The Music Man (1962 film)

The Music Man

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".[2]

Plot summary

In July 1912, a traveling salesman, "Professor" Harold Hill (Robert Preston), arrives in River City, Iowa, intrigued by the challenge of swindling the famously stubborn natives of Iowa ("Iowa Stubborn"). Masquerading as a traveling band instructor, Hill plans to con the citizens of River City into paying him to create a boys' marching band, including instruments, uniforms, and music instruction books. 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), 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 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", and "Lida Rose").

Meanwhile, Hill attempts to woo Marian, 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. 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 of how much money Hill has taken from them to form a band, with no apparent result. 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. As the boys in the band march out of the town hall, they are suddenly "transformed" into a spectacular marching band dressed in resplendent uniforms, and playing and marching with perfection, led by Hill. ("76 Trombones 2nd Reprise").


Many members of the original Broadway cast appear in the film, including Robert Preston, Pert Kelton and The Buffalo Bills.[3][4]

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.[5][6] Warner also "begged" Cary Grant to play Hill, but Grant declined, saying "nobody could do that role as well as Bob Preston".[7][5]



Warner Bros. Records issued the soundtrack album in both stereophonic and monaural versions.[8]


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

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

Unusually 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. The actress Pert Kelton and the Buffalo Bills also reprised their stage roles.[3][4][5] 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".[5]

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 was pregnant while filming was under way; that baby Patrick kicked Robert Preston during the footbridge scene.[10] The costume designers kept having to adjust her dresses to conceal her pregnancy.

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.[11] It was the 5th 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."[12]

The Staff Variety reviewer 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]

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."[13]

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

Academy Awards

The film won one Academy Award and was nominated for five more.[16][17][18]



Comic book adaption

See also


  1. 1 2 Box Office Information for The Music Man. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. "registry" ,, accessed October 24, 2016
  3. 1 2 3 "Review: ‘The Music Man’", Variety, December 31, 1961
  4. 1 2 3 " The Music Man Credits", TCM, accessed October 24, 2016
  5. 1 2 3 4 Miller, Frank. " 'The Music Man' (1962)", TCM, accessed October 24, 2016
  6. "Making of" featurette included with the 1998 video release
  7. 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.
  8. The Music Man listing, retrieved March 4, 2010
  9. " 'The Music Man' Original Soundtrack", AllMusic, accessed October 24, 2016
  10. Ginell, Gary. "A Visit With Shirley Jones – Part 4: Filming “The Music Man ",, December 28, 2013
  11. "All-time top film grossers", Variety. January 8, 1964 pg 37.
  12. Crowther, Bosley. "Screen: Preston Stars in 'Music Man':Film Version of Stage Comedy Opens Here", New York Tims (, August 24, 1962
  13. Charney, Leo. "Review", AllMovie, accessed October 24, 2016
  14. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  15. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  16. "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  17. "NY Times: The Music Man". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  18. 1 2 "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  19. Dell Movie Classic: The Music Man' at the Grand Comics Database
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