), is obsessed with starting (but never getting through) the Gettysburg Address and getting his hands on the town troublemaker, Tommy Diljas (Timmy Everett), who has an eye for Shinn's annoying "Ye gods!" phraseologer/daughter, Zaneeta (Susan Luckey).
Hill's charming ways go beyond the ladies as well. He gets four men named the Buffalo Bills and whom are Mayor Shinn's councilmen: Vern, Al, Bill, and Wayne (Jacey Squires, Ewart Dunlop, Olin Britt, and Oliver Hix, respectively) to sing barbershop quartet music every time they ask to see his credentials. They belt out tunes all the time and are actually pretty good. It's funny, if not a little stereotypical, how they have the geek/macho thing going on in the group. You can just pick out the nerd and tough guy. They also provide some comic relief as well, with them constantly arguing how a song should go.
Meanwhile, Tommy and his much younger friend, (along with being Marian's younger brother) is lisp-plagued Winthrop (Ron Howard), who each take a liking to Hill. Correct me if I am wrong, but I recognize him from being Andy's son in the Andy Griffith Show. They quickly become his friends and Hill realizes he has much more in this town then just a quick scam for money. He has a love interest (I said love, NOT lust; it's the 1960s people!), friends, and a connection to the town, which is incidentally based in Iowa, the state in which the writer of the script, Meredith Wilson, is from. You don't even get caught up in the ending because you don't want the music to stop.
All this though and I haven't even talked about the music. It's a musical, right? Well, you bet your pants it is and that is the main reason why I love it so much. I am probably the only 21-year old male in the entire U.S. to have almost every song in this musical memorized, something I am not ashamed to admit! From the opening tune, "Iowa Stubborn" that has the whole town singing and makes you feel right at home; not! (sample lyric: "Oh, there's nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you, when we treat you which we may not do at all") to "Ya Got Trouble," "Shipoopi," "Lida Mae," "76 Trombones," "'Til There Was You," and many others makes this fun and memorable. Who can forget the scene in the townhouse in which all the kids of the town are dancing around in, if not a beautifully, frenetically, choreographed number that had me attempting those dance moves? Or the library scene in which Hill attempts to woo Marian one more time? The way he pops the marshmallow in her mouth, she spits it back out, then, by accident, slaps Tommy, is classic. The inventiveness of the movements and using the atmosphere around the dancers is poetry in motion. The last marching band number (if you haven't guessed already, "76 Trombones") is fantastic, with straight lines and the white stripes running down the legs of the fine-looking red uniforms are perfectly in-sync.
So, if anytime you are looking for a movie that injects a little family goodness and stay-in-your-head music that is just plain fun, The Music Man is the perfect show for that.