on January 10, 2015
A wonderful movie, one of the best from the last days of the great movie musicals. It is a pleasure to have this now on Blue-Ray, with much improved sound and better video than my old VHS tape (almost worn out by now). Thanks to the producers for making it available in this format.
If you don't know the story of this show, here is a brief resumé: A slick travelling salesman descends upon a small town in Iowa in the early 1900s, selling a line of band instruments and uniforms. His method is simple: create fear among the townsfolk that their youngsters are headed for perdition, and can only be saved from the pool-hall by getting them involved in a 'boys band' in the town. The complication arises when he learns there is a REAL music teacher in the town--who is also the local librarian--and, in classic style, he falls in love with her, and she with him. The plot is simple and even hackneyed--it is the wonderful songs and beautifully-staged dance numbers which make this show the great film that it is.
Shirley Jones (yes, THAT Shirley Jones, unfairly typecast later in her career as the mother in moronic television series, 'The Partridge Family') has one of the loveliest and purest Broadway ingenue soprano voices you will ever hear, and is as pretty as the proverbial picture. The brainless and talentless sexpot 'stars' of today could take a lesson from her, if only they would.
Robert Preston has that 'edge' so necessary to performing this extremely difficult rôle (it is murderously hard; I know from having tried it myself in a college production), and if his voice is not that of a great lyric tenor, it matters not--much as nobody cared when watching 'My Fair Lady' that Rex Harrison was not a singer either. He nails the part perfectly--I simply cannot imagine anyone else playing Professor Harold Hill. Much as I like Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenowith (his 'The Producers' and her 'Candide' are the ultimate productions of those shows), the 2003 remake of this film just isn't 'The Real Thing.'
Hermione Gingold and Paul Ford (as the mayor's wife and the mayor himself) are perfect, and The Buffalo Bills (the pre-eminent American Barbershop Quartet of that era) bring life and laughs to the film as the members of the School Board. The weak link in the cast would have to be Buddy Hackett--I never did like the man's 'schtick' so take that as you wish--but even he does a creditable job as the saleman's sidekick and lookout man. A very young Ronnie Howard (he of Mayberry RFD and American Graffiti) plays the librarian's young, troubled brother, and shows the skill and professionalism that would carry him on to a notable career in film.
If you love great musical comedy, you must see this film. Buy it: it's a keeper that will please you for years and years to come.
THE MUSIC MAN  [Blu-ray] [US Import] In Razzling-Dazzling Hi-Def Comes “Hollywood’s Show magic At Its Best!
This joyful film of the 1,375-performance Broadway smash hit, remains an irresistible sky burst of American musical hero Robert Preston, who recreates his Tony® Award winning Broadway triumph, as con artist Harold Hill. Arriving in River City, IOWA, to form a boys band, much to the disapproval – and later delight – of town librarian Marion Paroo [Academy Award® winner Shirley Jones]. Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford and 7-year old Ron Howard co-star. With Meredith Wilson’s beloved score – featuring the unforgettable “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Till There Was You” among other marvellous melodies – is orchestrated to brilliant Oscar® winning effect by Ray Heindorf.
FILM FACT: The film won one Academy Award and was nominated for five more. Won: Best Musical Score (adaptation or treatment) for Ray Heindorf. Nominations: Best Picture for Morton DaCosta. Best Costume (color) for Dorothy Jeakins. Best Art Direction (color) for Paul Groesse and George James Hopkins. Best Film Editing for William H. Ziegler. Best Sound for George Groves.
Cast: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, Hermione Gingold, Pert Kelton, Ron [Ronny] Howard, Susan Luckey, Timmy Everett, Bill Spangenberg, Wayne Ward, Al Shea, Vern Reed, Harry Hickox, Charles Lane, Mary Wickes, Peggy Mondo, Sara Seegar, Adnia Rice, Jesslyn Fax, Monique Vermont, Ronnie Dapo, Percy Helton and Max Showalter
Director: Morton DaCosta
Producers: Morton DaCosta
Screenplay: Marion Hargrove
Composer: Meredith Willson
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Running Time: 151 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: In the annals of musical theatre, a handful of roles have become so closely identified with the actors who originated them, it's almost impossible to imagine any other performer in the part. Yul Brynner as the stubborn Siamese ruler in 'The King and I' is one; Rex Harrison as insufferable elocution expert Henry Higgins in 'My Fair Lady' is another. There's also Mary Martin as the cherubic 'Peter Pan,' and of course Robert Preston as that unflappable con artist "Professor" Harold Hill in Meredith Willson's sprightly salute to small town America, 'The Music Man.' Mention the song "76 Trombones" and no one except the energetic Robert Preston – marching and strutting down the street, waving a baton and leading a legion of loyal followers – springs to mind. Though contemporary viewers may only remember him as Julie Andrews' drag queen mentor in 'Victor Victoria' or as the alien who whisks Lance Guest to an intergalactic battleground in 'The Last Starfighter,' it was 'The Music Man' that cemented Robert Preston's reputation and gave him the role of a lifetime.
Riding on the coattails of a series of Rodgers and Hammerstein film adaptations, 'The Music Man' helped usher in the era of the colossal Hollywood musical; films so big and brassy, they provided audiences with the kind of large-scale entertainment television variety shows couldn't. 'West Side Story,' 'Gypsy,' 'My Fair Lady,' and 'The Sound of Music' would also wow wide-eyed viewers during this period, but 'The Music Man' possesses the kind of homespun charm that appeals to a vast range of ages and backgrounds. Meredith Willson's musical is family entertainment with a capital F, and with an array of infectious and rhythmically inventive melodies – almost all of which are classics – Morton DaCosta's 151-minute extravaganza survives some sluggish dramatic stretches to emerge as one of Hollywood's most faithful and beloved stage-to-screen adaptations.
This homage to Meredith Willson's formative years in IOWA, 'The Music Man' depicts how traditional American values, love, and devotion can tame even the most cynical and hardened human specimens. Harold Hill is a first-rate swindler, traveling the country in the hope of defrauding unsuspecting, upstanding townspeople out of their hard-earned money by promising to organise and train an all-boys band that will put River City's recalcitrant youth on a straight-and-narrow path and unify a splintering community. To achieve such middle-American nirvana, the residents simply need to pay for instruments and uniforms, and Harold will do the rest…which in this case means absconding with the proceeds before anyone's the wiser. Yet, succumbing to the fresh-faced allure of the suspicious Marion Paroo [Shirley Jones], the local librarian who falls for Harold against her better judgment, isn't part of the scheme.
Call me unpatriotic, but despite its warmth and vigor (not to mention its excellent score), 'The Music Man' has always failed to capture my imagination. While I can appreciate its merits and applaud its message of unity and redemption, I've never been able to invest myself in the show's down-home characters or nostalgic story. For me, the songs save the day, and luckily there are enough of them – and almost all are gems – to both maintain my interest and fuel my sincere admiration for the talent and verve on display. A course in Musical Theatre 101 must surely include Preston spitting out the tongue-twisting, rapid-fire "Trouble," which defines composer Meredith Willson's innovative lyrical patter – a style that continues in such other recognisable tunes as "Pick a Little, Talk a Little" and "Gary, Indiana" (reprised by an adorable, lisping, seven-year-old Ron – billed here as Ron [Ronny] Howard, who very nearly steals the show), as well as the opening number, "Rock Island," which could be classified as "early rap." Though Meredith Willson is a master at rousing choral numbers like "The Wells Fargo Wagon," he's no slouch in the romantic ballad department either, with "Goodnight, My Someone" and "Till There Was You" beautifully showcasing Jones' lilting soprano.
Morton DaCosta, who also directed the Broadway version, takes full command of the camera, filling the Technirama lens (a CinemaScope knock-off) with plenty of pageantry and atmosphere. While the film often flaunts a distinct backlot, soundstage feel, the artificiality complements the theatrical nature of the piece, as do some of Morton DaCosta's shot compositions and lighting effects. In all, 'The Music Man' received Six Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture (losing to 'Lawrence of Arabia'), and earned its sole Oscar for Best Adapted Scoring.
Though Robert Preston was ignored by the Academy, the film without question belongs to him. His indefatigable portrayal infuses this classic musical with such spirit and dynamism; it's easy to see why the residents of River City were so enamoured of Harold Hill. And you will be, too. 'The Music Man' may be far from my favourite musical, but because of Robert Preston I won't hesitate to visit it again. He is truly the leader of the band.
Blu-ray Video Quality – 'The Music Man' sports a vibrant, well-balanced transfer that adds plenty of visual vim and verve to this energetic musical. A natural grain structure lends the image a film-like texture, but never diminishes the crystal clarity that distinguishes the majority of this first-class effort. Though the opening train sequence looks a bit rough and noisy, due to heavy rear projection processing on the original print, the rest of the movie settles into a fine groove, with only a few errant white specks dotting the beautifully restored source material.
Blues and especially reds pop with lush saturation, and the overall palette exudes a slight faint warmth that subtly highlights the period atmosphere. Flesh tones are pleasing, and blacks are always inky, making Morton DaCosta's signature iris-in-iris-out effect (a modified blackout used for emphasis at the end of some scenes) especially striking. Close-ups flaunt plenty of marvellous detail, and background elements are easy to discern. No banding or edge enhancement could be detected either. The folks at Warner take great care in bringing their classics to Blu-ray, and 'The Music Man' is another fine example of their meticulous attention to detail and commitment to honouring the films of Hollywood's past.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Ever since Warner (belatedly) embraced the audio on its high-definition releases, the studio has supported the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD surround sound platform. Well, 'The Music Man' is one of the first Warner Blu-ray disc to break that trend, and its 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track punches up the vintage sound of this musical classic quite nicely, presumably helped by the original 4-track magnetic presentations.. Any age-related defects have been erased, and the resulting clear, crisp sound brings Meredith Willson's popular score to brilliant life. Jones' vocals possess a marvelous purity of tone, and even when she scales and sustains those high notes, there's no hint of distortion. Of course, the bigger the number, the wider the scope of the sound, and "76 Trombones" fill the room so completely; you can almost count every instrument. The song also pumps out some palpable bass, adding welcome weight to the music.
As one would guess for a 1962 film, most of the sonic action is anchored up front, but good stereo separation lends an expansive feel to the audio, and some faint bleeds into the surrounds during exterior sequences provide a bit of ambience. Dialogue is often spoken quickly, but it's always easy to understand, even during the tongue-twisting "Trouble" number. The mix is well balanced, too, so there's no need to fumble with volume levels when the principals burst into song. Though the audio can't quite eclipse the video, it's a solid effort and complements this classic well.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Introduction by Shirley Jones [SD] [2:00] The female star of 'The Music Man' talks about her attraction to the part of Marian Paroo and generally lauds the production in this brief lead-in to the film.
Feature: Right Here in River City: The Making of Meredith Willson's ‘The Music Man’ [SD] [22:00] Shirley Jones is back to host this interesting 1998 making-of feature, which chronicles the film's production through clips, stills, and anecdotes. The piece examines director Morton DaCosta's signature camera techniques, the recording sessions, choreography, rehearsals, the stop-action title sequence (quite innovative for its time), and the movie's gala Iowa premiere. We also learn the studio originally pushed to have Frank Sinatra play Harold Hill, and find out how Jones hid her pregnancy during shooting. Fans of film classics will certainly enjoy this well-produced piece.
Theatrical Trailer [SD] [1:00] A brief re-release trailer is more of a tease than a full-fledged preview.
Finally, with its wonderful melodic winning score and sprightly performances, 'The Music Man' remains one of the most popular Broadway musical adaptations, and this Blu-ray rendering from Warner grandly showcases it. High-quality video and audio transfers bring this nostalgic period piece to life and enhance the effervescence of Robert Preston's iconic portrayal. This is one the whole family can enjoy, and though it's not a personal favourite of mine, its myriad charms are undeniable. The Blu-ray is a beauty to look at and listen to, and it's the perfect family film for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on October 7, 2002
From the time I was 5 years old, I loved to listen to the "Music Man" soundtrack, and I hadn't even seen the movie yet--in fact, I was 10 before I actually saw it.
Well, we rented it...and bought it almost immediately afterwards. Why don't they make movies like this any more? Why is it that most kids my age don't think a movie isn't interesting unless it has someone blowing their brains out or constantly swearing???
Well, my mom and I do a great imatation of Mrs. Paroo (Pert Kelton) and Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones) during their number about the stranger with the suitcase--"who may be your very last chance."
This is a hilarious movie, where all the characters are good-hearted but have their particular little quirks...for instance, the Mayor's wife, Eulalie McKecknie Shinn, who heads all the social functions and organizes a woman's Grecien dance group, and struts into the Library with decided indignance, announcing, "What sort of book is this that you give my daughter to read--it's dirty Persian poetry!" Then there's her husband, Mayor Shinn, who is forever trying to make a good speech but hopelessly bumbles his phrases--"Not one more poop out of you." Not to mention Tommy Gilas, who is always getting into trouble, for example, setting off fireworks during Mrs. Shinn's act in the Fourth of July celebration.
Oh, we must not forget Winthrop, the shy kid with the lisp (played by Ronnie Howard)...or Emerilas, who secretly adores Winthrop, but is constantly teasing him for his lisp.
I could go on and on...but you just have to watch it.