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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's not much that's objectionable for kids in this classic musical The Music Man. There's oblique speculation by the "Pick a Little, Talk a Little" ladies and by Harold and Marcellus about why the elderly gentleman donated the library building to the city but left the books to Marian, as well as criticism of the "raciness" of the books she recommends. Harold's song about the "Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me" describes (in G-rated terms) his preference for women with some sexual experience.
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What's the story?
In THE MUSIC MAN, trouble comes to a small Iowa town when con man "Professor" Harold Hill (Robert Preston) arrives, posing as a salesman of band instruments and uniforms. Hill happens upon an old friend, Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett), and is ready to run his favorite scam on the folks of River City. He plans to sell the town on the idea of a boys' band, with himself as leader, get them to order instruments and uniforms, then skip town with the money. But first he must convince the skeptical citizens, including reserved librarian and music teacher Marian (Shirley Jones), who lives with her widowed mother (Pert Kelton) and her shy little brother Winthrop (Ronny Howard). Hill is able to dazzle the town, even Marian. Despite evidence that he does not have the credentials he claims and her certainty that he is not what he pretends to be, she finds herself softening toward him and protecting him. Because of her, he stays too long, and he is arrested. But somehow, the boys force a few sounds out of the instruments, enough for their proud parents. And Harold stays on -- it turns out that all along, deep inside, what he really wanted was to lead a band.
Is it any good?
Robert Preston brought his award-winning performance as Harold Hill on Broadway to the screen in this impeccable film, perfect in every detail. In addition to the glorious production, with some of the most gorgeous music and dancing ever filmed, there is a fine story with appealing characters in The Music Man. Marian learns about the importance of dreams from Harold, and he learns about the importance of responsibility from her.
Marian is eventually able to see through Hill's fake exterior and recognizes the positive effect he has on people such as Winthrop and herself. When Harold realizes Marian can love him in spite of his past, for the first time he's able to move on from the notion of himself as a thief and a liar. Each finds the core of the other, allowing both of them to heal and take the risk necessary to make their dreams come true. And, because this is a musical, they live happily ever after.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Music Man was originally a hit Broadway musical. What do you see as being the challenges in taking a Broadway production and translating it onto the screen? Listen to the songs "76 Trombones" and "Goodnight, My Someone" again. They are very much alike, as you can tell when they are sung together. What did the composer want to tell you about the people who sing them?
Why do you think Winthrop is so shy at first. What makes him change?
How are the values of a typical Midwestern town of the early 20th century conveyed in this movie? Why were the parents worried about their children playing pool? What do parents worry about today?
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