A nostalgic mix of corn, laughs, exuberance, and infectious songs. Robert Preston reprises his greatest Broadway role as Prof. Harold Hill, a traveling salesman/con man who arrives in River City, Iowa, in 1912 and persuades its citizens that the town is headed for moral ruin because of its
new pool room. The way to keep the town youth from being corrupted is to start a band, says Hill, adding that he will sell the instruments and teach the kids how to play. His real plan is to take the money and run before the instruments arrive. Prim librarian Marian Paroo (Jones) questions Hill's
credentials, but he sells her on his revolutionary "Think System," by which all one has to do is think a tune to be able to play it. As he attempts to swindle the townsfolk, Hill alternately charms and exasperates the mayor (Ford), his wife (Gingold), and the members of the town council (played by
the barbershop quartet, the Buffalo Bills, who provide some delightful musical interludes).
Preston is a true joy in this film, perhaps as ideally suited for the role as Yul Brynner was for the King of Siam. Though the charming rogue has long been a staple in the entertainment world, few played the role as engagingly as Preston does here. The other performances are notable, particularly
the lovely Jones, the delightful Gingold and Ford, and little, lisping Ron Howard. Splendid, but this is, and will always be, Preston's picture. Absurdly, he didn't even get a nomination for Best Actor, though the film was cited, losing to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Meredith Willson's songs, which are
among the best ever to grace a musical production, include "Till There Was You" and the stirring "76 Trombones," which provides the unforgettable climax.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A nostalgic mix of corn, laughs, exuberance, and infectious songs. Robert Preston reprises his greatest Broadway role as Prof. Harold Hill, a traveling salesman/con man who arrives in River City, Iowa, in 1912 and persuades its citizens that the town is he… (more)