Robert Preston was a towering figure in American stage and cinema. If for nothing else, he deserves legendary status for his iconic portrayal of Professor Harold Hill on stage and screen in The Music Man. Then there's his performance on "Chicken Fat"...
Most of what I know about Robert Preston is from his later performances in Victor, Victoria and The Last Starfighter. But the indelible, definitive Robert Preston character to me is Harold Hill from The Music Man: the booming voice, the con man's slick, machine-gun-fast patter, the rough, but dashing figure he cut on the stage and screen. This guy was the real deal. I was on the stage crew of our high school production of MM, and so I know every line of every scene. While I worked many other plays and musicals, something about the cornpone hominess of this one made it my instant, enduring favorite, and the memory of Robert Preston's creation of the Professor Harold Hill character is a big reason for that. To this day, I will watch any production of MM, anywhere, by anyone. I've seen it hundreds of times, so here's my informed opinion: Robert Preston casts an unaviodably huge shadow over anyone with the temerity to attempt to play the role he made his own. Those who try a differnt approach than his do so at their own peril- I've seen some of the best try and, in my opinion, fail miserably. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Preston!
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