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Watch the Music Man?


slaytonf
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When I think of watching a musical, I have a list I usually chose from, mostly Stanley Donen, or Rogers/Astaire ones. If I hear of The Music Man, I think, "I've seen that. It's ok," but I don't have a great impulse to watch it. But if it's on, and I happen to start watching it, even in the middle, and even if I was going to watch something else, I inevitably get hooked into watching it through to the end. The songs, the music, the writing, the performances are so well done; and the story of the con man whose machinations work real good in spite of themselves (even for him) is so enchanting, it gets me every time. What I wonder is why I don't feel it is as good as I know it is.

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THE MUSIC MAN is a favorite of mine. The problem is that every time I watch it I tend to sing the whole thing. The summer it was released happened to be the year that I had my first summer job which was as an usher at huge old movie palace. I must have seen it thirty times and by the end of the run knew all the songs and most of the dialogue. I still like to watch it now and then, but usually when I'm alone. "Seventy-six trombones led the big parade...." See there I go and I'm only thinking about it. Let's see now, where did I put that DVD? ;)

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I certainly think Preston deserved a Best Actor Oscar nom for The Music Man, but because of other incredible performances that year, he was unable to get even that. Here are the five that got the nomination in 1962:

 

Gregory Peck for To Kill A Mockingbird

Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses

Peter O'Toole in Lawrenceof Arabia

Burt Lancaster in Birdman of Alcatraz

Marcello Mastroinianni in Divorce, Italian Style

 

I'd be willing to kick Lancaster off the list to put Preston on it.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}.... What I wonder is why I don't feel it is as good as I know it is.

Well, I know it is as good as I feel it is.

*The Music Man* is definitely one of my very favourite musicals, and quite possibly one of my favourite movies, period.

It's got everything: memorable likable characters, a suspenseful (sort of) plot, a sweet romance, and absolutely first rate music. Meredith Wilson's great score serves as an almost textbook example of how wonderful the perfect marriage between melody and lyric can be. The exceptionally clever lyrics are surpassed only by the outstanding music accompanying them.

 

But *The Music Man* has got even more than that: it's a charming slice of Americana -hence, the selection for Independence Day. And along with the gentle humour, unforgettable songs, and exuberant dancing, it's got heart.

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Looking at that list makes think that perhaps, years ago, the Oscars should have taken cue from the Tonys and had seperate categories for both best actor/actress in a musical and for a non-musical. Broadway discovered a long time ago that musicals can take a different set of skills than a drama. So how can you really compare Prof. Harold Hill with Atticus Finch?

 

 

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You've hit on it, misswonderly. I've seen so much schlocky Americana used in such crude manipulative ways, whenever I get even a hint of it, it creates a negative reaction in me.

 

On a side note, it is interesting that a person who uses the word 'favourite' would be so avid about Americana, unless it's North-Americana. I should not be so surprised, I suppose. People who use the word 'favorite' get all gooey inside whenever a snug English village is portrayed. Especially if it has a vicarage (unless all English villages have vicarages).

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I agree, "schlocky Americana used in crude manipulative ways" is off-putting, to say the least.

But we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There are lots of genuinely good "Americana" movies that "have heart", as I said, that are touching and, well, all-American, without being schlocky or manipulative. *The Human Comedy* and *Our Vines HaveTender Grapes* come to mind.

Of course, they're not musicals, but when it comes to schlock, any genre can be guilty.

 

I'm not sure what you're talking about when you speak of my use of the word "favourite". Are you referring to my non-American spelling of the word, and does that render me unqualified to have an opinion of "Americana"?

Or did you mean you're suspicious of the over-use of "favourite" with or without the "u", as being too facile in according praise to possibly undeserving subjects?

 

 

I think the word "favourite" is a perfectly good word, and as for "getting all gooey inside", if you mean the feeling a person experiences when they're moved by something (like a favourite movie), I see nothing wrong with that.

I despise the maudlin and the overly sentimental , whether we're talking about movies, novels, or Hallmark cards, and I believe your assessment of people who use the word "favourite" is unfair.

 

 

Sorry to get all prickly, I often agree with you, and enjoy your intelligent posts. But I'm not altogether sure what you meant, and feel ever so slightly insulted. Perhaps I misunderstood.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 5, 2013 2:26 AM

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MissW, your post reminds me VERY much of what I mentioned to my wife this very evening before the Fourth of July fireworks program began at the park we when to.

 

The recorded songs we listened to ran the gamut from Sousa to Cohan to Berlin to some of this more recent "Wave the Flag Country" stuff. And while they were playing the schlocky Lee Greenwood song "God Bless the U.S.A.", I turned to my wife and commented to her something like, "Ya see, THIS is the problem with America today! There are no more Cohans and Berlins anymore. Now we have guys like this Greenwood guy thinkin' HE can write GOOD patriotic songs!"

 

(...and for any Lee Greenwood fans out there...SORRY, but you know down there deep in your good little American hearts, I'M RIGHT!!!)

 

LOL

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I don't know if that song is the problem with America TODAY, per se, as it's almost 30 years old. I was in high school when it was a hit on the radio, and I distinctly remember my friends and I often rolling our eyes at one another (as teenagers are wont to do) and saying, "Boy, this song is REALLY cheesey." But it was a product of its time, the Reagan years, when many Americans embraced a "my country, right or wrong" philosophy, and a "love it or leave it" attitude toward the government's detractors All that cynicism and mistrust of the government that had cropped up during the Vietnam and Watergate years was washed away, at least on the surface level. Anyone who had the gumption to criticize the Reagan Administration was instead viewed with suspicion and was considered borderline treasonous. It was the era of movies like RED DAWN, where a bunch of high school students were shown to take down the entire Soviet army because they Uh-muricans, damn it.

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Can someone please explain the phrase "God Bless America" to me? It certainly seems as if the statement demands God to play favorites.

"God bless America....and anyone else be damned"

So yes to me, that's cheesy.

 

As for the Music Man....Preston is always excellent in any role he performs, but the offbeat writing for the Harold Hill role really allowed his talent to shine!

(what ode to a woman rhymes her name with "carrion"?)

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If the bathwater didn't make me throw out the odd baby or two, it certainly did make me underrate this one. The Music Man dosen't just use popular themes of American life to elicit automatic responses in the viewers, it uses them as a backdrop for some really good music and songs, and, something rare in a musical, a well-told story.

 

As for my other comment, I was being too clever. It never occurred to me Canadians or English (people who use 'favourite') would have a liking for Americana. But many Americans ('favorite') are Anglophiles, so perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised.

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And Tiki, I think Lavender very well explained why Irving Berlin's song is NOT a "schlocky" or "cheezy" song such as is the Greenwood song, and IS an example of a song with a clearly stated and heartfelt message about this country which does NOT attempt to thumb its nose at other countries such as the Greenwood song gives the feeling it does.

 

(...and this is coming to you courtesy of a guy who doesn't necessarily believe that there's some "Big Guy" up there in some heaven)

 

And thus, because Berlin's simple song is so well constructed, has a clear message which is inclusive of how all people can feel about it and thus more timeless and universal in its feelings, this was why I brought up this little tangent, because Willson's songs in "The Music Man" are timeless for the very same reasons as Berlin's song is about his love of this country.

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> {quote:title=Dargo2 wrote:...}{quote}

>

> ... because Berlin's simple song is so well constructed, has a clear message which is inclusive of how all people can feel about it and thus more timeless and universal in its feelings, this was why I brought up this little tangent, because Wilson's songs in "The Music Man" are timeless for the very same reasons as Berlin's song is about his love of this country.

>

Well Dargo baby, the only part of that statement I can agree with is that both song-writers composed "well-constructed" music.

Who doesn't love Irving Berlin's music? (Although, full disclosure here, I did not know that it was Berlin who'd written "God Bless America".)

But as to Meredith Wilson's score for *The Music Man*, it's more the story - charming con man falls in love and reforms - and the setting - unsophisticated American town in the early years of the 20th century - that celebrate "Americana".

The songs themselves aren't particularly "American" at all. (notthattheresanythingwrongwiththat.)

 

Edit: by the way, I have no problem with the earlier statements of your post, which is why I only quoted the part I disagreed with.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 5, 2013 10:20 AM

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>The songs themselves aren't particularly "American" at all.

 

Then unfortunately you missed my point about Willson's music, MissW.

 

I was saying his songs in this play/movie were UNIVERSAL in theme, because they speak of universal feelings that all men and women regardless of nationality can understand.

 

(...the idea of "Inclusiveness", you see)

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Sorry Dargo, I guess I seized upon one comment in your post, misunderstood it, and ran with it.

Don't you hate it when that happens? :0 (they should provide an "apologetic" emoticon here. In fact, given how often people misunderstand and/or get offended with one other on these threads, it would be a great idea !)

 

Anyway, yes, you are right. There is a universality to the songs in *The Music Man*, and that is one of the things about this musical that makes it great.

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The songs in *The Music Man* are unique in form compared to other musicals of the time. or even TODAY. Show tunes always seemed to have a similar vibe, which TMM kept away from. Play the soundtracks from other musicals, and you'll hear what I mean.

 

 

Anyway, I've always thought both the songs, and the story they're connected to are a real treat!

 

 

And that starts with "T", and that rhymes with "P", and THAT stands for....

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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...PERFECTION !

 

Yes, Sepia, there is a "different-ness" to the music in *The Music Man*.

 

I had the joy of seeing this musical performed live once - at the Stratford Festival in Ontario

The notes about it that came with the program brochure were fascinating. They talk about how much of the songs in *TMM* are based on rhythm, the rhythm of speech. Which is why so many of those tunes stick in your head, and why it's so easy to play around with them (as in the gossiping women's song and "Good Night Ladies", or the one you allude to, "Captial P and that rhymes with POOL !" or whatever it's called.)

 

Anyway, the article went on to say that one of the "messages" of *The Music Man* is that music is everywhere, our world is filled with it, even where we don't expect it.

 

It will always be one of my very favourite - or favorite ! - musicals.

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All this talk about "God Bless America" makes me think I should mention the song Woody Guthrie hoped would become a sort of alternative national anthem, "This Land is Your Land", allegedly written response to Berlin's tune, the lyrics of which Woody apparently found a little too simplistic. We can all hum the first few bars of it, but it never caught on to the same extent because some of the lyrics express such an egalitarian strain that some (many?) would accuse it of being socialist. "This land was made for you and me," Woody sings; its resources are for all of us, not just the wealthy.

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I don't want to make this thread take a political turn, so I won't comment on that, except to say it's incredible to me that anyone would feel uncomfortable with Woody Guthrie's lyrics to "This Land is Your Land". Americans are so suspicious about anything that implies sharing. oh, never mind...

It's a good song:

 

 

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 5, 2013 12:42 PM

Some Americans, that is, not all.

please let's not get political...I take it back.

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