Songwriter Meredith Willson spent eight years bringing this tribute to his Iowa childhood to Broadway, then adapted it to the screen with just enough tweaks to make it one of the sweetest musical confections ever offered to film audiences. He turned down offers from Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to produce and star in the picture to maintain original leading man Robert Preston, who recreates his electric stage performance as the con man out to fleece River City, Iowa, with promises of creating a town band. Warner Bros. gave Preston a picture-perfect leading lady in Shirley Jones, as the librarian and music teacher who wins his heart. Also joining the film’s cast were future director Ron Howard, Buddy Hackett and the hilarious Hermione Gingold. The Broadway score is virtually intact, including such hits as “Till There Was You” and the rousing “Seventy-Six Trombones.” And even though director DaCosta and choreographer Onna White kept much of their original staging, onscreen it had the effect of making the whole production seem a delightful musical fairy tale.
Dir. Morton DaCosta