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Customer Review

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A family musical even a curmudgeon can love, November 30, 2003
This review is from: The Music Man (Special Edition) (DVD)
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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