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6 Degrees Entertainment

'The Music Man' [Blu-ray]
(Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, et al / Blu-ray / G / (1962) 2010 / Warner Home Video)

Overview: Robert Preston made his musical debut - both live and on film - as "Professor" Harold Hill, the upbeat charlatan who promises to teach a small-town boys band by the "think system." But it's the part Preston was born to play and the one for which he will always be best remembered in this classic film.

Blu-ray: I first saw this wonderful Meredith Willson musical as a child, and have loved it ever since. It's one of America's answers to a Puccini opera (which I also find sublime). (Another might be "Guys and Dolls".) The blu-ray has a lovely extra, an introduction on the musical hosted by Shirley Jones (who was actually pregnant during the filming of the movie)!

One disappointment is that they morphed my favorite song from the Broadway show - the great "My White Knight" - into the mediocre "Being In Love." I have no idea why they did that, other than possibly they felt it fit better with the dialog, though if the latter played on Broadway for 1375 performances, I don't know why they couldn't have fit it into the movie. I can't imagine that it was out of Shirley Jones' range. Just a bad choice, I guess.

Also somewhat disappointing is that the movie version of my other favorite song from this show - "Till There Was You" (covered famously by the Beatles) - is inferior to the Broadway version, which has it as a lovely duet with Robert Preston, while the movie has Shirley Jones singing it alone.

On the plus side, the Barbershop quartet songs, and especially the Buffalo Bills' duet with Shirley Jones ("Lida Rose" and "Will I Ever Tell You?"), are top notch. I LOVE it when two melodies are woven together richly and seamlessly, and Willson does it in this musical several times. It's a subtle but genuine tour de force.

A bit of trivia: one of my favorite bands from the late 1960s, Spanky and Our Gang, recorded their own, delightful version of "Ya Got Trouble". So, between them and The Beatles, you know that Meredith Willson came up with some memorable tunes and lyrics here.

I can't end this review without also mentioning the stellar performance by Pert Kelton in the role of the widow Paroo. Her acting, voice, and intonations are perfect, which makes it understandable why she played the role both on stage and in the film. The way she sighs and looks off into the distance after one of her encounters with the spell-binding Professor Harold Hill is unforgettable.

If you're a music-lover, you can't regret owning this blu-ray. But for the CD, don't buy the movie soundtrack, but get the Broadway version. It also stars the incomparable Robert Preston, but features a flawless performance by Barbara Cook, singing the role of Marian (Madam Librarian) Paroo. [HK] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Introduction by Shirley Jones
Right Here in River City Vintage Featurette

"Iowa Stubborn" Movie Clip