January 23rd, 2017

And on the lighter side…

The press/Trump sniping made me think of the “Pick-a-Little” song from “The Music Man,” and so I thought you would enjoy seeing it.

Hey, I was raised on those musicals, so that’s the way my mind sometimes works. There’s a song for almost everything. And “The Music Man” was one of the first musicals my parents ever took me to see, with the original cast. I was transfixed by Robert Preston’s energy and charm. And being a bookish sort, I identified with Marian the librarian.

This is the movie version, and I think movies are almost always inferior to the original stage plays. But this one has the advantage of having Preston:

28 Responses to “And on the lighter side…”

  1. Tom Says:

    My goodness, the Balzac remark must have been risqué for the time 🙂

  2. Sarah Rolph Says:

    I loved that movie when I was little. It was probably one of the first musicals I saw, as well. I remember going to see it as a family and for some reason it sticks in my mind that my grandmother got a huge kick out of this particular song.

    When I saw the movie years later I was appalled at the ending. “The Think Method” worked? Without practicing, the kids were able to magically play their instruments? Not a good message!

  3. SAD Says:

    You always pick our attentions to joyfully matters as we living in very complicated world problems……..

    If you let me pick your attentions with today Celebrities to stay away from the inauguration, were supposedly Women March in Washington DC……… , on the top of the list name of those ladies who asked for ““Welcome to the revolution of love! To the rebellion. To our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny. The revolution starts here.”.

    Those ladies lead the crowed I do not know how it comes representing our society, what beneficial things the giving to our societies or humanity more than Porn, SEX …etc.

    let enjoy ourself with Lisa Ellen Niver A journey to freedom over three Passovers

  4. SAD Says:

    Oops, this is the link gain

  5. F Says:

    What a nice memory. I wore the grooves in that record out and saw both the stage version and the movie. Preferred the stage version even though my seat was in the nosebleed section.

  6. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Sarah Rolph – Except the ‘think method’ doesn’t work in the film’s climax, IIRC. They sound terrible, but to the starry-eyed parents they’re the equal of the US Marine Band.

    I agree with Neo that stage-to-screen adaptations are often less entertaining than their source. I think easily the most dramatic exception is “The Sound of Music.” The scenery was breathtaking, and Andrews was remarkable. And a couple of terrible songs were dropped from the adaptation, replaced with better original numbers.

  7. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    Thanks, Neo! Definitely one of my favorites (and not just because it features a barbershop quartet)…

    The sheer inventiveness of Meredith Willson was amazing. An acapella song, done to the background of a train speeding up an slowing down? (As a rap chant, no less!) An argument between mother and daughter, done to the tune of a piano lesson? He makes it all work.

    The Music Man remains the show that won a Best Musical Tony… in the year that West Side Story was running. It also includes the only song ever covered by the Beatles (Till There Was You). A remarkable show indeed.

  8. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    IMHO, the Music Man is overall, the greatest musical ever created. I never saw the play but the movie is perfection.

  9. Brian Swisher Says:

    “Till There Was You” was the onlyshow tunecovered by the Beatles. If you check the writing credits on their early albums, you’ll find they did quite a few covers…it’s just that the original artists are now forgotten and we associate those songs with the Fab Four.

  10. Brian E Says:

    This is my favorite musical, but then I had a crush on Shirley Jones!
    Robert Preston was iconic in the role. Glad he performed in the movie.
    Was in the chorus when my high school performed it– and we even had a real stagecoach in the production!
    Later I was stage manager for a college production that starred Bobby Van as Harold.
    I didn’t know Meredith Wilson wrote the songs for The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

  11. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Best line in the movie: near the end, on the bridge is Harold Hill’s response when the virginal Marian, out of fear says, “No, please, not tonight. Maybe tomorrow.”

    “Oh, my dear little librarian. You pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll find you’re left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you but I’d like to make today worth remembering”

    Never better advice for living life fully.

  12. Tonawanda Says:

    Every Music Man song is a beauty in it’s own way, “Till There Was You” sublime.

    Some jokes are endlessly repeatable, so delightful in themselves for some absurd reason, and only a funny bone of stone cannot laugh every time at: “When a woman’s got a husband, and you’ve got none, why should she take advice from you? Even if you can quote Balzac and Shakespeare and all them other high-falutin’ Greeks.”

  13. Esther Says:

    Holy cow! It would be hilarious if this was redone for the modern era with wymyns in pink hats! Never happen though, what with the internet pitchfork morality squads.

  14. Tonawanda Says:

    Esther @ 11:03 PM – – that is a BRILLIANT image and suggestion! Perfect!

    But instead of imitating hens, cats and kittens.

  15. AesopFan Says:

    Geoffrey Britain Says:
    January 23rd, 2017 at 7:57 pm
    IMHO, the Music Man is overall, the greatest musical ever created. I never saw the play but the movie is perfection.
    * * *
    Saw the movie as a child and was totally enthralled – my father threatened to kill any of us who uttered the phrase “Ye gods!” and we were very careful to watch our phraseology thereafter.
    Was thrilled to be in a HS production, even just in the chorus.
    There isn’t a song in it I don’t like, and I can still sing most of them.
    Too bad our kids have to worry about so many far more dangerous things than covering up their breath with Sen-Sen (still available in some establishments, BYW).

  16. Gringo Says:

    I saw the movie over a half century ago, which is my excuse for not remembering this song. Though I did remember 76 Trombones, the Trouble in River City skit, and Till There was You. I looked at the song list for By Bye Birdie, a musical set to movie that came out a year after Music Man, and recalled about the same number of songs.

    Meredith Wilson’s juxtaposition of the Pick song and Goodnight Ladies was masterful. MASTERFUL.

    As I grew up a three hour drive from NYC, I didn’t see many musicals or plays in NYC. One of my classes went down to see Man of La Mancha.

  17. John Salmon Says:

    Preston is so good in this. When the cad gets his “foot stuck in the door”, as he puts it, and has to stay with Marian even as a mob searches for him with tar and feathers, it’s moving. Never saw the play but I can’t imagine it was better. Actually I did see the play, but with Dick Van Dyke, who was ill, and things went badly.

  18. OriginalFrank Says:

    One my favorites as well.

    I have remarked to family multiple times over the years that (well meaning) Obama voters must have never seen Music Man, and so didn’t recognize a con man when they saw hm.

  19. F Says:

    While we’re all sharing recollections, my wife just reminded me Hermione Gingold was one of the original “Pick a Little” ladies. We saw her in Oh Dad, Poor Dad, and she was memorable in that too.

    Reading through the above posts is a wonderful sharing of happy memories. Thanks to all for sharing!

  20. Sarah Rolph Says:


    I looked into it and you’re mostly right. That’s how the play is apparently written, and that’s how the 2003 film ends (I didn’t even know that version about until now!)

    The Robert Preston version has a very elaborate last scene in which a huge band successfully plays 76 Trombones. They parade down the street and all the citizens come out to hear them and eventually the credits roll.

    The last time I saw the movie this final scene seemed like it was supposed to be real. But just now when I watched the scene on YouTube, there’s a scene at the very beginning where a dreamy young woman appears to be waiting for the band, and if you watch carefully you see a moment where her clothes change miraculously into a band uniform. I must have missed that last time — I guess that is meant to suggest that the final scene isn’t really real, it’s either magic or in everyone’s imagination.

    So, thanks, I feel better about it now!

  21. Carlosincalifornia Says:

    After four painful years at a small trade school on the Hudson, I graduated … and never had to go back! I woke up the morning after graduation singing, “Trouble in River City …”.

    One of my favorite musicals of all time. Thanks.

  22. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Many years ago I was asked if I could rehearse, on my own, and replace one of the characters (the baritone in the barbership quartet) for the final performance of an area community theater. I hadn’t been part of any production in about 10 years, and had about two weeks to prepare.

    Someone made me a rehearsal tape which I almost wore out on my daily commute. Fortunately the character did little else but sing, and I was able to catch enough rehearsals and earlier performances to be where and do what I was supposed to do, and didn’t embarrass myself. Still one of my fondest memories.

  23. Nick Says:

    I used to enjoy the music from The Music Man. Then I watched the movie. I realized that the inventive pieces were all very similar. Meredith Willson had a knack for picking up the rhythms of speech, and that’s what he did in Rock Island, Trouble, and Pick-a-Little. Even Seventy-Six Trombones and Gary Indiana follow the rhythm of a braggart. Piano Lesson is a twist: it imposes a tedious rhythm on an organic conversation. I enjoyed the music when I heard it in isolation, but in the musical it just felt like a one-trick move.

  24. Artfsldgr Says:

    Kellyanne Conway on Women’s March: ‘We…Frankly Didn’t See the Point’

    “We respect people’s First Amendment rights but frankly didn’t see the point. I mean, you have a day after he’s uplifting and unifying. And you have folks here being on a diatribe where I think they could have requested a dialogue. Nobody called me and said, hey, can we have a dialogue?

    “And you have celebrities from the podium using profanity-laced insults. You have a very prominent singer who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars not going over to women shelter here in D.C. to write a check, but instead saying that she thought of, quote, burning down the White House.


    Twenty-nine to 30 million women voted for Donald Trump. Their voices are heard as well. They should be respected.


    “I just thought they missed an opportunity to be about solutions and to really fight for those millions of women whose kids are trapped in failing school, who don’t have access to health care, who don’t have access to an economic, affordable life. And those are the — those are the people that we’re here for, the forgotten men, the forgotten women and their children.

    “And I just thought it was such a contrast to have President Trump deliver an inaugural address that was so uplifting and aspirational and inclusive of America — if you open your heart to patriotism, there’s no room for prejudice, and then the very next day, you have these profanity-laced, threatening, vulgar comments coming from the podium.

    “The whole celebrity thing didn’t work for Hillary Clinton. She tried that in her campaign and it failed,” Conway added.

  25. neo-neocon Says:


    Did you place that in the wrong thread?

  26. neo-neocon Says:


    There are plenty of more tuneful songs in the score, as well. I always really liked “Marian the Librarian,” and that’s more of a song. And of course “Till There Was You,” and “Seventy-six Trombones.” I’m not sure what you mean by “the rhythm of a braggart.” Hill IS a braggart, so what should he be singing? Humble songs?

    You might enjoy reading this, by the way.

    Also this piece—very interesting. An excerpt:

    DeCosta and Bloomgarden began to audition actors not necessarily associated with musicals to play Harold Hill. They thought they had finally found their leading man when Robert Preston, who had never been in a musical, read the part. Willson, who was in Los Angeles trying to interest Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, and band leader Phil Harris in the role, was skeptical about Preston, thinking of him more in terms of his movie roles as a cowboy or soldier or Mountie. “I’ve got five words for you, Buster,” DeCosta told Willson over the phone. “Wait—till—you—hear—him.”

    Two days later, Robert Preston walked into Willson’s home in California, accompanied by producer Bloomgarden. He walked over to Willson’s piano to sing “Ya Got Trouble,” a tricky speak-song that became one of The Music Man’s most popular tunes. “If you can sing ‘Trouble,’” Willson had said, “you can sing anything in the show.” Preston had worked on the song for a week, and after Willson played an upper octave E-flat, “Preston disappeared into Harold Hill,” performing “Trouble” without breaking a sweat. His ownership of the role was complete.

    Willson wrote a lot more songs for the musical than ended up in it—he cut and cut and cut. My guess is that, because Preston couldn’t actually sing, there was a bias to keep the songs that were more “talky.” And yet quite a few of Preston’s songs are both talky AND tuneful (the aforementioned “Marian” as well as “The Sadder But Wiser Girl”—another of my early favorites).

    And I think it’s interesting that the ballad “Goodnight My Someone” is actually the same tune as “Seventy-six Trombones” only sung more slowly.

  27. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: true! But there were many great lines in the show. Personally, I was fond of Shirley Jones singing:
    “And I would like him to be /
    More interested in me /
    Than he is in himself — and more interested in us, than in me.”

    “The Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me” is another great one. “No wide-eyed, eager, Sunday-school teacher for me! That kind of girl spins webs no spider ever! Now listen here, boy. A girl who trades on all that purity… merely wants to trade my independence for her security.”

    Great stuff.

  28. Sarah Rolph Says:


    That’s a great story, thanks for sharing it with us.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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