June 14, 2021

#08-096: The Music Man

movie poster of a woman in old-fashioned summer clothes (white dress, broad-brimmed white hat) taking the arm of a man in a band uniform. Around them are several townspeople, and behind them all a marching band
Poster from the film

Note: "Professor" Harold Hill comes to River City to start a boys' band--and scam the townsfolk in one of my favorite movies.

Get Ready: If a person preys on the weaknesses of others, but is an idealist at heart, is he a good person or a bad person? In other words, do actions speak louder than words?

I grew up in the waning days of the "Golden Age of Musical Comedy Films." One of my favorites is called The Music Man.

The film opens in the summer of 1912, and a group of traveling salesman on a train are talking about a con man who is giving them a bad reputation, a certain "Professor" Harold Hill. Hill himself leaves the group and jumps off the train when it reaches River City, Iowa.

There, he finds a "hook," a subject of local interest which will help him sell boys' band instruments and uniforms. His con is to sell music lessons, too--which he skips town before delivering. The "hook" is the arrival in town of a new pool table, which he convinces the townspeople will corrupt the youth, as he sings in "(Ya Got) Trouble." His band will save their boys from the table's evil effects.

The local piano teacher--also the town librarian, Miss Marian Paroo--is the only person who might blow Hill's cover. He sets out to woo her and neutralize the threat.

Much of the film's charm comes from the characters that populate the town: pompous Mayor Shinn and his artsy wife, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn; the town's bickering School Board; four gossipy old women, critical of Marian, who remind us of a bunch of old hens; the bumbling town constable; and a secretive young couple, Tommy Djilas (from "the wrong side of town") and Zaneeta Shinn, the Mayor's daughter.

There's also Marian the librarian's mother; and her 10-year-old brother Winthrop (played by Ron Howard before he grew up to be a major film director), who suffers from a speech impediment.

As Hill works his magic, he manages to turn the town around. For example, he convinces the School Board to work together by singing together as a barbershop quartet. He brings out Tommy Djilas's leadership qualities so the Shinns accept him as a suitable beau for the daughter. He gets the ladies to read some of the books Marian was always touting, and--to their surprise--they loved them. And he inspires Winthrop to overcome his shyness and sing along!

Unfortunately, Marian discovers in a library book that Hill never went to the music school he claims to have attended (the town it was in hadn't even been founded when he claimed to have gone there), and is prepared to blow the whistle on him. But the band uniforms and instruments arrive and, as badly as the boys play, their doting parents--who paid for it all--are swept away with pride.

The best part for me is how the smooth-talking Harold Hill fell in love with Marian, and we learn that he was something of an idealist. When Hill's larceny is revealed, Winthrop calls him a "dirty rotten crook." Hill tells him he always thought Winthrop was a "wonderful kid" and that's why he wanted the boy to join the band.

"What band?" Winthrop shoots back accusingly, pointing out the false promises.

And Hill answers with the revealing line that is my favorite of the film: "I always think there's a band, kid."

And don't miss the big finale, "Seventy-Six Trombones"!


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Music_Man_(1962_film)

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. beau
  2. bickering
  3. blow the whistle
  4. bumbling
  5. doting
  6. pompous
  7. skips town
  8. speech impediment
  9. touting
  10. woo

  1. promoting
  2. leaves suddenly
  3. difficulty in speaking clearly
  4. behaving foolishly
  5. court; date
  6. turn someone in
  7. self-important
  8. overly fond of
  9. arguing
  10. a boyfriend

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 14, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. i; 3. f; 4. d; 5. h; 6. g; 7. b; 8. c; 9. a; 10. e