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Music Man, The(SE)/A,B+

Warner/1968/122m/WS 2.35

    Robert Preston weaves through River City with the grace of a panther sizing up its prey. Slightly hunched with knees bent, Preston latches on to River City’s populace by painting a world with words in staccato rhythms that drive The Music Man with more energy small town high school marching band.
     Preston is Professor Henry Hill, a combination con man/salesman, who foists his wares on unsuspecting small towns with promises that are never fulfilled, at least not until he gets to River City. In this staid Iowa town the most excitement seems to be generated by the reading habits of the mayor's daughter. Her taste in boy friends provide further sparks, but life limps along from July 4th celebration to July 4th celebration with little of no alteration to the pattern of fireworks. That is until Hill seizes the collective collar of the town to inspire their interest in an all boys marching brass band. And it all starts from, Yes Sir, There's trouble right here in River City.    
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Hill describes the trouble in River City©Warner

    So many of the musical elements of The Music Man are a sheer delight. Preston of course is perfection, mostly sing talking his songs. But the harmony of The Buffalo Bills is delightful and their interaction with Professor Hill never fails to bring a smile to my face. The opening train number is quite amazing in its syncopated dexterity. And the ladies auxiliary bursting with song like so many chickens is terrific.
     Morton De Costa’s direction is transparently theatrical, but it doesn’t matter a whit. The high energy lyrics and staging of Meredith Wilson’s stage vision translates to film with ease.
     Playing alongside Preston are Shirley Jones as Marion the librarian. If anything, Jones is under-utilized musically. Young Ronnie Howard is adorable as her little brother Winthrop and Hermione Gingold is a riot as Eulalie Shinn, the mayor's wife and the accepted leader of the ladies. Buddy Hackett adds additional humor as Hill's old fried Marcellus Washburn.
     The Music Man seems to have an inconsistency in sharpness enhancement. Some scenes are definitely ringing at the images edges too much. There’s even a hint of mustache on Shirley Jones and Pert Kelton along their lips at the transition from bright lipstick to skin. Other scenes appear very sharp while defying the enhancement scenario. Despite the sharpness issue, there’s no noticeable aliasing or interline flicker on straight edges. There is some pastiness and an overall homogenized look to skin tones. There is lots of vitality in the color scheme. The intentionally artificial Norman Rockwell portrait of small town life comes across very well. The music is The Music Man and this DVD does a splendid job  in replicating the excitement and energy of this film adaptation of the Broadway musical. The Music Man special editon includes a new documentary about the making of the film and a short introduction by star Shirley Jones.