Customer Reviews: The Music Man
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on April 26, 2000
Looking for the musical that beat WEST SIDE STORY for the Tony Award? You've found it here, in Meredith Willson's THE MUSIC MAN -- and its appearance on DVD, in widescreen format and with all the bells and whistles, is long overdue.
Pop the disc in, and you'll immediately be taken to the "Right Here In River City" documentary (you'll have to press the MENU button on your DVD controls to get to the main menu so you can actually view the movie -- why the disc goes immediately to the documentary is rather odd). Hosted by Shirley Jones, who still looks great, the top-notch, too-short documentary is crammed with lots of good stories and bits of trivia, in the words of several of Those Who Were There. You'll find out, for instance, which segments were actually filmed first, how amazed Susan Luckey was at Robert Preston's ability to lip-synch "Trouble" during filming, and why Shirley Jones wore so many frills and flowers on her dress in the scene at the footbridge.
As for the film itself -- the print is beautiful, and as someone who had only experienced the film in pan-and-scan format, it is a delight to finally see entire dance sequences without the cropping. And you'll finally be able to see all four members of The Buffalo Bills barber shop quartet (the poor fellow singing bass could never be seen in TV-formatted versions).
There are other, smaller moments that have always cried our for the letterbox format, and if you watch both versions closely, you'll notice the real advantages in seeing the entire scene as it was shot. For example, one particularly disorienting scene in pan-and-scan format is the "Pick A Little, Talk A Little/Goodnight, Ladies" sequence, when Professor Hill is speaking with Mrs. Shinn and the town ladies about Old Miser Madison, and dismebodied voices drift in from off camera. At one point, Mrs. Shinn says, "Miser," and an off-camera voice says, "Madison," causing Mrs. Shinn to grimace. In pan-and-scan, it looks like a mistake; in widescreen format, the speaker is finally visible to Mrs. Shinn's right, bringing the scene together in a logical fashion. Sounds like a trivial moment, I know, but that scene in pan-and-scan has grated me for years!
The DVD also contains a theatrical trailer, but it's not the trailer for the original 1962 release, but for the re-release a number of years later. It's still an interesting curiosity, featuring a reworked version of the "76 Trombones" sequence with Preston signing new lyrics about the film.
If there's any shortcoming in the disc, it lies in the sound quality. You'll have to crank the volume up a bit to hear everything properly, but beware -- the moment you hit the MENU button, you'll be blasted by and ear-splitting version of "76 Trombones" on the menu screen. Ouch. Hit MUTE right before you touch MENU. You'll thank me later.
It's a worn out cliche, but they really DON'T make musicals like this any more. And if your only experience with THE MUSIC MAN has been with the pan-and-scan format, do yourself a favor and pick up either the DVD or the letterboxed VHS format. You really WILL realize what you've been missing.
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on February 4, 2010
The previous DVD releases of The Music Man were basically OK in terms of sound, color, brightness, and contrast. But MY! Did they ever mess up the picture with edge enhancement! I don't mean just a little ghost line to the right, but also to the left. At times, the "enhancement" made it difficult to make out facial details on a large-screen TV. My guess is that it was transferred using a 19" monitor from a distance of a couple of feet, where the enhancement wouldn't be as noticeable.

Fortunately all this video gunk is corrected in the Blu-Ray edition. The colors are bright, the sound noticeably better, and the movie just comes more alive in blu-ray.

But - there always seems to be a flip side. In this case it's noticeable in the opening train scene, where blue matte artifacts around people, and slightly off masking at the windows clearly shows that it was shot against a blue screen. But, what you see is what people saw in the theaters when it was released. If the artifacts didn't bother moviegoers at the time, they shouldn't really bother us in the present. Little glitches like this are just part of the technology available at the time, and shouldn't be used to rate the movie...

...and I'm really not, just pointing out that seeing more can mean seeing more of the bad, as well as more than the good.

Aside from little things like this which caught my eye - and don't really bother me - I hope you'll consider picking up the best release of an old favorite. Improved sound, improved picture - what more could you want. I doubt it'll look better unless George Lucas gets involved in cleaning up the blue-screen artifacts. And who knows what he'd feel like adding!

Fun. A couple of hours well spent. And for me, a new appreciation of Hermione Gingold as Ms. Eulalie Shinn. Her looks and voice in "Pick a little" really steal the show, as she does in other scenes she's in.

It's hard not to enjoy such a high-spirited musical as this, end even harder not to like it in Blu-Ray. A real gem.
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on May 6, 2003
I love this movie. As silly as it is -- a goofy plot, absurd over-the-top characters, the wacky "think system" -- it is just a whole lot of fun. Robert Preston sparkles as the fly-by-night con artist/salesman who just happens this time to get his foot caught in the door, and who better to catch that foot than Shirley Jones, who is as beautiful and talented a leading lady as has ever graced a big screen musical. Ron Howard is as funny as a kid can be in the movies, and the music will stay with you long after the movie is over.
The film also has a great cast of supporting character actors and comedians, not to mention the fabulous Buffalo Bills. I love the anvil salesman character (THAT'S a great line of merchandise for a traveling salesman!), and my favorite song has to be the pool hall song, "There's trouble in River City." The movie, funny as it is, also has its touching moments, especially when Professor Harold Hill, standing on the footbridge, confronts the gap between his dreams and his life for the first time, and really realizes he is in love with the beautiful librarian. For pure fun and entertainment, it's hard to find a better movie than this lively but affectionate kidding of the Hawkeye State, and hard to find a more fun couple than the engaging Robert Preston and the lovely Shirley Jones.
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Professor Harold Hill makes his living conning small town residence by telling them he's going to start a boys' band then leaving with their money before the promised direction begins. Taking an unintended challenge, he gets off in River City, Iowa. While the locals at first appear cold, his charm soon changes their minds. Or almost all of them. Marion, the local librarian and piano teacher, is convenienced that the professor isn't all he claims to be. Meanwhile, Harold has set his sites on wooing the spinster librarian. Will he win her heart or hurt her? Will the townspeople find out the truth, or will this encounter change everyone for the better?
As much as I love musicals, I had missed this one until the recent ABC movie version. I fell immediately under its charming spell. The story is fun and the music is fantastic. After enjoying the remake so much, I was looking forward to watching the original, and it didn't disappointment. The cast, lead by Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, is strong. The chorography makes me want to join in the fun (always a must for a musical), and the story fleshes out a couple minor points I had missed in the remake. And I simply must praise the work of the Buffalo Bills as the school board. They've inspired me in my search for good barbershop quartet music.
The DVD preserves the movie well. The widescreen picture is sharp and clear and the sound is just fine. Watching the trailer for the reissue shows just how much work has gone into the restoration. Shirley Jones provides an interesting intro and serves as host for the behind the scenes special.
This is a classic musical that everyone will enjoy. It tells a fun story with wonderful music and evokes a simpler time and place. If you haven't watched yet, pick up a copy and enjoy tonight.
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OK, I have to be honest here: I don't like "family entertainment." If I go to Blockbuster, I usually avoid the Family section entirely for something a bit edgier or darker. And although I love Fred Astaire and most Gene Kelly, I am not at all a fan of Hollywood musicals from the fifties and early sixties, when they were becoming more "epic" as the movies tried to provide something that television could not.
Nonetheless, I find THE MUSIC MAN to be one of the most thoroughly enjoyable pieces of light entertainment ever. Primarily there are two reasons for this. First, there is the great score, the most famous tune notwithstanding (maybe I have heard it too often, but "Seventy-Six Trombones" really leaves me cold). But nearly every other song is utterly delightful, especially the magnificent "Till There Was You." Am I a dork if I confess that I love the barbershop quartet numbers (I was second tenor in a high school quartet)? But as fine as the score is, take away Robert Preston and you have at best an average, forgettable film. Preston today is remembered almost exclusively for his role as Professor Harold Hill, which is a reflection not so much on his prior career as on the extraordinary job he did in performing this role. There is a similar parallel with Rex Harrison, who despite a long career on stage and screen, is primarily remembered for MY FAIR LADY. Interestingly, in both MY FAIR LADY and THE MUSIC MAN, other actors were considered for the lead role, although both Preston and Harrison created the roles for Broadway. Interestingly, Cary Grant was considered for both films (though Grant very famously responded that he wouldn't star in the film and if Preston weren't cast in the lead, he wouldn't even go see it), though Warners first choice was Frank Sinatra. Luckily, things worked out, and Robert Preston "owns" the role of Professor Harold Hill like few actors own a role.
The film is also helped by a rich supporting cast. Shirley Jones was her usual excellent self in the film (though it is well known that she was pregnant during the shooting), and the film provided the late Buddy Hackett with one of his finest screen roles. Paul Ford, best known as the colonel on the Phil Silvers Show, turns in a nice screen performance as the Mayor. Hermione Gingold, who spent most of her career on stage and had as a result a surprisingly small screen career, excels as the mayor's wife and the leading light for culture in the town.
But mainly, this is a great, great vehicle for a great leading man who has utterly nailed a great role. If Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant had been enticed to play the lead, perhaps we would still be watching this film today, but for some reason I am sceptical. But I am certain that this is one family film that all but the hardest of hearts will enjoy.
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on January 26, 2004
This is one of the few videos -- and the only musical -- I sought out and bought in VHS years ago, and now I'm delighted to have it in letterbox DVD. In this instance particularly, LETTERBOX RULES!!! :-) I'm FINALLY seeing all the action and staging as it was produced for the theaters over 40 years ago.
It also seems to me that The Music Man story and production values hold up just as solidly today as they did over 40 years ago for kids and adults alike. But I'm a tad biased.
Nevertheless, just a few years ago, I "forced" my two bored visiting young neices to watch at least the first 5 minutes of my old VHS full-screen tape, and they were capitated throughout.
I saw The Music Man at age 16 and I fell in love with Shirley Jones as "Marion the Librarion." And then there's the OUT-standing ensamble cast of characters, the "good old days" environment, the story line -- the works!!! (It also was the Spring musical at my high school in 1963).
Anyway, other ratings are great on Amazon. Just please strongly consider going for letterbox, as compared with full-screen options. You'll see much, much more.
This Cinmascope-type movie came out at the tail end of the era when Hollywood both thought that broadcast TV was their mortal enemy, and that people wouldn't want to see a movie twice (ie, there's no aftermarket, such as repeat showings on TV).
As a consequence, the movie was shot to fill the full theater screen with action. Even with best attempts, subsequent editing for TV and VHS full-screen formats, a lot of the original action is clipped.
With my DVD LB, after 42 years, I've finally seen all four of the Buffalo Bills (the School Board) singing "Lida Rose" with Marion singing "Will I Ever Tell You?" -- all on the same screen without cropping!
That's cool! A major musical worth having and protecting for the future, thanks to DVD.
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The movie is superlative and the Blu-ray is great! So, just some comparisons with other releases.

The Making of...documentary ("Right Here in River City") on the Blu-ray is carried over from the DVD BUT it is eight minutes shorter. (Blu-ray = 22 mins. vs. DVD/Laser Disc = 30 mins.) That's nearly a third of the documentary missing. I imagine the editing down was due to legal issues: not having the same clearances for photos, etc. for the later BR release. Also, the Blu-ray doc. quality is not as good as the DVD. Some of the stills are quite bad actually (probably working from a dupe transfer, not original elements).

Also missing on BR from the DVD release are several series of Production Notes: still cards of text telling very interesting information about the Cast & Crew and the history of the production. The BR has the same reissue trailer but the DVD also has a trailer for "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" not carried over. So, if you like Bonus Features as do I (I also produce them), keep your DVD copy just for the extras.

As for the film itself on Blu-ray, I used to use the Laser Disc as a sound demo for friends. It's one of the best movie sound recordings of its era. I feel the Blu-ray does not have the bass response of the Laser, nor are the surround speakers as pronounced. It's been suggested that the BR requires a Subwoofer (which I do not have, since my speaker system does quite well without one) to fully hear all the lower end. Conversely, the BR track is crystal clear, bright, crisp and present, so I'll get over it.

I ran it last night for 18 friends and we had one of the best, most joyful times ever. What a masterpiece! During the "Lida Rose/Sweet and Low" medley, I started to cry out of sheer happiness. Talk about an uplifting, feel good movie! As my friend Paula comments, 'it's one of the best musicals ever because it celebrates the transformative power of music. Everyone's life in the film is made better because of music.'

And the BR is an exceptional presentation. From my experience on limited titles, Warners. does an excellent job on their BR remasters and new transfers (I never thought I'd see A STAR IS BORN look and sound so good). Other reviews have raved about THE MUSIC MAN BR quality, to which I concur (other than my slight disappointment about the bass). I think I'm ready to watch it again!
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From the opening scene of this movie to the final march down Main Street, this is a movie musical that translates well from its play origins. Quite often the songs in a musical come across as filler, not traveling well from stage production to a movie. However, each and every song in this movie is not only entertaining, they are used to advance the plot.
Our story is about one Professor Harold Hill, who organizes boy's bands in small towns across the Midwest, while using this philanthropic enterprise to put a few dollars into his own pocket. That Professor Harold Hill does not know one note of music doesn't seem to stand in his way. As with all great scam artists, the scam works only for the length of time that the scam artist doesn't care. In this movie, Harold Hill begins to care, which leads ultimately to his undoing.
Professor Harold Hill is played by Robert Preston. This role was Robert Preston's definitive career moment, and has set the standard for any would-be Harold Hill of the future. The role of the librarian, the character that ultimately led to Harold Hill's undoing, is played by Shirley Jones, never looking more worldly, pretty and yet innocent than she did in this role.
In addition to Robert Preston and Shirley Jones at a peak in their acting careers, this movie boasts a supporting cast that includes Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold and Ron Howard. While the well-known cast members tend to overshadow the rest of the cast, the quality of the supporting actors well-matches those of the leads.
While the movie is entertaining, it is also an allegory regarding life, particularly life in small towns. Fortunately, the movie does not become overburdened with trying to detail and resolve too many problems. Instead we focus primarily on Marian Paroo (Jones) and Harold Hill. Even Winthrop Paroo's (Ron Howard) lisp is used to support the evolution of Marian's character, as she sees the changes that Harold Hill enacts upon the town.
Of course we know that this movie has a happy ending, as most musicals do, but it is the resolution of the problems and a defining moment near the end of the movie that make you realize the movie was deeper than you might have originally expected.
Marian is seeking depth and breadth in life, and the small town in Iowa in which she lives, with its shallow, narrow-minded people, have placed her in an intellectual prison. Frustrated, unhappy, she appeals to the younger generation with their open minds to overcome the rut in which their small town appears stuck. Harold Hill sparks a fire in the people of River City that causes the people to look at themselves and the world in a very different way. Marian admires the radical change that Hill is able to cause, and particularly the speed with which he is able to cause it. You suspect that she yearns to be able to create such changes herself. She values the abilities that Harold Hill has, and sees that he can be a force for positive change if properly directed.
Harold Hill, on the other hand, is brought to the realization that he has been drifting through life, and that the abilities he has can be used for something other than scamming people. For the first time in his life, Harold Hill cares, and it is his undoing. You also sense that perhaps Hill has been doing this for too long, and the comparison with Marcellus Washburn (Hackett), who has settled into River City and made a home and a life for himself, is such that Harold realizes that he is missing out on a part of life that he never knew he was missing until he met Marian.
The final scene of the movie always inspires me. If you want to feel good, reel forward to the picnic in the park and watch the movie from there. When the band plays, badly, for the first time, and you see the pride of the people in the town, at first you want to laugh. But then the band becomes a full marching band with hundreds of members and bright uniforms and shiny instruments. It is at this moment that you realize that in small towns, and in many bigger towns, the pride of the town in what they have reflects in how they see things like the town band. To outsiders the band may appear to be small, with the skill level less than adequate, but for River City the band is every bit as fine as the Philadelphia Philharmonic.
This movie is a bit of nostalgia. Once upon a time, much of the country, especially the Midwest, was as this movie portrays. In many places there are small towns that retain the flavor of River City. People are still people, then as now, and while the times have changed and the names and the faces have changed, the problems of the characters and the awe-inspiring and musical way in which the problems are resolved is still fresh and refreshing. This movie is one of the greatest movies of all time, and is likely to be considered so for many more decades yet; a must-have for anyone looking for quality in their home collection.
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on March 29, 2010
I actually bought this because my wife loves musicals and this one especially. I'm not a huge fan of them, and only watched it to make her happy. In the end, though, I wound up watching the entire movie and will watch it many times more, not because of its inherent charm (which it does have in plenty; can you say young Ron Howard faking a lisp?), but because of it's amazing picture quality (PQ) and sound.

I didn't know this film looked this good. The large scale dance scenes are marvelous because of the colorful costumes and sets and the non-stop action, all captured beautifully in 1080P with extraordinary detail. The recorded sound has a great depth and punch to it. The barbershop quartet scenes will make you crank your home theater system out of sheer enjoyment. This transfer competes with the quality of the 2001: A Space Odyssey transfer that I consider a high mark. I'm not fascinated by special features and so I haven't really evaluated the ones available on this disc, but it doesn't seem lacking for those folks who really enjoy these features; especially when you consider the age of most material associated with this film.

-Surprisingly *EXCELLENT* PQ
-Excellent audio
-Reasonable price, especially if you or someone you love loves this film as much as my wife
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on June 30, 2002
Out of all the musicals I've seen, the Music Man is by far my most favorite of them all. After seeing this DVD version, I'll have to say that this is one of my favorite movies of all time as well. The very good chemistry between Robert Preston [Prof. Harold Hill] and Shirley Jones [Marian Paroo] was great. The addition of Buddy Hacket as the Professor's old partner Marcellus Washburn added to the friendliness of the movie. The Buffalo Bills also really spark up the music with their barber shop quartet ensambles.
The Music Man is a musical about this traveling salesman named Professor Harold Hill[Preston], who promises to give every town he visits a "boys' band," yet he just takes the money and runs. He is so hated by the other traveling salesmen. After arriving in Rivercity Iowa, he is reaquainted with his old partner Marcellus Washburn [Hacket] and begins to work his magic and deception. He soon finds himself traped in a world full of adventure, deciet, and love as he begins to fall for the town librarian Marian Paroo [Jones].
A lot of the music [written by Meredith Wilson] are very memorable such as the famous "Till There Was You" made famous by the Beatles a few years after this was written, and "76 Trombones" and "Lida Rose", with some special old-time salesmen rap such as "Rock Island" and "Ya Got Trouble."
I give this movie 5 stars and would recomend this movie to any families and musical lovers out there
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