When conman “Professor” Harold Hill (Robert Preston) arrives in River City, Iowa, he convinces the townsfolk that they need to start a band and that he is the man to sell them the instruments, the uniforms and arrange tuition.
An extremely persuasive talker, his plan is to pocket the money and disappear before the instruments arrive – but his scheme runs into problems.
A fabulous group of character actors fill out the story superbly, including Buddy Hackett as Marcellus, a former con game player gone straight but not too straight to help out his old pal, Hill, and Hermione Gingold as the initially appalled mayor’s wife who comes to be a misty-eyed true believer after surrendering herself to the power of the ladies auxiliary dance committee Hill sets up.
Marian (Shirley Jones), the town’s snobbish librarian proves to have the hardest heart to melt, but when she sees her son, Winthrop (Ron Howard), grow to be so confident as a result of Hill’s magnificent chicanery, she falls in love with him, and he with her.
But the professor’s past catches up with him when rival salesman Charlie Cowell (Harry Hickox) turns up to expose him. The people of River City now turn against Hill and demand to have him tarred and feathered.
Confronted by the band he has formed, he faces the music – and the outcome is as much a surprise to him as it is to everyone else.
Morton Da Costa, who directed Meredith Willson’s hit musical on Broadway, was given carte blanche by Jack Warner to re-create it on the screen, and this Oscar-winning blockbuster is the result.
The dynamic Robert Preston reprises his Broadway role as the energetic, silver-tongued conman who charms the elders of River City, Iowa, into financing a band.
Onna White’s electric choreography and a score that includes the ballad Till There Was You (a future hit for The Beatles) and the show-stopping 76 Trombones contribute to an invigorating experience.
Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn
The Buffalo Bills
Morton Da Costa