Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Music Man and Shirley Jones -- 50th Anniversary Celebration (Report)

Thanks to donations from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation and some individual donors in Connecticut and New York, I was able to bring Shirley Jones to campus for the 50th anniversary celebration of The Music Man. 

In conjunction with Shirley Jones's appearance for questions and answers from students, we screened the film in its authentic restored print. Students in early American literature, film and literature, and classical mythology all prepared exhibits for an educational gallery about the film in the glass lobby outside the Armer Theater.

Roughly 115 people attended the event from CSUN and the surrounding community.

Here is the write-up that came out in the Daily Sundial the next day, describing the event. In the picture to the left, Shirley Jones speaks about her memories of the film and offers her opinions about its cultural significance as well as the future of Hollywood movies.

Two surprise appearances punctuated an already inspiring and joyous occasion. Marty Ingels, a comic from the fifties and sixties who is married to Shirley Jones, appeared and gave a humorous summary of his memories about Shirley Jones' years after winning a 1960 Academy Award.

When asked why she chose to marry Marty Ingels instead of matinee idols who were in love with her like Burt Lancaster, Glenn Ford, and Frank Sinatra, Shirley Jones answered, "Marty makes me laugh."

Also appearing by surprise was Shirley Jones's son Patrick Cassidy. Shirley Jones was pregnant with Patrick during the filming of the Music Man, and his first kick inside the womb happened when Shirley was kissing Bob Preston in the famous footbridge scene. That scene is where the song "Till There Was You" came from. Patrick revealed that he is working on a new hybrid stage/film version of Music Man which he hopes to unveil in Los Angeles after successful performances in other cities.

The feedback I received from people who attended focused quite a bit on how real and relatable Shirley and her family felt, with her son and husband interacting in a way we could all comprehend through our own experiences. "She feels so accessible and down to earth." Also, many called her "inspiring."

Just as important as Shirley Jones's appearance was the fine academic work the students did to commemorate and reflect on the film's connections to American history, myth, and cinema. When she and Marty Ingels arrived, they took special care to stop at each of the exhibits, introduce themselves to the student presenters, and comment on the research. Shirley Jones described the student work as "wonderful" and "beautiful."

Above is brief footage of the gallery the students made with their research. Below, as well, are some photos of the exhibits students made. They were a big hit with the crowd.

Students of Greco-Roman mythology drew parallels between Hesiod's legends
and the Music Man myth.

Students in English 312 (Film & Literature) constructed this exhibit
paying tribute to Shirley Jones's career.

Students in English 312 found these photographs of rehearsals at Warner Brothers.

These film students created a timeline of the most significant Hollywood musicals from 1944 to 1965.

Passersby here observe mythology students' work about
the parallel between Pandora's jar and symbols in the Music Man.
These American literature students depicted Christian ideas
and symbolism in the film, reminiscent of Puritan John Winthrop.

These American literature students used the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe
to reflect upon the "transformation" of River City from
a "city in the sea" to Winthrop's "city on a hill."

These mythology students linked the film's Grecian dancers to the Muses
and Greek musical festivals in the pre-Christian era.

Students in early American literature created this simulacrum of a pool table
(aerial view) with pool balls representing various literary allusions in the film.

Mythology students examined the "trickster" myth, connecting
Hermes to Professor Harold Hill and contemplating
the significance of the color gold in the band uniforms.
These film students also created a timeline juxtaposing
the Hollywood musical at various stages in evolution.
These mythology students focused especially on the Muses and Orpheus
as mythological ancestors to Harold Hill and Marion.