Allowing something of slowness at the very start and the necessities of establishing the musical way of telling a story, plus the atmosphere of Iowa in 1912, that’s about the only criticism of an otherwise building, punching, handsomely dressed and ultimately endearing super-musical.
Call this a triumph, perhaps a classic, of corn, smalltown nostalgia and American love of a parade. Dreamed up in the first instance out of the Iowa memories of Meredith Willson, fashioned into his first legit offering with his long radio musicianship fully manifest therein, the transfer to the screen has been accomplished by Morton DaCosta, as producer-director.
DaCosta’s use of several of the original Broadway cast players is thoroughly vindicated. Paul Ford is wonderfully fatuous as the bumptious mayor of River City. Pert Kelton shines with warmth and humanity as the heroine’s earthy mother.
But the only choice for the title role, Robert Preston, is the big proof of showmanship in the casting. Warners might have secured bigger screen names but it is impossible to imagine any of them matching Preston’s authority, backed by 883 stage performances.
1962: Best Adapted Music Score.
Nominations: Best Picture, Color Costume Design, Color Art Direction, Editing, Sound