Making the Grades
If the summer doldrums are starting to drag your kids down, maybe a dose of a big brass band is just what they need to stir things up.
In the sleepy town of River City, Iowa, the only excitement on hand for the youth is the arrival of a new billiards table. But since this adult only entertainment is off limits to kids, all they can do is try and take a peek at the action through the frosted windows of the pool hall establishment.
However that's all about to change when a glib-tongued traveling con artist blows into town with a plan to scam the residents. Decrying the dire consequences of the cues and balls, Professor Harold Hill (Robert Preston) rouses the concerned parents of the community and promises to save their children from a slide into sin by forming a boys' brass band complete with uniforms. All the parents have to do is give him a little earnest money upfront.
His sales pitch seems to spellbind everybody in the town except for Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones), the local librarian and piano teacher. Afraid that she will see through his lack of musical training and his novel "think plan" for teaching tunes, Harold tries to cozy up to the standoffish book lender before the town's Fourth of July celebrations. Unable to catch her attention at the library, he befriends her Irish mother (Pert Kelton) and troubled, little brother Winthrop (Ron Howard).
Meanwhile Mayor Shin (Paul Ford) is after the ever-arguing town council to get some credentials for the slick seller who has the city citizens, including the mayor's wife (Hermione Gingold), in an happy uproar over his formation of a ladies dance committee and the anticipation of the band.
However, Harold's plan to grab the cash and run hits a snag when an anvil salesman (Harry Hickox) takes advantage of a train stop to expose the swindler. With one last chance to skedaddle out of town, Harold realizes he's lost his heart to the pretty librarian. Now he has to choose between making a break for it or facing the music.
The recent success of musicals like Moulin Rouge and Chicago is triggering a resurgence of the genre. Fortunately, The Music Manfrom 1962, offers more family friendly fare and is filled with enough snappy melodies and energetic dance routines to engage even older kids. With "phraseology" being this film's biggest content concern, most families can enjoy the high-stepping fun this movie provides.
Despite his less than honorable objectives when he arrives in town, Harold unintentionally brings a new community spirit to River City and leaves this film ending on a happy note.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Music Man.
When Harold Hill rolls into town, he is quick to point out problems in town. What tactics did he use to convince the people that they needed to have a boys’ band? How does a skillful salesman create a need in customers (whether it really exists or not)? How do advertisers encourage consumers to buy now?
Why did Marian hesitate to expose the Professor? How did the anticipation of forming a band change the attitudes of the local residents? Does planning for something often equal or exceed the actual event?